1. Johnson King
A perennial favorite in our survey—the firm was our Best Specialist Multinational Consultancy to Work For last year as well—Johnson King, with offices in the U.K., France and Germany, scores remarkably high marks when it comes to helping people balance work and life, marks that did not decline at all during a difficult year that saw many firms seek ever-higher levels of billability.
Johnson King’s emphasis on work life balance has long been a reason why its staff has remained loyal. The firm’s working from home policy provides employees with the flexibility to work away from the office should they need to be at home for whatever reason. In addition, Johnson King enables its working parents the flexibility required to juggle childcare and family commitments, whether that involves leaving early or coming in late.
The firm hires the majority of staff at the graduate level, which means training is vital. JK spends more than twice the industry average on staff development and has established its own training academy which sets out modules of in-house and external training for all levels. All new starters are allocated a buddy, someone they do not work with directly, who serves as a mentor/guide to the agency. And all staff meet monthly with their immediate supervisors to iron out any potential issues quickly and ensure that everyone is on the same page with regards to progression.
Says one enthusiastic respondent: “I've been with Johnson King for almost five years now and there's not been a day when I've dreaded coming into work or thought about leaving. Having worked for a few agencies, I can honestly say JK is the best. Sure we take care to give our clients the best possible service, but we always have a laugh along the way. Although a smaller agency, I feel we have strong vision and that our management team is among the best while our team structure ensures execs are involved on core activities from the start. What's more, we all get along extremely well and always enjoy each other's company, both in the office and out. This creates one of the best working environments I've experienced in my time, which is exactly why I wouldn't consider a job anywhere else.”
In October of 2007, Hotwire founder and group managing director Kristin Syltevik got her reward for eight years of hard working building one of Europe’s leading technology public relations firms when Australian holding company Photon Group paid an initial £10 million to acquire Hotwire. The group’s philosophy appears to eschew integration, allowing acquired companies to keep their own brands, their own management, and their own culture—the latter something that is particularly important to Hotwire. As a result, the transition has been relatively seamless and neither clients nor employees appear to have suffered any significant disruption.
Hotwire takes work-life balance seriously. The firm agrees a series of activities and results with clients at the beginning of each month, with a clear budget and time allowance. That enables management to strictly control resources and to ensure that no-one is billed out for more than five hours per working day, which builds time into each working day for non-client activity ranging from new business to internal Hotwire initiatives, ranging from the firm’s own social committee to its CSR initiatives. Moreover, staff members can agree their working hours with their line managers, starting any time between 7 am to 10 am. It’s an approach that has helped Hotwire on to the Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For list as well as a prominent placing on our own Best Consultancdies to Work For survey.
“Hotwire is a very people focused business,” says one respondent. “They build careers and push and challenge us. Compared to the other places I have worked in the PR industry this is an amazing place to work.” Adds another: “I'm proud to work for an organisation that has weathered the challenging economic climate so well. The management deserves enormous credit for the way it continues to evolve and reinvent the service it delivers to clients, keeping us at the cutting edge.”
A two-time winner of our Best Specialist Multinational Consultancy to Work For award—in 2007 and 2008—AxiCom has continued to score high marks from employees following its acquisition by Cohn & Wolfe. Perhaps that’s because the firm has maintained a high level of commitment to its values (cited by more than one respondent) following the acquisition: initiative (all employees are encouraged to take responsibility for their opinions and their actions); intelligence (employees are expected to always continue to learn about their clients and their clients' technologies, and the wider technologies and technology issues that drive the modern technology universe); and integrity (“AxiCom works ethically at all times. We expect our employees to act with integrity, and to give direction to their teams and their clients with a view to maintaining the excellent reputations both we and they have developed.”)
AxiCom “has maintained its own identity despite becoming part of a larger company,” says one respondent to our survey, while another hails the “lack of ego, flat hierarchy and focus on doing the best work for clients makes it a stimulating and enjoyable place to work.” The bottom line: “Two things really matter at AxiCom: employees and clients. The business grows and prospers because the company is very good at getting those two things right.”
Rounding out the top five: Text 100; Lewis