Agencies – let people lead in developing the processes they use
The importance of considering employee satisfaction has been spotlighted during the pandemic. Tess McBride, group director, client services and operations at Laundry Service, considers why agencies should make better use of their employees by taking on their suggestions.
Agency leaders: did you know that 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company if they experienced great onboarding? This sparks some questions...
Laundry Service considers the value and worth of in-house employees / Alex Kotliarskyi via Unsplash
First: are you even aware of what your onboarding process is like at your company right now? Second: have you ever asked your employees about how they value these cultural processes?
These processes are often created by a combination of HR, sign-off from leadership, and/or template programs. HR and leadership obviously offer valuable perspectives, but it’s problematic if we only turn to populations who are often disconnected from the work, and don’t directly involve the people these processes are affecting. With the standard approach, how can we possibly know if we’re being set up to make our people, work and agency succeed? We can’t – and that insights gap defies everything we preach and practice with clients. Where does all our trendy user experience (UX) thinking go when we’re shaping our own cultures?
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As marketing professionals, when we don’t involve our audiences in designing experiences, we fail our clients’ brands.
Agency processes must be created by the people who actually use them – those people in touch with the reality in which they will be applied. We can build UX thinking into agency culture and receive the same benefits of the UX thinking we apply to brands.
This big shift requires incremental changes in perspective, that must in turn become a behavior. So, let’s look at the steps toward shaping people-first processes through that lens.
Let your people think around process strategy
Before you go changing, removing and adding processes, work with your employees to determine what needs to change and why. This means asking and – most importantly – listening. During this stage, determine what’s in place, but not working well enough, what to start (processes you never knew you needed) and what to stop (aka not enough value to preserve).
You might not find examples in each category, or you might find multiple – and that’s okay. The intention is to be driven by employees, which doesn’t mandate a perfectly balanced result. It’s real results. Surveys help: they ensure you aren’t making assumptions that the experiences of one or a few are the same as everyone else’s. Then encourage managers to incorporate questions relating to processes in regular one-to-ones, leveling insights up to leadership.
My agency fields anonymous surveys to all employees twice a year, fueling strategy by identifying needs. As a result of these surveys, the agency has created or developed mentorship programs, manager roles and an entire department.
Involve your people in revamping process design
Leadership likes to solve problems. More than that – they’re good at it. But solving problems without involving those affected by the solutions causes more problems. After identifying what needs to change at a high level, keep involving your people in determining how to make these changes.
When listening to their problems, listen for possible solutions. Folks often have ideas on this, but won’t share unless asked. Employee contributions can include both quantitative and qualitative research from anonymous and/or trusted sources. Consider tactic-oriented surveys, though guided conversations provide the best in-depth ideas.
Here is an example of revisiting the onboarding process: as the group director overseeing our process, I started by having conversations and honestly asking employees how that experience might lack. I immediately discovered inconsistencies across departments, learned first-hand about struggles people felt and uncovered portions of the process not modernized for remote work life. Insights gained from systematic, all-level conversations informed the revised process. People excitedly shared their experiences and knew their input was valued.
Let your people co-create the process – and ensure it’s working
In the agency world, we’re often inclined to make something, release it into the world and then leave it be. Once we’ve done the work and gotten everybody on board, why rock the boat? Well, unless the world in which these processes were created stays static, they should – and must – evolve to stay relevant.
So, an important step in the creation process is being open to revisits and revisions. And your employees should be just as involved in this step as they are the ones informing what is created and how. Participation in this phase should vary but be continuous. Like prior stages, surveys and guided conversations can gauge how current processes are working and open the door for improvements.
Mixing these methods up allows you to collect both high-level insights from a large number of people being impacted, as well as dive deeper into feedback and understand more specifics about individuals’ experiences on a smaller scale. Three months after developing a new mentorship program for entry-level employees at my agency, I checked in with participants to assess the program set-up. After thinking flexibility was what they wanted, I was surprised to see that participants asked for a stricter framework to operate within. This information helped evolve the program, putting more guardrails in place as a direct response to their ask. And we’ll keep asking similar questions.
Ultimately, including employees in the imagining and creating of processes means that changes based on their suggestions are more likely going to prompt positive responses and adoption. Agencies constantly spotlighting their people’s ideas, effort and care need to make sure that the same people should play a hand in designing internal processes – at every stage.
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