Agency Culture: Why It's Important and Which Metrics to Track

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, February 22, 2021

As pandemic-related economic troubles wear on, marketing and advertising agencies worry about losing business as clients try to save money by moving their agency business in-house. The truth is agency success hinges less on the trend to in-housing and more on the marketing or advertising agency’s culture itself.

Culture describes the vision, values, beliefs, rituals, and reward systems that inform employee behavior, and more firms (most recently, The Richards Group) are making the news for the toxic cultures they perpetuate — think imposing rigid clock-in times, hosting all-male retreats, and providing no parental leave. A toxic culture leads to toxic behavior, leaving these companies more prone to failure. On the other hand, a healthy culture clearly defines who the agency hires and promotes, champions workplace wellness, and determines which behaviors will be rewarded with compensation or promotion.

Culture can also inform your business strategy. First, however, you have to measure the tenets of your advertising agency’s culture to determine whether or not it’s on target to reach its goals. Think of this as your company’s operating system: You can increase or decrease inner-agency motivation in the way you design roles, show potential for growth, and demonstrate how the company lives its mission.



All in all, building a strong work culture in this way might be the most important thing you do to showcase your agency’s value.

Why Scaling a Business Takes a Toll on Agency Culture

Although it’s tempting to place advertising agency culture on the back burner through downturns, resist this urge. Company changes — mergers, acquisitions, periods of growth — succeed or fail based on whether that direction strikes a cultural alignment.

Likewise, understanding how to build a better culture in the workplace requires more than fancy coffee and staff retreats. Rather, it involves an enjoyable work environment: a collaborative atmosphere, flexible dress codes, a uniform vision and mission, mutual respect among employees, low turnover, and ample professional development opportunities.

Although scaling a business does not change its overall vision and/or mission, it does alter how you implement your plan. For instance, scaling might involve new people, revised operational processes, additional communication channels, and more. Agencies must adapt to these shifts to ensure overall business success.

How to Build Culture in the Workplace Using Key Metrics 

You might understand the importance of a strong work culture, but again, it’s equally important to track it in your quest toward staying competitive. Here are some of the leading metrics you should consider:

Employee motivation: Remote work raises many questions about how to motivate employees, but there are plenty of ways to motivate teams from afar. The key is to keep your workforce focused on the bigger picture as the agency positions itself to compete in a new landscape. Challenge your employees, remind them of your company’s mission, and help them see the results of their hard work. Doing so encourages people to look inward and take responsibility for their careers.

Professional development: A solid agency culture requires employee engagement and exceptional performance. Investing in your team’s professional development ensures both. Employees who feel like their agency cares about their skills are much more likely to perform well. Plus, professional development opportunities keep team members focused on their craft.

Inclusion in the workplace: A confident workforce is your greatest asset, which is why inclusion matters in the workplace. Inclusion isn’t the norm, but an agency culture that successfully prioritizes this belief lets employees know that they can express opinions without repercussions and be respected by management. Likewise, it opens opportunities to all qualified employees at your company.

Health and wellness in the workplace: Workplace wellness focuses on the mental and physical health of employees. Because last year introduced widespread stress from high unemployment, mounting social justice issues, and business closures, you should continue to evaluate emotional wellness in the workplace. After all, building a strong work culture requires employees to operate at their highest levels — both internally and externally.

Companies worldwide are responding to world events, and advertising agencies are exploring new strategies to maintain their client base. This year, agencies can work from the inside out and strengthen their company cultures to build momentum for the future.

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