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I Re-Interviewed Every Employee in My Agency — Here’s What I Learned

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As an agency professional, you have to keep a constant eye on ROI -- your reputation depends on it.

You approach each campaign with the goal of maximizing every dollar invested and churning out impressive returns for clients. Ultimately, you focus on building someone else’s brand while your own could be slipping through the cracks.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And when it comes to your own bottom line, embracing your “why” is equally important to driving ROI for clients.

Something motivates your employees to come into the office in the morning beyond the desire to provide for their families or put food on the table. After our merger, I decided to re-interview every employee to nail down the motivators that our new team shared. We needed to find the common threads that tethered all 70 employees to our company so we could define our “why” and the culture we wanted to adopt.

Here’s what this exercise revealed about my employees:

Why they chose to work for us.

In each interview, I made an effort to uncover what attracted each person to work for our organization. Many had worked at respected agencies in the past, but they became frustrated when these organizations didn’t allow them to apply the breadth of their skill sets. They had burning ambition and wanted to make an impact through their work.

What they care about.

I also learned that my employees were actively making a difference outside of their agency roles in some capacity or another. Whether it was volunteering, doing charity work, making donations, or helping out family members, hearing the passion in their voices firsthand helped me glean more details about them outside of a professional context.

What they have in common.

Whether you consciously realized it or not, you probably hired like-minded employees who share the same impact-focused thinking and approach to life as you. Because our employees were hired for two separate companies, the re-interview process shed light on the commonalities among our combined staff. 

Mergers are often stressful and uncertain. But taking the time to sit down with each person helped us build rapport with the entire team, demonstrate interest in them as individuals, and identify major employee motivators.

Find Your Agency’s ‘Why’

Re-interviewing your staff will peel back the layers of your organization and help you craft a brand image that accurately reflects the people behind it.

As you plan for your re-interview process, keep these three tips in mind:

1) Obtain a representative sampling.

Although it might not be feasible to re-interview every person at your agency, I highly recommend applying this exercise in some capacity. If you can’t talk to each team member, make sure you interview staff from a variety of locations, seniority roles, and departments to get a representative sample.

2) Ask the right questions.

Develop a list of questions that point back to why your employees work with you. Make a concerted effort not to look at the obvious, tangible things; rather, press to understand more about what motivates them as individuals. It’s about much more than career aspirations, salaries, or perks.

3) Be prepared to take action.

In some cases, conversations in the re-interview process will reveal areas for improvement. For example, if a common theme was the desire for continued education and learning opportunities, you might start a monthly guest webinar series or invite speakers to host mini workshops for your agency. Employees will respect your effort to acknowledge and implement their feedback.

In other cases, the actions you take may be more difficult. As you hold these conversations and identify what your staff represents, there could be some outliers. You may notice that these people don’t align with your culture, and you might have to consider whether they’re an honest fit. As you begin to understand what drives your team, be prepared to make some structural adjustments to capitalize on the shared motivators.

When it came to marketing ourselves and establishing the House of Kaizen brand, we wanted to invest in it with a classic approach to brand development. I’m a firm believer in brand co-creation -- that a brand is a shared experience between the consumer and the provider. So it’s imperative that we live and breathe a consistent brand inside and outside of our agency. But first, you need to find that common thread.

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