An Agency Will Live and Die by its Cul­ture

ArabAd - - COVER STORY -

Of­ten writ­ten off by agen­cies, ‘cul­ture’ is re­gret­tably one of the most over­looked and ne­glected as­pects of the work­place in the cor­po­rate world. And lead­er­ship’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tion? It’s un­sci­en­tific, un­quan­tifi­able and doesn’t add value to the bot­tom line.

Al­though agency lead­ers may be right about the first point, the sec­ond is highly de­bat­able and the third is just ut­terly wrong. Time and again agen­cies that have cho­sen to put peo­ple first have demon­strated that the right of­fice cul­ture can trans­form an en­tire busi­ness and take it to new heights, more so than any of its other as­sets. This is even more mon­u­men­tal in creative busi­nesses, where em­ploy­ees’ in­no­va­tion is di­rectly linked to the com­pany’s per­for­mance, out­put, client sat­is­fac­tion and, ul­ti­mately, its bot­tom line.

We are all aligned on the fact that the in­dus­try is ever-evolv­ing and we have wit­nessed rapid changes in me­dia habits over the last few years. What this means is that we need to quickly do some­thing that will po­ten­tially al­low agen­cies to thrive as oth­ers struggle to sur­vive across mar­kets. And this ‘thing’ has noth­ing to do with strat­egy or tal­ent.

Don’t get me wrong, strat­egy is cru­cial and tal­ent is an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity. But with­out the right cul­ture, the former might struggle and the lat­ter will hic­cup. At the other end of the spec­trum, adopt­ing a cul­ture that

Oc­to­ber 2016

Nadim Khoury, Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, Grey Group MENA dis­cusses the im­por­tance of an open cul­ture within an agency, which he con­sid­ers as a big chal­lenge, yet an im­per­a­tive one.

fos­ters in­no­va­tion and en­cour­ages com­mu­ni­ca­tion nat­u­rally leads to bet­ter strate­gies and em­pow­ers brighter tal­ent that can col­lec­tively tackle chal­lenges, im­prove per­for­mance and help agen­cies not only think but act out­side of the box. It will not only help an agency stay on top of mar­ket changes, but be­come a trend-set­ter too.

The ques­tion that presents it­self is this: how do we build a work­place that skips tra­di­tional hi­er­ar­chy and does away with con­ven­tional wis­dom while fos­ter­ing in­no­va­tion, meet­ing clients’ ex­pec­ta­tions, improving mar­gins and main­tain­ing an agency’s edge over its com­pe­ti­tion?

The an­swer that stares us in the face is – and will re­main – an ‘open cul­ture’. It is an easy thing to state, yet hard to im­ple­ment. Si­los must go, walls must dis­ap­pear, and hi­er­ar­chy has to take a back seat. Any­thing and ev­ery­thing that hin­ders in­no­va­tion and per­for­mance has to go. It is a big chal­lenge, but a nec­es­sary one.

A busi­ness model will live and die by where we put peo­ple on our pri­or­ity list. By plac­ing them right at the top and cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages open com­mu­ni­ca­tion, val­ues col­lab­o­ra­tion over re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and har­nesses their unique skills and tal­ents, we build some­thing that is al­most im­pos­si­ble to repli­cate.

When walls were torn down and desks faced one another, magic started happening. The work place in­stantly be­came live­lier and more vi­brant. It’s when things start happening. That is to say that by scrap­ping hi­er­ar­chy and plac­ing more value on in­put and com­mu­ni­ca­tion we no longer have em­ploy­ees, we have ac­tive team play­ers. A truly di­verse team that ap­proaches chal­lenges with equally di­verse pairs of eyes and a broad set of skills.

Adopt­ing an open cul­ture means that an agency’s vi­sion, mis­sion and core val­ues do not re­main inan­i­mate words on pa­per. They be­come an in­nate part of our day-to-day lives. It means that our team mem­bers are no longer ‘tackling tasks’, but work­ing to­wards the re­al­i­sa­tion of a com­mon goal and a shared vi­sion they all be­lieve in. Ti­tles are triv­ial, while col­lec­tive con­tri­bu­tion and ef­fec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion are not. And all should be done in a way that is unique to in­di­vid­ual Agen­cies – a cul­ture that we can call our own.

Look­ing back, we can eas­ily say that build­ing an open of­fice cul­ture has had a di­rect im­pact on our agency’s bal­ance sheets and makes an ev­i­dent con­tri­bu­tion to the smile on clients’ and em­ploy­ees’ faces.

Agen­cies who fail to adopt an open of­fice cul­ture will be left be­hind. Mean­while, those that recog­nise the value of cre­at­ing the right cul­ture and take ac­tive steps to­wards de­vel­op­ing one will con­tinue to thrive, in­no­vate and lead the pack. It will take time and ef­fort, but it will pay off well – very well in fact and in the very near fu­ture.

When walls were torn down and desks faced one another, magic started happening.

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