October 17, 2018
When we re-launched Aria Marketing four years ago, the leadership team had a unique opportunity to rebuild the company and its culture. We looked back at the previous fifteen years and reflected on what was working and where there was opportunity for improvement. We kept some stuff, ditched some other stuff, and tried some new stuff. For this blog post, I wanted to share some of the initiatives we undertook that garnered the most and quickest positive responses from staff.
Renewed focus on retention- Our most important asset is our staff, and we realized we should be doing more to retain them. So, we invested in better health benefits, implemented a 401K, and instituted cumulative yearly anniversary benefits like transportation reimbursement and more vacation days.
Mentorship program- PR agency life is not easy. Combine that with difficult subject matter (healthcare IT), and high client expectations, and you’ve got yourself a steep learning curve. Thus, we implemented a mentorship program so that all new hires are now paired with someone more senior who can help them navigate their first days at Aria and continue to provide ongoing support and advice.
Collaborative environment- One of the most noticeable aspects of our relaunch was our move to a new office space. We left our old, boring corporate building behind and moved into a converted brick and beam mill building with an open concept floor plan, multiple areas for folks to gather, and no cubicles or walls to hinder collaboration.
Self-promotion- You should be proud of where you work. Just like the proverbial cobbler’s shoeless children, at Aria, we were great about promoting our clients, but not so great about thumping our own chests. So, we tasked ourselves with sharing some of our own news. We announced new clients and staff and began to pursue award and speaking opportunities. And, it worked!
Investing in fun- We had always described ourselves as a “work hard, play hard” culture, but in truth, we were heavy on the ‘work hard,’ and a bit light on the ‘play hard.’ So, we changed that. We arranged regular group outings to tour the city’s foodie destinations, watch the Sox win, and paint while drinking. We started monthly staff-run themed happy hours, and we never miss an opportunity for a group lunch from our favorite local Thai restaurant.
Creating a clear path for employee growth- Aria’s employee review process was comprehensive but convoluted. We gave staff a lot of feedback, but not enough actionable advice for what was needed to get to the next level. So, we threw out the old system and created a brand new review process complete with color-coded maturity models which clearly lay out the pathway to promotion at every level.
Corporate philanthropy- Few things are as rewarding as helping others. And, as a successful business, we felt a duty to give back locally, and at a national level. We began to work with local organizations, such as Cradles to Crayons, by hosting clothing drives and participating in company volunteer days. We also instituted a vacation day donation program in which employees can take unused vacation days and turn them in for a monetary contribution to the charity of their choice.
Aria Marketing is not static, and neither is our company culture. As a small business, our culture changes in some way with every new hire, and I think that’s pretty cool. It is a never-ending work in progress, but it’s always driven by the same mission (which you can find on our website): we are constantly striving to make Aria the kind of place that people love to work at and never want to leave.
And, the leadership team practices what it preaches. The three of us have now been at Aria a combined 37 years. Want to join us for the next 37? Well, we’re always looking for great people, so send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.