Winning employee hearts as well as minds in the PR sector

By Maggie Newton

CBI research has found that employee engagement is now one of the biggest workforce priorities, and employee engagement assignments are an increasing source of business for PR agencies.

Engagement can be defined as the emotional commitment and connection an employee has to the agency and its goals. Connection gives us meaning and purpose at work. Engaged employees rise to challenges, help drive business performance forward, and are likely to stay with you for longer.  Constantly having to replace talent can be time-consuming, impact on the morale of colleagues and affect client relationships, so having engaged employees makes sound business sense.

Surveys indicate that the national average for employee engagement could be as low as 30%.  With the CIPR State of the Profession Report 2018/2019 stating that 63% of respondents rated the stressfulness of their job at 7 out of 10 or above, this might indicate a low figure for the sector.

So how can you tell if your employees are engaged, and how would you score your agency’s current level of employee engagement? Engaged employees:

  • Go the extra mile every day and deliver beyond expectations
  • Look enthusiastic, happy and as if they want to be at work
  • Love to collaborate, offer ideas and suggestions
  • Are open and honest with their communication
  • Take a keen interest in how the agency is doing
  • Want to invest in their own development

A look at the entries and winners in the PR Week Best Places to Work Awards 2019 reveal many agencies applying creative thinking to employee campaigns, as well as client campaigns, with some great initiatives highlighting excellent leadership and communication skills. Investing in developing the leadership and communication skills in your agency can have a big impact on employee engagement, but day to day demands can mean employee development isn’t always treated as a priority.

Here are 5 tips for improving employee engagement in your agency:

  1. Really get to understand and connect with your team members. Invest time in learning more about them – what makes them unique, what are their strengths, what do they enjoy most/least etc. You may find some hidden talents emerge! Put regular one to ones in the diary and ensure they happen.
  2. Take time to recognise and appreciate your team’s work. Rewards and incentives don’t motivate everyone – giving credit, saying well done and thank you can go a long way and make people feel valued. Celebrate successes with the team regularly.
  3. Create the right environment for growth and personal development. Manage expectations from the outset by ensuring team members have clear roles and responsibilities, know what success looks like and how they will be measured. Share the agency’s vision and goals and explain their role in delivering this. Give regular feedback based on evidence and observations, inviting their feedback as well so it’s two way. Also consider how you can provide coaching and mentoring opportunities.
  4. Empower team members with the authority to make decisions and give them responsibility. It’s very easy to go into ‘problem-solving mode’ to get things done but this doesn’t offer learning opportunities.  What could be delegated e.g. chairing a team meeting or a pitch/campaign discussion that will develop their skills, and build trust and respect at the same time.
  5. Encourage ideas and contribution from everyone at meetings, not just those who make the most noise. Set ground rules for behaviour e.g. give everyone a turn to speak for an equal amount of time without interruptions. Topics might include thoughts on a client brief, an aspect of working at the agency or even how to develop an employee engagement campaign!  Actively listen to what team members have to say and acknowledge every contribution, regardless of whether you think it’s a good idea or not! Listening leads to understanding, increased trust and reduced conflict.

The way you treat your team will reflect in the way your team treats your clients so it’s really important to win their hearts as well as minds. Try some of these tips to see the difference they can make – and let me know how you get on!


Maggie Newton is the Managing Director of Red Clematis.

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