Heartbeat considers itself an agency for challenger brands—a mindset that carries over to how the agency operates internally.
When the pandemic forced employees to work from home, the Publicis Groupe agency offered stipends for internet and office equipment as needed, brought in virtual health providers specializing in COVID-19 concerns and allowed flexible schedules and leaves of absence as employees needed.
The agency expanded benefits to include mindfulness support, additional childcare support, switched to an unlimited PTO policy and added bonus company holidays such as Juneteenth. The agency also promised to never require employees to attend the office.
The health care agency has an employee experience champion—a position focused on maintaining the agency’s culture—and an in-house performance coach to help employees outline career paths. The agency also helps set up workout classes, yoga classes, health fairs and more for employees.
Employee appreciation is also key. This includes LoveBeat, an annual employee appreciation week event. In 2021, employees received handmade care packages, monthly “Challenger” awards—given to employees who solved or overcame an especially difficult business challenge—and work anniversary cash bonuses to use toward a theme aligned with the agency’s challenger mindset.
“I've been in the agency world for 30 years now and historically, I think they’ve had a reputation of being tough places to work,” said Nadine Leonard, co-president and executive planning director. “It can be lots of hours, there can be toxic personalities, difficult work and clients can be tough. Agencies tend to try and make up for that with beer and pingpong tables—which is cool and we do that too—but we don't see that as the way to overcome those things. We really are about humanity and treating people the way that all of us would want to be treated.”
DE&I is also important to the agency, whose senior team is 36% multicultural and 48% female. The company also boasts a number of internal business resource groups for LGBTQ+, Black, Latinx, Asian, parents and older employees.