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NORTH AMERICA 2021: LARGE | MIDSIZE | SMALL | BOUTIQUE
EMEA 2021: NETWORK | UK | CONTINENT
Best Agency to Work For is possibly the only predictive PRovoke Media award. Over the years, we’ve noticed a direct correlation between the agencies on this list and those that take home our biggest honor (often times at some point in the future) — Agency of the Year recognition. That’s, in part, because firms that take culture seriously tend to attract and retain smart and creative talent who, in turn, produce stellar work. It’s a simple formula but one that’s easily overlooked amid the breathless pace and tremendous pressures that are a seemingly inevitable reality of agency life. But this pace is exactly why agencies shouldn’t underestimate the power its culture has on the work its employees produce.
Of course, this year's survey was taken under extraordinary circumstances. Employees faced the upheaval of the global pandemic, then re-arranging their lives like never before — in addition to movements for racial justice. By the time this survey was taken in February 2021, vaccines offered a glimmer of hope but still an uncertainty of how the post-pandemic workplace will operate.
It's also a testament to the durable cultures of the winning agencies, as the #1 ranked agency in each category remained consistent in pre-and-pandemic eras. The #1 agencies in each category will be recognized at the virtual 2021 EMEA SABRE Awards on 9 June, with tickets available here.
BEST AGENCIES TO WORK FOR, EMEA NETWORK
#1 AxiCom (WPP)
AxiCom, WPP’s technology specialist communications agency, takes the #1 spot as best network agency to work for in EMEA for the second year running. This is quite some achievement, considering the sudden death of much-loved European president Henry Brake in February 2020, and is undoubtedly thanks to the 26-year old firm’s strong family culture, the very human, compassionate leadership of longtime AxiCom staffer and now European president Kate Stevens, and the continued focus on its three core values: intelligence, initiative, and integrity.
The agency provides an extensive benefits package, including gym membership, health insurance, spot bonuses and a range of discounts and 24/7 access to counselling through its Employee Assistance Programme, LifeWorks. AxiCom’s flexible working initiative, Intelligent Working, was introduced just before lockdown, giving its people the freedom to create a work schedule that works for them and ensuring everyone could adjust their schedules to suit their new working environments. Learning and development plans are tailor-made for every employee, many of whom have been around for well over 10 years.
The agency has a single-digit gender pay gap and, unusually for a tech business, most of its country leaders are women. AxiCom has also been proactive in challenging bias over the past year, underlining its zero-tolerance approach to inequality, committing to providing a collaborative, supportive, and respectful working environment for all, using a D&I consultant, adding unconscious bias training to the onboarding process, and stress-testing the language used in job ads. — MPS
#2 BCW (WPP)
#3 FleishmanHillard Fishburn (Omnicom)
#4 H+K Strategies (WPP)
#5 APCO (Independent)
BEST AGENCIES TO WORK FOR, UK
#1 Milk & Honey (Independent)
Milk & Honey PR is just four years old, but this is the second year running it has been named as the best agency to work for in the UK. The fast-growing, ambitious firm, founded by Kirsty Leighton, has managed to maintain its culture as it has grown to a “happy hive” of 28 employees and expanded to Sydney and New York, thanks to its focus on its six values: energy, bravery, respect, passion, collaboration and loyalty.
In 2020 the agency hired 18 new team members and promoted nine people. It also gained accreditation to Investors in People, placing it in the top 0.5% of UK companies, and went on to win the Investors in People Employer of the Year Award.
The agency has a comprehensive benefits package and has a variety of flexible working options, including an enhanced maternity and return to work offer. The agency dedicates 5% of team time to volunteering and has a thorough approach to mental health and wellbeing: a quarter of the team are mental health first aiders, everyone has a mentor, gives everyone a quarterly £50 ‘bee good to yourself’ wellbeing allowance, and has set up a new Wellness channel on Teams as a space to share. Everyone has a £1,000 personal training budget, the structured internship programme is paid, and the agency ensures everyone can work towards an industry recognised qualification.
As a business dedicated to shared endeavour and achievement, Milk & Honey has introduced shared ownership: every member of staff receives equity after two years of service. Four employee are so far co-owners and the agency aim for this to rise to a third of the team by the end of this year. In addition, 25% of profits are shared with the team through the bonus scheme. The agency also has a negative gender pay gap. — MPS
#2 Blurred (Independent)
#3 Missive (Independent)
#4 Hope & Glory (Independent)
#5 Mantis (Independent)
BEST AGENCIES TO WORK FOR, EMEA CONTINENT
#1 Schwartz (Independent)
For the third year in a row, Schwartz tops our list of the best Continental agencies to work for. The 28-strong German firm has long been a mainstay in the top five because of its family culture, which has remained the bedrock of the agency since its inception.
The firm has always had three core values: transparency, trust and training. But in 2020, it put two additional promises others front and centre: in March last year, owner Christoph Swartz guaranteed every single job would be safe, and decided against compulsory part-time work or furlough.
In the “no closed doors” agency, every member of the team has full insight into all business, pitches, revenues, fees, invoices and client contracts. The agency has a down-to-earth attitude, with minimal hierarchy, and all colleagues are expected to take personal responsibility for servicing clients in the best way they can. The agency is fully flexible, with working hours based on trust, and has a comprehensive offer for working parents. Internal and external training and employee development are ongoing, and the agency’s strong culture has led to minimal attrition, with an average tenure of 7-8 years. — MPS
#2 Spark Communications (Independent)
#3 Atmosphere Communications (Independent)
#4 Graffiti PR (Independent)
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