James, Jon and Chelsea discuss our new employee engagement initiative: SO Level Up! It was created to help employees take control of their career and progression as well as help with the agency’s service development and innovation. Find out more by messaging us at [email protected]
Podcast SO Level Up
Hello, and welcome to this episode of so what’s up, I’m here with James and John today and we’re going to be talking about a new initiative that that we are launching internally called CIO level up.
So, so Level Up was an idea that we had to essentially bring together service development and innovation tied in with personal development of the team, which was being a service based industry, our service is essentially based on like the skill level of the team that we have. And we wanted to make sure that we were always constantly doing new things, and the team were always engaged with that. So it came about as an idea to essentially just solve a couple of a couple of avenues that we wanted to rectify, really.
Yeah, so I think the big thing for us was to continually develop the skills of the team that we’ve got everyone’s skills age over time, and everyone sometimes just needs a bit of a poke to, to refresh themselves. And so our idea is, as a company was that we give each of the staff a minimum budget a year that they have to use to spend on training, or any kind of learning for to develop the skills or improve on ones I’ve already got. But the way we did it, it was to sort of set it as a minimum spend, not a maximum spend. So that that means that everybody then would essentially be forced to do something. And, and financial limits weren’t necessarily the issue, or the barrier, let’s say to doing that. Yeah.
And I think my guess so what is it and like, why it was created, I guess, we also wanted to get staff really engaged, important to the initiative. So it was integral to us that we were unable to get them to actually set the direction of where they wanted to go in their career. So John, and I have had chats with our teams that we manage. And we’ve wanted to kind of get to know them what their aspirations are. And John manages a bigger team than me. So I’ll let him chat a little bit about how those worked.
Yeah, so it’s really interesting, actually, we introduced it before, the most recent one on one meetings with with the team. And upon offering this opportunity to support the sale level of in place, sends all the every member of the team actually has a unique kind of skill that they wanted to develop further. Each individual skill being very unique and kind of
says bespoke isn’t bespoke. Yeah, yeah, we can offer as a service. So So I’m guessing everyone has got different aspirations and ideas. Yeah. So like, some people may say, if you’re a techy person, you might want to learn something about a new technology or a way to improve how you code websites, for argument’s sake. But a designer might want to improve their skills on a particular design software. Awesome. Yeah. So
for example, some some is currently learning Free dot J. S, and web GL, which gives us the ability to create more immersive web experiences. But from a visual point of view, we need 3d elements as well. So Jim is learning 3d software as well to complement some new skill sets.
So all these things are all ventually filtered down into offerings that we can give to clients, once the team are sort of sufficiently competent in working with them. But I think as well, from our point of view, is making sure that the the team don’t feel like they’ve got a very sort of stagnant sort of career path. And they really want they they’ve got something to achieve and aspire to and support them with.
I think a lot of the I think one thing that I found, like coming here, eight months ago, a lot of people’s goals were just to work here, like they were because we’re one of the best in the area. And because of like the, the prestige that we seem to have, and like we have with the awards and stuff, people that was their goal to be good enough to work at. So marketing. And now because obviously they were good enough when they started, we need to keep that up. Like we can’t just plateau, because we’ve reached a goal. They need to have something new to chase and always constantly evolve and get better, just as the industry as Yeah, that’s
right. And I think yeah, it’s not even so much sort of I was sort of focusing on technical skills to a point really, but I think it’s not as much that yeah, we’ve got members of the team who yay, maybe wants to use some of their money towards sort of a more emotional learning. And, you know, the way that they handle groups of people better sort of people management, team management. So it’s sort of anything really and we’ve sort of not we’re not sort of prescribing what the what the scheme’s to be used for really is as long as they’re the member of staff considers it a value. They think that they would benefit personally from it, then we think it’s a good idea for us to do I think it was interesting before we’d kicked it in quite a few of the team had already asked suddenly, John, because you’re talking about you kept coming to me saying so and so wants to do this course, can we pay for it? Yeah. And that’s kind of where the idea kind of came from. So they’d already sort of, were sort of ad hoc Lee asking for this, we just thought we’d sort of formalise it into a scheme where we sort of offered out to everyone and made sure everyone was aware that it was a thing.
Yeah. And I think as well, one thing that kind of drove me to it was being committed to being like meritocracy, where staff are given equal opportunities to develop and the full support of the agency. So really now, like they are in complete control of where they take their careers. And they actually have the support and the backing of the agency to do that as well. There’s no barriers to what they want to do what they want to bring to the team. It’s just a really nice environment for them to be able to do that. And then we’ll also enable them to do it through payment or whatever support they need. So for example, some of the people on John’s team have children, and they struggle to find time to do out of work. So John helps them to find time to do it in work and in between projects.
