1. Weber Shandwick Worldwide
Looking at the link between employee satisfaction and agency performance, it’s sometimes hard to see which is cause and which is effect. Does Weber Shandwick score such high marks from employees because it has been outperforming its competitors, or is it outperforming its competitors because it has such satisfied employees? It’s hard to say for sure, but it is notable that employees at the firm give their bosses high marks: the firm came out top among the large multinational agencies when asked whether they had confidence in the quality of management at the firm and within their office or practice area and whether they felt the leadership of the firm was respected within the industry.
The firm also scored high marks for its professional development efforts. Weber Shandwick offered more than 270 individual training courses last year, or 1,400 training days for employees in Europe—an indication that professional development is a priority even in difficult times. The firm’s digital university is now active in five markets, and the firm continues to expand its leadership academy, a partnership with the Henley business school. There were also 22 webinars during the first half of 2009, covering everything from project management to stress management. The payoff was improved staff retention, with the turnover in the London office now in single digits.
Weber Shandwick is “a good place to work with a clear commitment to developing people,” says one respondent to our survey. Another says: “So far very impressed with the whole ethos and culture. By far the best I have been with in over 20 years in the business.” And another adds: “I don't think Weber Shandwick is for the fainthearted, but the sense of belonging to a strong, global network is very appealing and rewarding and contact with other offices is encouraged.”
Having been named our Best Multinational Consultancy to Work For in 2008, Trimedia (now Grayling) continued to build on its growing reputation as an employer of choice despite troubled economic times and some minor layoffs. Murphy and his team have dealt with cultural integration challenges in the past (when several former Citigate offices joined the old Trimedia) and handled them deftly, and the early indications are that the new integration is going well. The firm now offers flexible working options in all European markets, and has expanded its talent development programme with several new training sessions. The firm also expanded its own corporate social responsibility efforts, which are selected and managed on an office-by-office basis.
“The recent merger has been handled with great enthusiasm and professionalism, despite the need for speed,” says one respondent. “What could have been morale-damaging has been the opposite: invigorating and exciting. Morale has, if anything, gone up since the merger.” It’s fair to say that not everyone agreed, but the firm scored high marks for its communication. “Our agency is very open,” says another respondent. “We research and listen to every idea and suggestion that is made. We are constantly looking for new and better ideas to help our clients and work closely with our clients to develop their awareness of public relations.”
Perhaps the most critical element of Burson-Marsteller’s regional chief executive Jeremy Galbraith’s “One EMEA” strategy is ensuring that Burson’s people throughout the region see themselves as part of a single enterprise, with shared systems and shared values, and so BM has invested heavily in internal initiatives over the past couple of years. There’s a new EMEA orientation site for new employees; an expanded professional development program with emphasis on leadership (First Chair for directors, Management Skills training) and digital skills; and an inter-office transfer program that now includes the Middle East and saw 13 employees move between markets last year. But perhaps the biggest team-building initiative of the past 12 months was “1 Week 4 Kids,” which saw employees around the network donate their time and skills to children’s charities.
“When I joined Burson-Marsteller office in Paris, I already knew about the reputation for excellence of the agency,” says one respondent. “I also discovered a management that truly cares about the people who work for the agency.” Says another: “It's a multicultural and exciting atmosphere, where employees are friendly and always willing to help others. Since day one you feel part of the team.” What complaints they are refer to the U.S. management team—more bureaucratic and hierarchical than the EMEA team, employees say—and to the influence of parent company WPP.