How do you hit 82% engagement at work?

It’s been an incredible year at Propellernet. So in this time for reflection, after the Christmas madness and before 2016 gets into full swing, I've been thinking about some of the questions I'm asked a lot:

1. What’s the magic at Propellernet?

2. What makes your culture what it is?

3. Why is engagement so high?

For those of you who don’t know, Propellernet is our Brighton based, globally operating, big on ambition, small in size, officially awarded ‘Great Place to Work’ search marketing agency. We want to be the best place to work in the world.

And there are many great places to work. Simply looking at the list of giants in the top Best Places to Work in the UK, reveals a positive working world reflection. Propellernet has been listed as one of the top 10 UK Best Places to Work for the last 3 years running, winning pole position in 2013.

Unfortunately, too many organisations are broken.

As quoted in Henry Stewart's ‘The Happy Manifesto’, one global survey showed only 21% of staff reported that they are fully engaged at their workplace. A comment by Gary Hamel of London Business School sums up the issue:

“The other 79% may be physically on the job, but they've left their enthusiasm and ingenuity at home”

79%. What a waste.

Through our work, we've flipped it.

82% of our team are engaged, bringing their enthusiasm and ingenuity right into the heart of the agency.

We work hard, and play hard, to fuel this. With our team being energised and motivated by being fully engaged in what they do. Our mission is to Make Life Better for our clients, their customers and our team, we’re on an adventure.

Alongside Best Places to Work surveys, we run externally facilitated Culture Catalyst programmes each year. Collaborating to ask, understand and actively engage with everyone on how our culture is working, focusing on what we can do to unleash any extra % of positivity and impact.

Every time we do this, it’s a revealing.

Sometimes it’s harsh or challenging and it always drives more innovation and creativity in our business. Ultimately it’s shaping our adventure and increasing the fun factor. This year’s headline results are as insightful as ever.

· 12% Super Engaged

· 39% Fully Engaged

· 31% Engaged

· 12% Partially Engaged

· 6% Not Engaged

It would be easy to worry about the 6%. It’s more powerful to be focused on the 82% engaged, wholly engaged or super engaged for maximum impact.

And there’s an incredible ripple effect across our business. Here’s 12 of them;

  1. No revolving door

Being a great place to work, we enjoy low levels of staff turnover (less than 8%), which means that our clients have consistent points of contact and ever deepening relationships with the team here. Agencies works better in partnership with its clients and we’re reaping the rewards partnership brings.

2. Recruiting for values, drives value

When we do recruit, we hold our values dear, ensuring those that come on board have a strong spirit of adventure, apply creative thinking, embrace innovation, take care of themselves and their wellbeing and ultimately are fun to be with. Seems to be a recipe for success.

3. Stunning growth

We expect our people to be ‘Stunning Colleagues’ (thanks Netflix) but also have a healthy disrespect for job descriptions, operating outside of them on a regular basis. It makes life more interesting and naturally broadens individual and collective horizons; we regularly review the shape and structure of our team, playing to people’s strengths and creating as much space as possible for them to grow, personally and professionally — to have a bigger impact on the world.

4. Living dreams

We live the viewpoint that you must care about people’s dreams. By creating an agency that encourages each person to lead a full life and follow their dreams, you can land a full roster of creative, innovative, award-winning talent; that makes everybody’s lives better.
 Our people’s dreams form part of our business plan; we’re making them come true and our bucket lists are growing.

5. An open mind to hustle

Because our teams dreams are forming part of our business plan, interests as diverse as travel, fashion, writing, music, film, safari’s and charity are forming what our ideal clients look like whilst shaping personal development pursuits.

There’s no waiting around for client briefs to land, having two people focused on hustling for opportunities keeps our pipeline strong and full of potential clients our team want to work on, where we can match our skills and values to produce great work. Our team are on the lookout for new business just as much as the crack new biz team we have on board. It keeps it interesting and engagement is sky high.

6. Prefer to refer

With engagement high, it’s no surprise that our clients are happy too. 95% say they would be extremely happy to recommend us to another person or organisation. A significant number already have. Each time we work together we’re all predisposed to a positive relationship. Jackpot.

7. Pitch less, pitch better

The knock-on effect of this is that we’re not constantly pitching. We do pitch, don’t get me wrong, and it keeps us sharp in pressurized bursts; but not to the extent that it’s detrimental to our current clients and staff.

Being in a situation where winning new business is the priority is not healthy for anyone. If I see our high conversion rate from pitch to win falling, we pull back on the number we are doing. Better to do 1 brilliantly, than 3 and lose them all.

We’ve never had a ‘new customers come first’ approach’, we believe in doing great work full stop. A bar we intend to keep high.

8. Talking in clients & customers, not silos

Clients are a priority, so we structure ourselves around their businesses, not agency silos. We never talk about separate P&Ls (search, social, display etc.); the focus is on client impact and driving value through great relationships and high-quality work.

9. Heartfelt goodbyes

Our client retention rate is high. But like all relationships, some won’t last forever. We keep it healthy and recognise when it may be time to move on. If a client decides to make the move, we send them off with as much love and with as many fantastic results as possible.

And we’re never afraid to say if something isn't working. Pursuing profit over harmony is a bad strategy. It’s better to part as friends, than continue at crossed purposes. Life’s too short.

10. And an open door

Because we encourage our team to think about their dreams, they may want to step out of the agency at some point to follow their dream in its entirety. And that’s OK.

We've helped people set up their own businesses — and refer business to them. We’re creating space with Propel Days (a day a month for personal development) and sabbaticals to allow time for personal projects too. If someone wants to leave, we send them off with a bang with armfuls of contacts and future support. In turn it creates a precious space for a new person to join the team, armed with their own ingenuity, enthusiasm and ideas.

11.An adventure, not a race

We’re not in a race to ‘grow, grow, grow’ at the expense of everyone involved. Our adventure is not about piling on more and more clients and more and more staff, simply scaling more of the same. Managed growth that enables creativity and innovation are the foundations for a great place to work and that’s not going to change. We’re aiming to stay small, to have a big impact on the world.

12. Small in number, big in impact

Who said the ‘more, more, more’ approach is the only way to scale? We’ve invested (without an external investor in sight) in developing technology products based on our agency needs and we now have people in more than 1,000 cities worldwide using our new SaaS product a tool that enables all marketers show off their hard earned media, beautifully. Check it out, it may just save you a shed load of time and make your work look even more amazing. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of our innovation behind the scenes. We’re shaping up to skyrocket our impact.

So in answer to the questions; What’s the magic at Propellernet? What is it that makes the culture what it is? Why is engagement so high?

It’s about having the ambition to be the best place to work in the world.

About striving to Make Life Better.

And focusing on living our values to achieve our dreams.

Happy New Year