Insight April 16, 2019

Recipe for Success: 3 Critical Ingredients to Build the Right Agency Culture


When you think about how much time we spend at our desks, it’s no surprise that company or agency culture is top-of-mind for employees and businesses alike. Based on numbers from Deloitte, 94 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.

We see this in big brands and small businesses. Think about the lengths that Silicon Valley tech giants like Google go to create a company culture that keeps their employees engaged. We may not have slides in our offices, but here at inferno we also put a lot of emphasis on building a strong agency culture.

Agency culture is something that’s a bit hard to pin down. It’s a personality, a feeling and an attitude. It’s also our shared values and the way we do business. We are what we repeatedly do, so our day-to-day habits slowly shape who we are and how we work. But our agency culture is also something that we actively try to nurture. We make it and it makes us.

Since the day inferno first opened its doors, our partners have had a vision about building an agency culture that nurtures creativity, energizes our employees and helps us do our jobs better. It shapes every interaction we have with one another and our clients – inspiring us to come up with creative solutions, instead of scrolling through a list of job postings.

Over the years, our strategies have evolved along with the business (and our employees). However, there are three things that have consistently helped us craft the right kind of culture that inspires our work and keeps our employees coming to the office refreshed.

Celebrate the Wins

Everyone loves a little recognition, especially at work. When it comes to attracting (and retaining) top performers, you might be surprised at how acknowledgment can go a long way. Research from Gallup shows that only one in three workers in the U.S. feels that they’ve received recognition within the past seven days. This is troubling, since employees who feel their efforts haven’t been recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit within the next year.

We put pride into every piece of creative and provide well-researched, results-driven strategies that build our clients’ brands. But sometimes, there are teams that go the extra mile. That’s why we have a dedicated peer recognition program, Above & Beyond, where employees can anonymously nominate their coworkers for delivering exceptional work. It’s not all fluff either. Employees who
receive the award get a trophy and an extra vacation day.

Part of celebrating the wins is knowing what works for your employees. Some feel that hearing praise directly from the CEO is most memorable (24 percent), while others prefer to hear it directly from their manager (28 percent). It’s important to know who – and what – will provide the best experience for your employees. For inferno, that’s peer recognition with an award and kudos shared via an all-agency email.

Other options include private recognition, exceptional evaluation or annual review scores, promotions and monetary awards.

Give Time to Give Back

Fuelanthropic is at the heart of our agency culture. It’s how we give back our time, talent and effort to the communities where we live, work and play. Every year, inferno employees are given one week of paid leave to dedicate to causes we find personally meaningful. There are no limits to the type of volunteering or restrictions on which organizations we can support, and it’s one of the top reasons our new hires say they want to work here. Which isn’t surprising, given that Cone Research found that 79 percent of people prefer to work for a socially responsible company.

Giving back is good for business. Research shows that employees who have a positive experience giving back at work were four times more likely to say their teams were willing to do more to get the job done. More than that, they felt a sense of pride working for their employers and were more likely to say that they wanted to stay with the company for a long time.

But it’s not all for the bottom line. When our employees take on pro-bono work from local organizations, they have an opportunity to pick up creative projects that excite them. This helps them bring that creativity back to our client work.

Plus, giving back is good for employees. Research from UnitedHealth Group shows that 75 percent of U.S. adults feel physically healthier after volunteering. It also helps improve your mood, lowers stress and increases self-esteem. When our employees take time off to do good, it’s an opportunity to refresh and recharge. They can come back to work ready to tackle new creative challenges.

Know How to Have a Little Fun

It’s no secret that we like to party. Celebrating isn’t limited to our businesses wins. We recognize important milestones for our employees in their personal lives, and organize events to blow off steam. But it’s not just an excuse to enjoy a potluck in the middle of the workday.

Engaged employees work with passion and feel a deep commitment to their company. We want people to invest in our culture. After all, research has shown having a culture that attracts high-talent can lead to 33 percent higher revenue – and the best way to get employees engaged is to make sure they feel welcome.