Your people are everything

The most important asset for any PR agency is its people.

The most important asset for any PR agency is its people. Without them, you have nothing and offer nothing. When you undertake a major reorganization like we did, keeping your people interested, engaged, and involved is crucial.

Once we decided to restructure around four specialties, we needed to figure out how to align our existing employees within this new structure. Our new model, announced two weeks ago, abandons the standard hierarchy of generalists and the titles that go with it, and replaces it with four new communities of specialists: Catalysts, Strategists, Connectors, and Creators. The critical questions were: How would we align our employees in the new structure? And how would we ease their concerns about a change this significant?

We did a couple of things. One, we talked to our staff at every step. We listened to their feedback and concerns, we answered their questions, and we were transparent and honest. If we didn't know the answer, we told them we didn't know and that we would figure it out together. We emphasized that this change will take time, and we'll take the time to do it right. This earned us their trust.

We also created an employee reassignment process that included a self-assessment based on the competencies required to be successful in each new community. With the help of an external organizational development and HR consultant, we devised an assessment process based on the well-known Lominger Model. The evaluation would help employees and managers properly measure employees' skills and interests, and determine where they belonged in the new model. A key principle we committed to from the start: Employees would join a community based on their real strengths and interests, not the needs of a particular client, office, or practice. No one would be forced to fit. We also developed detailed job descriptions and career paths for specific roles within each community.

You might be wondering what employees think about their impending title changes and their new roles. I can tell you that they are excited, engaged, and enthusiastic. And some are a bit uncomfortable, which is natural and expected. Here's what some had to say:

“There's no secret about the many strengths we have here, but identifying and harnessing the strengths of each individual is going to redefine the agency — and the business. Cheers to a bright future.”
Dan M., New York

“I'm proud and honored to be a part of something so revolutionary and I'm excited to play a role in pushing us along in this next iteration of our company.”
Len K., Chicago

“We're really shaking up the PR agency world! Let's rock!”
Mitch H. Atlanta

To hear this type of feedback from our employees reinforces to us that we made the right decision to transform our agency.

Ellen Ryan Mardiks is vice chairman at GolinHarris.

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