At Allen & Gerritsen, even CEO Andrew Graff has a mentor: the youngest person at the agency, 22 -year-old emerging-technology strategist Eric Leist.
Of course, Mr. Graff is a mentor to the strategist, too. Every new employee is assigned one at the Boston-area agency, but senior folks aren't supposed to do all the talking. The arrangement makes even the most junior employees "reverse mentors," so everyone knows they can learn a thing or two.
"Don't just assume because you're more senior you're the mentor -- you could be the mentee," Mr. Graff said. "We strive for balance. It's a young-person business; tech is taking the business in new directions, so we need to listen to the young and fearless."
So Mr. Graff gets schooled on why to check in to restaurants on Foursquare (for the tips) and how millennials use their phones (all the time). In turn, Mr. Leist gets sage marketing lessons from an exec with decades of experience.
The internship program is especially important to Mr. Graff, a partner in the 120-person business with namesake Paul Allen, because he came up through the Boston agency scene as an intern. It also exemplifies a workplace where employees surveyed largely cited the people as the agency's best attribute.
"We have a great group of diverse people here," one employee wrote in. "We have wonderful work/life balance and a senior management team and HR department that always look for reasons to celebrate and provide us opportunities to smell the roses."
To give employees time and access to ask him questions, Mr. Graff hosts a monthly "three-martini lunch" at the agency, bringing a new, less-alcoholic spin to an old ad standby. With the lunch itself served in martini glasses, he invites employees in small groups to eat with him and, if they want, grill him. "Anything goes -- ask me anything you want," he says of the lunches.
The agency, which serves regional and midmarket clients such as Bloom groceries and drum company Zildjian, has also made a policy of supporting employees' outside interests. When an employee wanted to volunteer in Haiti, the agency and staff pitched in to spread the word to raise money for the trip. Another woman who moonlights as a manicurist is also involved with an organization that throws birthday parties for homeless children. To raise money for the parties, the agency gave her space and time to do manicures in the office so the money could be donated.
All of that exists in an atmosphere that promotes wellness. One human-resources employee is so worried about junk-food consumption that she cooks healthful lunches for her co-workers, 20 to 30 at a time, every few weeks. Every morning, the agency also provides free breakfasts of cereal, oatmeal and Starbucks coffee -- and it throws in insurance for pets, too.
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Check out Allen & Gerritsen's Watertown, Mass., office space in our special Best Places to Work edition of Agency Digs, hosted by Senior VP Joel Idelson. (For more Agency Digs episodes, click here.)
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