How to create a work environment that helps people live their best lives
Businesses should not be afraid to create an environment where people want to be, not have to be.
Only one-third of UK workers are happy in their jobs most of the time. Meanwhile, 40% of employees in the sales, media and marketing sector are considering changing jobs in 2022 and one in six women are contemplating leaving the advertising industry altogether due to discrimination or lack of inclusion.
The pandemic and ongoing cost-of-living crisis mean people are reflecting on how they work and, crucially, how work fits into their lives. They are increasingly asking “What can my employer do for me?”, “How does this role fit with my values and lifestyle?”, and “Is this job improving my overall way of life?”
As senior leaders in the advertising industry we need to be taking these questions seriously – and introduce actionable solutions that let people live their best lives – in order to retain and entice the best talent in the era of “the great resignation”.
So, what can the media and advertising industry do to keep hold of its people and allow them to thrive? It comes down to being the most important place in their career by creating a workplace that moves with the times.
Going beyond hybrid
Most companies and agencies now offer some form of hybrid working, with the 3:2 model currently the most popular. But, as employee expectations around flexibility increase with no sign of a decrease in productivity, we need to make sure policies are clearly communicated and we are pushing the boundaries of what we offer as industry.
The first step is creating clear guidelines, so employees feel empowered to take full advantage of hybrid working. Being vague will only lead to confusion.
The second is to outline and deliver a detailed vision of how flexible working will look in the future to alleviate concerns around reverting back to the pre-pandemic structure that people have largely rejected.
The third is to be brave and go beyond hybrid working. Offering things like the ability to work abroad for part of the year, or a relocation policy (and taking on the complexities that come with that) shows current and potential recruits you’re serious about flexible working at a time when 59% of workers factor in the ability to work from home when looking for jobs.
Align with the working population’s values
Does your business have clear ethical, moral and environmental values that are easy to find and are making a real impact? Salary may be the biggest motivating factor when people think about changing jobs but today’s workforce increasingly wants to see that the company they work for aligns with their own values.
One study found Gen Z are prioritising sustainability over salary, while millennials responding to another said they were willing to take a pay cut to work somewhere that was proven to be environmentally conscious. And over half of respondents to a 2022 BUPA survey said they would stay with a “responsible employer” longer.
That’s not to say we should be paying people less! But organisations should be implementing effective corporate social responsibility policies and transparent KPIs on important societal issues like sustainability, inclusion, and equality that are shaping our present and future. Doing so can create a bond with employees who can feel proud of where they work.
Develop your people, develop your business
Hands up if you learned a new skill during one of the lockdowns. It was time on the DuoLingo app for me! That desire to learn and develop is alive and well for employees who have had time to reflect and are attracted to opportunities for personal growth provided through effective learning and development.
People are more likely to seek new opportunities if they feel their career is stagnating, so making them feel wanted – consulting them on what type of training they want rather than offering generic learning opportunities – will be more important than ever moving forward. Plus, as well as improving engagement and job satisfaction, a more skilled workforce can only be a good thing for the employer themselves.
Make sure every job in every department has a career roadmap with outlined learning and development expectations so people know they are making strides on their own journey. Things like inspiration funds set aside for people to learn new skills and empowering senior staff to develop their own training where they can impart their knowledge to the wider organisation can go a long way to helping people feel appreciated by the company.
Best of both worlds
The media and advertising industry is starting to shake off the rise and grind stereotype, and just in time. People are looking for a workplace that supports their wellbeing, career path, lifestyle and values. The future of work is pointing towards being able to deliver results while helping people live their best lives.
Businesses should not be afraid to go beyond the expected norms to stand out from the crowd and create an environment where people want to be, not have to be. Just a few years ago, the idea of working from home for most of the week would have been almost unthinkable, and only when you had a doctor’s appointment, or the plumber was coming to fix your sink. Now it is the norm for many.
Focusing on people’s expectations and priorities to retain and maintain talent doesn’t have to mean sacrificing business success. Far from it. Doing so can tap into an individual’s potential and help them thrive at, and away from, work.
Hali Khan is UK people director at mSix&Partners, a media agency joint venture between WPP’s GroupM and The&Partnership