Now, you’re I think, a lot of companies as well, in these sort of situations, almost use it as a bit of a carrot and stick approach as well, in a way of sort of trying to keep stuff there. And I kind of I see the point of that, because you you want to keep the stuff that you’ve got you, you want them to stay with you. But I think we also have to recognise as well that sometimes people’s personal goals evolve and change over the years as they get older, their very own life situations change. And I think, yeah, we should always be in a position where we try and help the team that we’ve got to develop. And if it is that they need to move on in the future to somewhere else, then they’ve got new skills to move on with. But they’ll always look back on working with us as a good experience, which always is always positive. You know, the number of times we’ve had business from x staff in the past has been it’s been crazy. And it’s because we have a good relationship with them when they are working here. And when they leave that yeah, that they feel confident and comfortable enough to refer us back business again. So I think it all comes around in the end doesn’t know this sort of thing. Yeah, definitely. I think yeah, it’s just really interesting to see the different ideas the team have got in terms of who does who wants to do what and you can sort of start to make some predictions about what their what their future goals will be based on the kind of ideas that they come up with. I mean, you probably know about the meal, different things people talk to you about. But I mean, there’s quite a range isn’t there and what they want to do.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, another good thing about it is it’s it gets them excited about the role again, because I think it’s quite easy to get to a level where you just kind of coast in but this this gives the team members a little little nudge and say, you know, go off and progress progress your skills, bit more on get excited about it again.
I mean, I think, yeah, it’s natural for people when they’ve been working a job for a long time, isn’t it to sometimes be a bit lethargic about that. And, you know, everyone’s I’ve experienced that a lot of times, you know, I’ve been doing the same job for on and off for 22 years now. And you look at it and go, yeah, one day, do I want to not deal with websites? You know, and it’s kind of but yeah, you just sometimes you need either something outside of work to get you interested into it, or something that sort of reinvigorate why you’re doing the job in the first place. And I think in creative industries, most of the staffing agencies are there because they want to be there not just because they need a job. Yeah. And it’s been, I think it’s the most telling thing, really, the way that we recruit is very different to other businesses, where you sort of put a job ad out, you get hundreds of people applying just because they want a job, you don’t get that in our kind of business, you get, you know, people are in in the industry, maybe wanting to move to a different agency wants to develop their skills. It’s a very different kind of employment, I think. Yeah. I mean, you’ll know you’ve worked in more agency than I have, really, but yeah, people do tend to move around agency world only a bit as well. Yeah,
I think me personally, one of my experiences from shifting from agency to agency was moving to somewhere that offers more, more work and what I’m interested in so my mic skill sets more focused on web. So always, always try to find an agency that focuses more on that.
Yeah, that’s right. I think every agency is different. And sometimes those people skills change around and yeah, they just decide to different things. Sometimes they need to move around. But I think hopefully, if we can be there to facilitate the new skills they’ve gotten, let them take them elsewhere, or even stay with us forever. Just keep on adding and adding to their skill list. I think either situations a good outcome really, for people like us. But yeah, it’s just been a really interesting thing to see how the teams responded to it. I think
as well like talking about moving around agencies and like having that sort of element to it. Actually, having this internally helps us to highlight what skills gaps we have not even skills gaps necessarily, but more interest gaps. So for example, the team that I’m growing, Rebecca, our digital exec, she’s really really interested in SEO and PPC, but she’s not as interested in like the creative content generation side of things, so as we grow that out, if that’s a service that becomes more in demand, I know that’s a skill set that we’re going to have to look for. Because at the moment, I’m driving a lot of that because it is one of my interests. But as I grow and develop within the agency, it’s a matter of how much time I’ll actually have to put into that.
Yeah, that’s right. I think as you grow in teams, you’re seeing how that’s developing with the people that you’re hiring as well. I think as well, when we get new people coming on board, we’ll use this straightaway, won’t we want them to say, you know, this is what we expect you to do? Yeah. And to do this, and I think it’ll also set an expectation. Now, I think we’re those members of the team that yeah, we do want to continue to do that. And yeah, as I say, line managers, let’s say that we’re we’re very, sort of keen and proactive with them to try and push them to make sure that you get through there spend a year, because I think some people may sort of just not get round to it, and we need to be pushing them to actually do it. Yeah. Whether it’s somebody everyone must have an interest of some sort. Yeah, definitely. Yeah, sometimes they may not vocalise that, but they must, it must exist, we need to make sure that we we say to these guys, you know, CJ unique out of them if they are if they’re not, maybe a bit shy at coming forward about it. Yeah, to say, but I think that’s something that you can pick up in your sort of team one to ones isn’t John.
Yeah, definitely. And if, you know, the team members have got commitments outside of it, like Chelsea mentioned, we can we can plan time and within the the working day for them to take these courses, sit through seminars, and
so named Rebecca has been doing that with your team. And she says she’s often I see often on the calendar is record off doing X and Y. Yeah. So whatever.
