Innovation Inside Out: Technically Speaking, It’s Cultural

, Jan 16, 2020


My title in our agency is Culture and Experience Lead. That speaks volumes, right? For an agency to employ someone whose sole purpose is to determine how we cultivate our values and goals and fold them seamlessly into our ever-evolving culture is impressive. It means that we – collectively as an agency – pride ourselves on creating an atmosphere where honest personal connections are made, and a shared determination to listen, learn and make improvements is paramount.

How did this happen, and how do we continue to grow and evolve? I strongly believe it is because of our laser focus on human interaction. Yes, of course, we’re all technologists to some degree. We utilize technology, work in a high-tech field, read, write, eat, sleep, breathe it. Heck, we’re paid to do just that! So how do we nurture a culture that keeps human interaction in the foreground, while incorporating the innovative technologies that we use every day? We’ve already been doing it, and we look to 2020 as a year of even more evolution and forward-thinking.

1. We use technology to enhance the agency experience.

As an example, we introduced Slack in 2019 as a way of communicating with each other, and in some cases, with our clients. Sure, it was great! Now we could send Karen* a private message without leaving our desks, and without clogging up our email inboxes. But we wanted it to be so much more than that. After creating and establishing additional channels and threads, employees started sharing interesting articles, personal tidbits and congratulatory notes. This is important. We adopted something and made it part of our fabric. A place where successes do not go unnoticed is a place I’d like to think most people would want to work.

2. We prioritize social and emotional well-being.

We do a lot of stuff. On purpose. Weekly trivia, in-house trainings, book club, yoga/spin/running group classes, volunteer days, movie Mondays, meditation, holiday party, summer outing, cookie swaps, gift swaps, bagel breakfasts, pizza lunches (and honestly so much more!). You’ll notice that these all have one thing in common: human interaction. People who are talking, doing, sharing, laughing, encouraging and celebrating. These things don’t just happen. They are carefully developed and constructed to get our peeps away from their desks and together in our shared spaces. Their innovative ideas fuel our agency. If it looks effortless, mission accomplished.

3. Our management team is all-in.

From the top down, there is great interest and enthusiasm to create a purpose-driven cultural strategy. It’s essential for recruitment and employee retention and makes everyone feel like we’re all in this together. Management sets the open-door policies, the “ask any question” cultural norm that is uncommon in some industries. They also perpetuate the very purposeful “got time to grab a coffee,” “let’s take a walk and chat,” check-in lunches or after-work drinks that drives how we take each person’s pulse. Yes, there is still a formal review process. But, isn’t it tired thinking that you’d need to wait six months to a year to give and get feedback? We think so.

4. We’ve bridged the cross-generational divide.

Sure, there are more senior people, and there are more junior people. That’s just a fact. But how do you make sure there isn’t a huge gap between the two? Perhaps the best way is to simply acknowledge it and assign a mentor. Everyone wants to have a mentor, and truly enjoys being one. Go to your mentor for coaching and career advice. For agency information. Or because you need to vent. Whatever the reason, it’s important to know you have that person at work. It may also include some lunch perks, so there’s also that.

5. We’ve got values. You’ve got values. We work hard to make them our values.

We’re working on a stronger agency corporate social responsibility program that aligns our agency values to what we do both internally and externally. Community-minded engagement makes an important impact with everyone involved. But we can’t develop this and other programming without making sure we’ve included our entire agency in the process. We need to determine opportunities within our agency for growth and improvement by asking each person where their interests lie. Then, once determined, we apply our values and the values of our employees outward. These engagements serve many purposes; from building personal connections and networking opportunities to encouraging out-of-office socialization. Basically, it’s a good time for a good cause. That’s something we can all get behind.

*We don’t have a “Karen.” Based on all the social media references, kinda wishing we did, though.

Sound like a great place to work? It is! We’re always looking for great people to join our team. Click here to check out our open positions.