By Sara Paye, Communications, Culture and Engagement Manager at Dentsu MENA
Despite the concern of many commentators that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain cultural ideals and company values without all being in the same place every day, globally, Dentsu took the plunge and decided we wanted to take on the challenge.
As of September 2021, we introduced our longer-term ‘future of work’ strategy to the business. At that time, the whole world was in the process of reimagining every aspect of what work looks like. We were clear from the beginning that we wanted to approach this as an opportunity to be seized; that’s why we developed a fluid framework for hybrid working – a mix of office and home or remote – that meets the needs of individuals, our teams, and ultimately our clients.
Making this a success has relied on building a culture of increased trust and empowerment, and recognizing the ever-increasing importance of helping our people balance their work and home lives. We now follow a 60/40 model of in-office versus remote working, but additional flexibility is given to all those who need it. We also offer additional support and occupational health advice for building a comfortable working space at home.
This shift has created a fundamental change to our culture, and how teams work together has been key in making hybrid working a success. We know how much our people enjoy coming together in person, and many of us really missed meeting up with colleagues and friends during lockdown. It’s not just about the work, it’s also because that’s a big part of what makes Dentsu special. For many of our team members, it has been life-changing to be able to make more empowered decisions about how and where we work, and we know from our engagement surveys that very few people wanted to return to the 9-6 office format, five days a week. We also know that levels of engagement are key to performance and innovation, and that maintaining our culture is a key part of our attraction and retention strategy. As I’m sure we all know by now, culture doesn’t happen by default; it happens by design.
First and foremost, we connect everyone through a shared purpose and vision of ‘one Dentsu,’ becoming the most integrated agency network in the world. We want every person, in every brand, function, and market, to understand and lean into our overall business strategy, our goals, and how we measure process and success on our journey. This helps everyone see how the work they do, individually and with their teams, contributes to delivering on our overall shared ambition and goals.
Everyone wants to know that their contribution counts and that the work they do every day matters. Many feared that without a line manager sitting at the desk over from you, everyone who spends their days watching Netflix or socializing with friends. For us, it is about building a culture of trust, but also one of accountability. To help us all do this, we created new ‘charters,’ both at a team and individual level. They are designed to ensure we have the right conversations with each other about how we need to work together in our teams in a hybrid model – to ensure optimum outputs and impact for all our external and internal clients. These two charters, along with one developed for client-facing teams, are at the very heart of our hybrid working model. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, each team decides what its own version of hybrid working needs to be to ensure they can meet the needs of their internal or external clients. This has helped bring hybrid working to life at the team and individual level, and for our clients, and to make it as simple as possible for people to agree on their working patterns.
Communications have been overhauled to fuel a culture where everyone has a voice and is confident to use it – from making our leaders as visible, present, and accessible as possible, to simplifying communication channels and making them more two-way. The most important factor throughout the pandemic and introducing our new working framework has been transparency. Millennials and Generation Z make up over 80% of our workforce and, in a world of, arguably, oversharing, expect to be kept in the loop. With fewer opportunities for water cooler gossip and running into team members from different departments at lunch, we need to constantly share, update – the good and the bad – and make everybody feel connected to the business whether they are in the office or not.
Workplace transformation has also taken center stage. We have introduced a complete hot-desking model with a desk-booking application. No more set desks segmented by brand and department, and our leaders were stripped of their private office spaces too! We now all work in the same open plan space, but you can use the app to find colleagues if you are planning on working collaboratively with them that week and book a workspace together. We’ve created more meeting rooms, more phone booths for private calls, and more open collaborative spaces.
Finally, just as we could never have predicted the pandemic and the resulting fallout, we recognize that this shift in working culture will continue to evolve, and have adopted a future-focused mindset to ensure we keep moving forward to position ourselves for long-term success. A key driver of creating a high-performing culture and inclusive environment at Dentsu is our employee listening strategy. Hearing from our people regularly through employee engagement surveys, and more informally throughout the year, helps us to understand where we are making progress and enables us to identify areas of focus. This is where we can gain the most insight into how everyone is feeling, where we are doing well, and where we need to improve.
Our vision for the future workplace is to create the space, environment, and tools for our people to do their best work, no matter where they are. We are encouraging our people towards a new way of living, enabling creativity, encouraging collaboration, and connecting virtually and physically through hybrid ways of working – getting the best from each other, our clients, and our community.
This article was published in Communicate's latest issue.