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Why Today's Digital Agency Needs Disruptive HR Thinking

Digital and creative agencies are all about their people and unlike media agencies where the competitive edge might be rates and the kind of scale they operate at digital and creative agencies totally depend on their quality of talent to thrive in the advertising world.

This of course puts immense pressure on the HR division of the agency to continuously ensure that the most important asset of the agency i.e. its people are not only engaged but are also at their highest productivity levels.

This gives rise to some of the key ways in which an innovative and proactive HR can ensure that the people of the agency become its competitive edge. In fact, according to me HR is not a division, every CEO of a people dependent company must think how to engage and grow his people.

Here are the following ways:

People as a Product of the Company - When quality of people is the key ingredient for your success then people are a product of company and just like Product companies invest in R&D to improve their products a digital and creative agency must invest in its people to improve their knowledge, understanding of processes, awareness of markets and exposure. Clearly over the years I’ve felt that how much ever you do on this front is less as the world of digital is so dynamic that every day there is something new that the people of the agency can learn from or adopt.

Investing in Culture - The second investment that the HR must focus on is culture. It is easier said than done. A culture is not something you can create overnight. Its something that builds along with the agency. But what an HR can do is keep the positivity around the culture alive. Every agency has a few things that act as glue creating the bond among the people to the agency and everyone understands what this glue is. It could be the freedom to think or the exposure given or just the peer to peer interaction at the agency. It could be one thing or many things but whatever it is that makes the agency come closer is what the HR must keep alive by way of activities.

Attitude over Aptitude - Another key thing about people is that unlike products they have more than just features. They have feelings too. And this is what adds the challenge to an HR teams role. I have always believed that one should hire for attitude first and then for aptitude. This is because one can work hard to make up for aptitude but attitude correction could take a longer time. Also the damage done by wrong attitude can have a chain reaction across the organization.

Commercial Goals Aligned with Company Goals - One of the worst things one can do in a people oriented organization is treating people’s growth in an assembly line fashion. While appraisals happen yearly if one’s appraisals, both designation and salary, is not aligned to company goals then the HR misses out on a huge opportunity to align the whole company in one direction.

Participative Process Making - One of the most hated things in creative organizations is processes and policies. This is because the whole aspect of creativity breeds a culture that is against structure and routine. Well, while one could argue against it the challenge for an innovative HR team is how to ensure that process and policies don’t slow the agency down and at the same time are followed as its needed for the smooth functioning. This is where participative process making comes into picture. If the top 20-30 percent of the agency drafts the policies and process themselves then they have no reason to crib. Infact this gives them ownership and in many ways, gets them to get their teams to follow these processes.

Recruitment as a Campaign - Finally when you are a fast-growing agency the hiring process is one that eats up all the time. Recruitment can become a drab and unfruitful exercise in rejecting a ton of people. This also happens is because the kind of people applying to the agency are not the right type. This is where an innovative HR needs to look at the recruitment as not a process of spray and pray but more like a campaign to hit the right target audience. Each recruitment drive should be looked at as a campaign with clear objectives on who and what type of people are we looking to reach. After all, if an agency won’t be good at campaigns who else will be?

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