Employee morale merits consistent attention

The agency life can be difficult at times. Multiple clients, frequent traveling, and long hours can take a toll on employees. That's why efforts to boost employee engagement, morale, and a sense of unity - even in the biggest firms - is not only important, but it's something that should be initiated by agency management.

The agency life can be difficult at times. Multiple clients, frequent traveling, and long hours can take a toll on employees. That's why efforts to boost employee engagement, morale, and a sense of unity - even in the biggest firms - is not only important, but it's something that should be initiated by agency management.

"You can hire employees who are very motivated and talented, [but] you constantly must work at maintaining a high sense of morale," says Joel Curran, MD of CKPR.

The 10 to 12 office events held each year at CKPR help to form not only a cohesive employee team, Curran says, but also create a sense of "one company," as CKPR is part of a larger ad agency. Events include lobby parties to celebrate account wins and participation in a seasonal softball league.

Text 100 holds annual summer outings for each office, which include activities such as whitewater rafting. "That gives everybody an opportunity to connect on a personal level," says Rachael Heald, the firm's global HR director. "[Employees] look for an agency where they're working with intelligent people ... and people that they like. If you can create that kind of environment, you get cohesiveness ... because everyone enjoys being part of that team."

Voce Communications' yearly summer retreat, organized by the agency's culture and community committee, offers a chance for staffers to talk about things other than work, says Tiffany Curci, the firm's HR specialist.

Every year, the firm's 30 employees go to Lake Tahoe for an overnight trip that allows staffers to unwind and participate in activities such as volleyball, karaoke, and visits to nearby casinos. "We don't have any meetings or any recaps of the year," Curci says. "That kind of stuff would ruin it."

Even company events that provide some educational opportunities can help foster a sense of community among employees. FCF Schmidt Public Relations organizes a bimonthly book club, where employees gather over lunch to discuss the current business bestsellers. Recent selections have included Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, and Purple Cow.

"It gives them a sense of enlightenment in terms of being able to talk to clients about things beyond the business," says Kate Shields, VP and partner at FCF. "It's such an empowering thing when one of our employees can have a conversation about the latest business book with a client."

Sometimes, however, employee unity and morale is affected by something as simple as regular and effective communications.

Dean Trevelino, principal and co-founder of Trevelino/Keller Communications Group, says his firm invites all employees to a quarterly agency review, where they can learn about the company's performance plans and goals for the quarter ahead. This helps provide an added layer of motivation for the agency's profit-sharing and bonus programs.

Other morale-boosting initiatives are great, Trevelino, says, "but if you really don't know how the firm is doing, they don't mean as much to you."

When Trevelino/Keller employees get together with their friends, they talk about the firm as if it's their agency, not just a place to work, Trevelino adds.

"The more you feel like you have a stake in the day-to-day success of the firm," he explains, "the better you're going to perform."

Key points:

Regular agency social events help create a sense of community and morale

Communicating with employees about agency performance and future initiatives can help boost employee morale

Employee-bonding events result in a happier staff, which benefits clients and the agency overall

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