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When did policies replace doing the right thing?

Have we lost the ability to simply empathise with individuals dealing with challenges in their personal lives and address each person uniquely?

Long before the pandemic, agencies weren’t exactly renowned for looking after their people. Hard work and long hours were placated by playing hard. Thankfully, the pandemic has forced the issue, with people realising they don’t want to work this way anymore and many leading agencies making some really big and important changes.

As talk shifts from Australia’s talent shortage to The Great Resignation (and now back to attracting said talent), the big networks and agencies have come out in droves, shouting about how great their policies are. And while it’s great to see companies transforming and reevaluating their policies, the timing is pretty questionable. Are they doing this to look after their existing people or to address problems around the industry’s talent shortage? And, do we really need a policy for everything?

A policy for miscarriage, a policy for gender affirmation, a policy for IVF - have we lost the ability to simply empathise with individuals dealing with challenges in their personal lives and address each person uniquely? Surely it’s about trusted relationships, being a good person, and doing what’s right for them? Not a policy for going to the loo. I get the big networks need to have guidelines in place to ensure some level of consistency across management and different parts of the business but is a policy for everything the answer?

Our “policy” has always been to treat people how you want to be treated. Just like my dad taught me.  

If a member of the team experiences the devastation of a miscarriage, it doesn’t need to be recorded under some form of policy - give them the time they need to deal with this heartbreaking event. If they need to attend specialist appointments - for IVF, mental health or other things happening in their personal life - their wellbeing comes first, it’s about understanding and providing access to resources like counsellors. After all, how do you quantify a miscarriage requiring less leave days than gender affirmation?

At the end of the day, agencies are people businesses. Not businesses that sell people, but businesses that cultivate people and put them first.

Working with great people is now the number one driver of employee engagement so having trusted relationships across the business negates the need for too many policies. If your agency values effectively capture the behaviours you want from your people and you live and breathe them, then there shouldn’t be a need for 27 different policies.

For us, it comes back to instilling flexibility and balance into our culture to allow our team to deliver their best work. Worked long hours this week? Take the morning off; let’s get some freelance support; have a massage on us. We’re all human which means we need human responses.

With lockdown lifting, many of our team have been desperate to get back to the office and be together again IRL. But some haven’t (we know because we listened). So, there’s no policy around working from home versus working from the office. It’s pretty simple - be in the office when you need to collaborate, for all agency meetings and social events, but the rest of the week it’s down to you.

Early riser? Start your day early and finish early. Night owl? Sleep in or get in some morning exercise. At the end of the day, it’s the output that matters.

We’re not perfect, but since acquiring the agency in the last month, we’ve made some pretty significant changes to the way we do things that are really important to me as an owner (and personally, I would want as an employee) to create a happier, healthier, more fulfilled team.

And while we’ve introduced one new policy around primary carer’s leave (that’s up there with the networks in terms of competitiveness and childcare support), ultimately it’s about trusting your people to do what’s best for themselves and what’s best for the business. If they love what they do, they’ll be committed to doing their best work and living their best life.

YOLO.

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Have we lost the ability to simply empathise with individuals dealing with challenges in their personal lives and address each person uniquely?