Best Places to Work

Your Employment Brand Has Never Been More Important

Focus on How Current and Potential Employees View Your Company

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Celeste Gudas
Celeste Gudas
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For an industry that spends countless hours and resources building brands for its clients, marketers don't invest nearly enough in their own, especially when it comes to how they are viewed as potential employers.

Consider this your wake-up call: It's time to pay attention to your "employment brand." For the winners of this year's Ad Age "Best Places to Work" report, it's paid off handsomely.

Attracting and retaining talent is one of the top challenges cited by agency management in our 24 Seven/Ad Age Job Satisfaction and Salary Survey. To make sure your brand appeals to potential hires, simply apply the same strategies you would use on behalf of clients to your own organization.

Just as you would research and track what the consumer or buyer of a product or service thinks about your clients' brands, analyze your own: What does your company offer to potential employees? How are you viewed within the talent pool? How do you measure up against competitors who may be vying for the same individuals?

"When employees talked about why their companies are the coolest in Ad Age 's annual 'Best Places to Work' issue, employee engagement emerged as a key measure that made a company a great place to work," according to the Ad Age story on Best Places to Work. The Ad Age /24 Seven survey also found that engaging employees must be central to the company culture -- with open and transparent management, clear communication of company goals and obvious paths to promotion.

We looked closely at what employers are doing today to attract and retain talent, and what today's employees want. The results showed three factors contribute to a great employment brand.

Setting the Tone for an Engaging Corporate Culture

Many agencies claim to have strong corporate cultures, but what really is at play when creating a great place to work? Our study revealed that leadership and office attitude, or environment, are among the top-ranked factors in defining company culture. Also important are the business vision and mission, management style and commitment to professional development. Rounding out the list are the company's attitude toward employee recognition, rewards and compensation, and the communication and interpersonal dynamic in the workplace.

Looking Beyond Traditional Benefits to Cultivate Employee Satisfaction

Compensation and work/life balance again emerged as the biggest contributors to employee satisfaction, but the research also revealed other, less tangible ways to keep employees happy and committed to the company. In particular, "career pathing" is critical to employees, but most companies have not invested adequate resources in clearly defining paths for advancement. In fact, talent cited the lack of a clear career path as the number-one thing keeping them up at night. By putting more concrete programs in place - and taking the time to counsel employees about their possible career tracks - employers can score big points.

In addition, employers should look to programs such as summer hours/comp days and flex-time/telecommuting, cited specifically by marketing industry employees as the most important non-traditional benefits a company can offer. Other benefits highly valued by employees include on-site gyms, athletic fields and yoga; entertainment, such as free dinners and hard-to-get concert tickets; in-office services such as massages and ice cream socials; international travel and free or discounted merchandise.

Making Emotional Connections With Employees

Many companies have strong corporate cultures and work hard to promote employee satisfaction. But what does it really take to secure a place on Ad Age 's "Best Places to Work" list? How is it that midsize agency Allen & Gerritsen won twice, and many of the same agencies have made the list repeatedly?

The answer is in sweating the small stuff. The winning companies focus on details like professional development, quality of life, and providing a personal touch from management. For example, Allen & Gerritsen greets new employees with welcome packages, which might include a T-shirt, chocolate and some aspirin, and every employee receives a hand-written birthday card from the CEO. Tris3ct, No. 3 on the list, offers cellphone reimbursement, free parking and profit sharing.

These agencies do the things that matter most to employees. As a result, show their employees how important they are.

Let this year's "Best Places to Work" study be your line in the sand -- and the Ad Age /24 Seven survey results your guide to successfully moving beyond it -- in creating a memorable, winning employment brand.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Celeste Gudas is the CEO and founder of 24 Seven, a leading talent-recruitment firm specializing in the specific needs of the marketing, design, creative, digital, retail and fashion industries. You can read more about the findings in its just released annual survey at 24Seveninc.com. 24 Seven was a sponsor of the AdAge "Best Places to Work" lunch and Adage partnered with 24 Seven on its survey.

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