Welcome to our 3-part series on how great agency cultures are created. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be exploring local agency cultures: What they’re doing that’s wild, innovative and fun. How they attract like-minded talent and inspire their teams to be at their best.
And, we hope you’re paying attention, because then we’re going to ask YOU to become “cultural engineers.”
We want to know what’s meaningful to you – beyond free bagels and beer trolleys. And, we’re going to speak to some agency leaders and HR professionals to find out how the best cultures are built and nurtured, plus how they make decisions about the perks and policies that will support a caring culture.
Let’s kick things off with a walking tour of kbs+, part of MDC Partners and home to over 500 people in their Varick Street office.
kbs+ & Their Culture of Invention
One of the first things you notice when you visit kbs+ is the artwork on the walls. It’s produced by the agency’s 500 employees and displayed art gallery-style in Reception and on the main floor.
What’s interesting about this: It showcases talent and creativity that employees might otherwise not learn about each other during the workday, and it conveys the idea that “we take pride in our work.”
Going up to the 6th floor, you enter an auditorium-size space with a kitchen and candy store, lounge areas, a ping pong table, chalk boards, art supplies and a stage. It’s as if a Starbucks met a Montessori school.
I’m following Angela Renfroe, Talent Director, to her office as she explains that employees wanted a space where they could get away from their desks, play, interact and let off some steam. So kbs+ ripped out all the bench seating and gave them the Hyde Space – an idea created by two kbs+ employees who won kbs+’s annual Hello Moments competition. (Hello Moments serves as an open-call for all of the creative entrepreneurs and inventors in the agency to create the next standout kbs+ invention to both advance the agency and benefit its clients.) The Hyde Space is also used for town hall meetings, client presentations (they can hang panels from the duct work to create stunning multi-media shows). They’ve hosted health fairs and even concerts.
To one side is a content production studio where video and photo shoots are done, including the employee bios which grace the company web site. Down the hall is a monster garage of sorts. This is kbs+ Spies & Assassins headquarters, where the company experiments and incubates new products and technologies. You can actually weld something!
All of this unfolds on the path to the Talent department, where prospective employees spend the first several minutes of their interview learning about the unique culture of kbs+.
Angela is explaining to me that the Management Team at kbs+ and their holding company MDC Partners encourage employees at all levels to introduce new ideas. It’s part of their inventor & maker culture. “If the partners like it, they’ll find a way to do it. For example, someone suggested we give employees their birthdays off, so that’s what we do.” In addition, the leadership team supports agency-wide causes and personal passions of its staff through its kbs+ Cares program. Employees can be found participating in kbs+ Cares initiatives like the Fit for All 5K for the Westside Y, Toys for Tots, volunteering at the Star Boutique and organizing a team and fundraising for the Breast Cancer Walk.
So what exactly is an inventor culture? Lori Senecal, kbs+ Chairman and CEO explains it here. Quite simply, it’s a place that encourages tinkering and prototyping to arrive at genuine “firsts” – new ideas to take to clients. Ideas could take the former of actual inventions, or new technologies or content.
For example, Ed Brojerdi, President & Co-Creative Officer described how they introduced a new way of creating content: “As we were building another invention, we stumbled on a new type of camera rig that allows us to capture 360-degree content using a robotic arm. We created a quick in-house video demonstrating how it functions and already two of our clients have plans to use the rig. They green-lit the programs because of the reduced and shared development costs, reduced feasibility concerns, and quicker time to market.”
Experimentation and ideation, but also prototyping, de-bugging and defending powerful ideas are values that define the culture of kbs+.
Read more about kbs+ inventor culture here.
Do you love your agency’s culture or have ideas about how to fix it? Email us pronto.