A Culture of Learning Keeps Your Agency On the Forward Edge

Looking back over the past decade, the advance of technology and changing face of media has been astounding. And as marketers, the speed at which we as an industry have had to spot, learn and apply these changes has been, to put it bluntly, mind-boggling. Yet many agencies and design firms have leapt forward on the strength of these changes, gaining competitive advantage and evolving into smaller, smarter, more agile entities. These new-model agencies are, if anything, even more dependent on their smart, engaged, creative employees than agencies of the past. This makes a culture of learning critical to ensure you stay on top.

Capitalize on Knowledge

What do we mean by “a culture of learning”? While many smaller businesses pay lip service to employee training and career development, most are busy dealing with the daily demands of servicing clients, producing the work and paying the bills. Too often, employees seek training with the idea of boosting their professional standing and perhaps earning their ways to new, better-paid positions. But employers often fail to capitalize on employees’ new knowledge, disregarding new tactics and skills in favor of “the way we’ve always done it”… and signaling to employees that the training they just took (and possibly paid for out of their own pockets) is neither valuable to the employer, nor particularly beneficial to the employees, unless they take it out the door to some other company.

In an agency with a learning culture, the opposite is true. The employer fosters learning, for individual employees and for teams within the organization. The agency also looks for ways to apply this learning, essentially growing through the hard work of smart employees. This kind of agency recognizes that the employees ARE the agency, and the agency’s best representatives. These “human resources” will also become the next generation of mentors, leaders and managers. Enlightened agency employers encourage training and learning opportunities, ranging from seminars to webinars, to conferences, symposiums, field trips, books, trade publications, visiting industry experts and more. These agencies see training not as an “expense,” but as an “investment” in the agency’s future success.

Never Too Old to Learn

Further, an agency with a culture of learning invests in ongoing training for all employees. Too many agencies train only new employees, just to get them up to speed on existing systems… and never train them again. The concept of employee growth and development is simply not a part of their culture. In a culture of learning, everyone is given learning opportunities, from junior, entry-level novices to senior managers. And all “trainees” are encouraged to cross-pollinate their knowledge throughout the agency. This not only builds an “all for one and one for all” mindset, but limits the damage to the organization should an employee leave: knowledge is shared, so no single employee carries the strategic knowledge that “makes” the agency what it is.

When everyone is invited to learn and evolve, you build employee engagement and a passion for the business and the work. Engaged employees are rewarded with professional growth, attainment of personal career goals and increased job satisfaction. Employers are rewarded with lower turnover, enhanced reputation and an organization that attracts other like-minded individuals as the culture snowballs into a creative dynamo.

The agency that builds a culture of learning is all about change. The world we live and work in is a perpetual motion machine; if we don’t keep running, it will pass us by or mow us under. Agencies that aim to embrace change and keep abreast of the New are most likely to achieve success and gain a reputation for innovation and of-the-moment thinking. And that is exactly the kind of agency most clients want.