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August 14, 2010
Last week: Creative Professionals Put to the Test. This week: Agencies Put to the Test.
Last week, I wrote how we’re witnessing an uptick in testing of creative professionals as a condition of employment. Read it here if you haven’t already. The piece struck a chord as evidenced by the many comments and e -mails.

This week, I present you with Og’s Agency Employer Test. Whenever you interview with an agency or company, these are the questions that employers need to answer.

What’s your social media policy?

Employers are monitoring e-mail and site usage. Can’t we just be open and upfront about this? Skip the software and use some common sense. If we know the policy, we can follow it. If the policy is unwritten, don’t expect compliance. My feeling is employees will engage in social media on their phones if restricted from their work computers. If employees can take a smoke break, why can’t I take a social media break?

How are agency financials? Is this place solid and stable?

As creatives, I don’t think we pay close enough attention to the stability of our employer. Is the agency on solid ground financially? Let’s see some open book management. Open the books so we can drive toward the same goals with eyes open.

How are you supporting continuing education?

To work in advertising, you have to stay current with applications, technology, and culture, as well as be a lifelong learner. Many do this on our own. Wouldn’t it be nice if our employer encouraged and supported it? Now so much of what’s new and exciting isn’t part of the job description. For example, most agencies aren’t offering clients social media, but you better know about it.

What are you doing to aid employees’ career development?

You’re there to do a job, but a year from now, you won’t be the same person. You’re constantly growing. Does the agency have a plan for helping you advance in your career? Why stay at an agency that doesn’t value and reward your growth? If growth meant being given opportunities, that was then. Today, with fewer opportunities, we need some new ideas on the career development front.

What is the agency’s corporate culture? What’s being done to support it?

Every agency has a culture, but how do they honor and express it? Look how Southwest celebrates their culture in the everyday workday. That’s sweet. Work should fun. Culture contributes to creating a great work environment. Let’s have fun and make money!

How committed are you to regular performance and salary reviews?I wish I had a nickel for every creative department reorg I’ve been through. I’d be very rich. But if I collected nickels for every performance and salary review I’ve had, I’d be very poor. Agencies are the worst at reviewing employees. I guess they fear that telling people they’re doing a great job will mean having to pay more. Well, if you deserve it, you deserve it. That’s why we need to tie job performance to goals and client satisfaction and profitability.

What’s your plan for increasing flexibility for employees?

It’s the No. 1 most requested employee benefit. That’s why we love Flex Fridays. But what if an agency really dialed it up? For example, Seattle-based Social Strata launched unlimited paid time off. You read it right. Take off whenever you want. I think it could work. Put the emphasis on output, not input. Get your work done by noon and check out. You’re always reachable by cell anyway. You’re a professional. You won’t miss the meeting.

What is the agency doing to give back to the community?

We make things that sell stuff. But when we go home to our families and tuck the kids into bed and recall the day’s events, don’t we wish we made people’s lives a little better? It can’t be just about making money. We’re a little less of ourselves when we do that, so check when interviewing to find out what the agency is doing to give back to the community.

How green is the agency?

We drive hybrids and recycling at home. What are we doing at work to help the environment? Ask them what programs are in place to lessen the impact of business operations. Office recycling? Bike or carpool to work? Personally, I’ve killed a lot of trees in my agency career.

There you go. That’s Og’s Agency Employer Test. Keep these questions in mind the next time you interview. Remember, it’s more than a job you’re interviewing for. Where you work is a way of life. The agency that makes life more enriching, more rewarding stands to gain the most loyalty and productivity from its employees.

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Mike Ogden is a digital/senior writer based in Kansas City. Ad agency stops have enabled him to create for major brands like American Century, Capital One, Sprint, and USAA. Seasoned and sharp with a touch of gray, Ogden, aka Og, is known for creating and championing ideas. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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