Well, my fingers were like, to me, it’s just like when when because I have like a really engaged team. And like Rebecca is brilliant at it. Like I’ve just kind of embedded her into like the company culture like, right, okay, you manage your own time you do what you want, as long as clients get what they want on time, I don’t care if you do a webinar, or if you’re attending an event. But one thing that she’s really, really good at doing is, I asked her to do like a bit of a kind of key takeaway sheet for me. And it’s really good from a selfish point for me, because that means I don’t have to spend an hour on this webinar, and I get all the new knowledge from it. And then I keep up to date as well, especially because Rebecca and I have very opposing interests. So she loves SEO, PPC is something I need to be aware of. Whereas I’m a more creative marketer, and I prefer branding and storytelling and content generation. But having someone that kind of we both update each other on what’s going on in the industry, that makes it so much easier. And it also helps with creating marketing fodder for our kind of marketing campaigns, in terms of like keeping clients up to date with any changes that they need to name. So Rebecca recently found out that Google was doing a massive update in May, and she created like a blog post on it. And we were able to share that and update our clients. And another thing about this initiative is, as the guys are learning more, they’re so much more excited, and like my ears just perked up when I hear them talking about it in the studio. And then I get to go and have a look. And I learned something new and I can spin it in a way that’s exciting for our clients. And they get to hear about like, the new things are out there and going on. And especially with like Sam and Jim and like their free free j is
on the screen the other day, there’s like a demo of it or something. Yeah. So
most mornings at the moment, I’ll comment and Sam sent me a link to some of the three.js stuff he’s been working on in the evening. And it’s it’s just mind blowing. It really is. It’s it’s so immersive and the depth that you can go into whether it looks fantastic. So I’m really excited to implement that skill.
That’s quite cool, isn’t it as well that he sort of, you know, that interested in it. He’s working on it at night at home. And he’s also like,
coming up with ideas for clients and stuff as well. Like he’s coming in, like he says, Oh, this would be great, for example, like otter bright. And if we could get this because if the clients got like a really immersive site and a really well engaged community, he’s starting to think now commercially about like how we can like, do things for them and like make that service better for them, which I think to encourage your team to actually do that is incredible, because not all creatives have that commercial awareness.
No, no, they totally do. And he’s interesting as well, because obviously he joined us as a apprentice a number of years ago. And then he sort of stay with us into a sort of full time job after that. And it’s really developed from, let’s say, the most most junior of junior web developer, and then he’s now sort of trying all this really cool. Really quite complicated stuff. Really, you know, where I think you know, yeah, I wouldn’t want to try and learn it, you know, I’ll be having I’d be a wuss. I was used to be a developer. I wouldn’t want to touch it now. And I think you know, it’s really good to see someone that’s about 20 to use nice and sound something like that as route 20, and I think he’s Yeah, sort of jumping onto these new technologies just means that Yeah, think about what you’d be learning in two years time, you know, and where that would take him? And I think it would, it certainly shows progression or want for progression, let’s say from his point of view, and it’s really good to see that the team wants to do that
is now under times that was created, or we stood around one of our max lock in it something that, you know, we’re just jaws on the floor in terms of a web design that we’ve seen, and just question how it’s done. And some starting to actually create these similar kind of experiences face how
web works isn’t a you know, anyone that’s a developer, everyone, you look at something, you then dissect the code of how it was built, you find it from somewhere else, you can reiterate it yourself. That’s basically the industry, isn’t it? So yeah, I think he’s definitely learning. And hopefully, if you’re sharing that with the other developers in the team, they’ll they’ll get excited and want to know it as well. Yeah. And that’s the, yeah, it’s just a case of bringing everyone along with you, isn’t it to make sure that, you know, if you don’t just got the one person that’s got one skill, but hopefully everyone is interested enough to do something about it.
I think John’s been very good at bringing that though, into the wider design development team. And like building people’s confidence up so that they actually kind of are able to start, like experimenting, and like gathering that information. And then like having the courage to say like, actually, no, I don’t want to do this, I’m really interested in this. And then he encourages that and brings it to life. And the kind of marrying up of skill sets as well. So for example, when we bought Rebecca into the team, we had a really good SEO base knowledge. But we didn’t have anyone technically to bring those to kind of solve those technical problems. And John’s idea was, oh, let’s get Aaron on it straightaway and give him ownership of this. And it’s working splendidly at the minute, because now he’s got that like extra engagement, he feels like he’s got ownership of it. And it’s just about kind of spotting these like little sparks in people that you can just nurture.
Now you’re right. I mean, one of the things we’re doing the moment as well as recruiting for, let’s say, an IT apprentice, who will be, let’s say, shadowing some sort of more technical jobs that are sort of legacy for my old job, really, and also supporting the dev team with tech support, getting back to clients, learning sort of basic web development. But obviously apart from the apprenticeship, the person is going to be on anyway, you will also be recommending that they take time outside of work to do some of these things that we can then support them with. So then they even if they don’t stay with us after the end of the branches, or we give them a full time job. They then go on more skills than just what sort of formal education is going to teach them, let’s say, but again, we’re gonna use it really as a recruiting tool as well in the future, but it’s just an extra perk of working for us. Yeah. 100%. So yeah, if anyone’s got any questions about our level of initiative or just wants to find out more about how we’re implementing it, drop us an email at Hello at so marketing.com