How We Built a Creative Workplace Culture
Managing Director of agency Jung von Matt/SPORTS, Holger Hansen talks about designing a creative workplace culture.
We hear a lot about culture in our industry. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that a good workplace culture means free beer Fridays, a ping pong table or a lavish holiday shindig. But the truth is, the quality of a company’s culture is based on what the company stands for and how it treats its employees, partners and clients.
Over the years here at Jung von Matt/SPORTS, our work in sports marketing has showed us how important our workplace culture is and why we need to connect with partners who share our cultural values.
“We have seen how loyal and passionate people bring a company as many benefits as loyal and passionate customers do. ”
Today, most companies know that culture is not just a perk. It is vital to their business. Workplace culture has a direct impact on our employee turnover, which affects productivity and in turn success. We have seen how loyal and passionate people bring a company as many benefits as loyal and passionate customers do. They are willing to go the extra mile, and able to deliver more creativity.
To help inspire your own, I’ll share with you my top insights into building a creative workplace culture by sharing what our culture looks like and what we do in practice to cultivate it.
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You can’t dictate culture
A company’s culture can be a tricky concept to define, and when it comes to an agency’s culture it’s even trickier.
For us at Jung von Matt/SPORTS, culture is the result of consistent behavior – it simply happens. It isn’t teambuilding workshops or motivational posters, it’s action. We’ve seen that we can’t force it and we can’t install it. It’s organic and has to be cultivated.
However, we have certain basic pillars that help generate solidarity and an understanding of how we work at Jung von Matt. We share this at our summer academy where we give our new employees two days of cultural orientation about the seven Jung von Matt guiding principles.
We show them how culture isn’t a buzzword but an everyday feeling, by introducing them into all our departments, the overall agency capabilities, common beliefs and one of the best things we have here in Hamburg: the legendary harbor tour on the JvM-owned barge “Elizabeth”. The barge is named after the woman that brought together our two founders. She came to her divorce case with former husband Jean-Remy, together with the new man by her side, Holger Jung.
Seven steps to a creative workplace culture
In our work at Jung von Matt/SPORTS we found out that we first have to prepare the playing field to make great work happen.
1. Define a core value
Our values are the main criteria our agency uses to select new people, reward the team and make business decisions. Our core value is creative excellence, but what does that mean in practice? You see it in the way we work, how we behave, how we interact and think. And when it comes to the people who work for us, we believe that we don’t just need people to sell ordinary commercials. We want people who sell quality, meaningful ideas and valuable solutions.
Yes, we do have walls where our seven guiding principles are visible. But we believe that our foundation is more than a label on a wall.
2. Fight for the best result
One of our mottos is “We remain dissatisfied.” As a creative agency, we are aware that we are service providers. But nobody at Jung von Matt acts like a servant.
Going beyond the brief and constantly scrutinizing our own ideas often equals going the extra mile, which can either mean working late or attending sports events on a weekend to be closer to the brands and partners we work for.
To honor this commitment and dedication we offer flexi-time and compensation days, helping our employees have enough relaxation before starting again to fearlessly fight for the best result. Clients deserve our highest quality of thinking and best efforts. We’re more than a service provider. We’re a creative partner that helps each client get the most out of their business.
3. Communicate and care in equal measure
We believe in the importance of communication and we encourage our employees to ask each other and clients for feedback.
After every presentation we have a “lessons learned” meeting, the so-called “Manöverkritik”, where we invite everyone involved in the project to have a critical review, discuss weak points in our performance and evaluate the best-case scenario for future projects. And yes, I can tell you from my own experience: Sometimes it hurts. But when you make a critical contribution, take the feedback seriously and learn from it.
We also ask our people to commit themselves to communicating openly and honestly, even in tough situations. When we all do that, our clients are invariably impressed with the overall atmosphere in the agency and our teams’ capabilities.
4. Find common passions
We’re all about creative excellence in sports. Our people want to build something that has an impact on the sports marketing world and feel like they are contributing to a greater goal. At our agency, we all share one passion: sport.
We love sport and by doing (or watching) it, we can easily bring things into the agency that help people connect outside the office, such as after-work jogging, boxing and yoga groups.
There’s also a culture of team sports here with our Jung von Matt soccer team winning the 2018/2019 Hamburger Werbeliga, a recreational football league for advertising agencies in Hamburg.
5. Make it fun
Our corporate culture starts with a shared mindset, shared goals and a shared love of fun. If our employees aren’t having fun and enjoying the work they do together, we’re not living up to our culture. Lucky for us, sports are always fun. (Unless you’re a fan of FC Cologne, like I am – but that’s another story.)
Radiating energy from the top down and finding ways to spread joy brings happiness to our employees and clients alike. The best way to harness a sense of fun at work is to build communities of like-minded people within the agency.
6. Help find the sweet spot
Our employees always have expectations of what their work experience should be like. We take advantage of that by empowering our people to cultivate the culture they want to work and live in.
For us, it is important to encourage our people to find their sweet spot at work. We want them to build a place where their passions and expertise combine with our needs as an agency to make the magic happen.
7. Celebrate success
Our people often work more than they have to and frequently achieve great results. So, we believe in taking a step back to say: Let’s celebrate this – whether it’s winning new business or a job that went well for one of our clients.
Maybe this is also the reason why we have an always-on fridge for drinks – constantly being prepared for spontaneous celebrations, even on a Monday night, #cheers.
We believe that culture is what our people say about our agency when they leave in the evening. When we look at our employees’ satisfaction survey, what we see reflected there is a workplace culture that lets them truly be themselves, flourish, grow, express and create. Culture doesn’t just happen in-house, it’s also a very important factor when it comes to working with clients.
Culture shapes your business relationships
When working with other companies, make sure you find the cultural fit to fuel a long-term relationship.
Having worked with the brand for over five years, I see many ways in which the cultures at adidas and Jung von Matt are intertwined, since we also believe in the power of creativity. Our business is built on ideas and innovation with the ultimate goal of surprising, challenging and impacting the market. Creativity and effectiveness are things that makes it feel so natural to partner with adidas.
When you share values, purpose and goals with your partners, it helps you to collaborate and create more effectively and with more meaning and impact.
We want to find partners who are interested in steadily evolving and enhancing and furthermore are best suited for our corporate culture.
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