Kelly Heath, Head of People
Kelly is Gupta Media's Head of People. With almost three decades of agency experience, Kelly has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to building scalable teams and cultures that deliver. The early 2020s have been a transformative period in terms of the ways in which organizations and their people interact so we sat down with Kelly for her perspective on the road ahead.
You prefer to refer to “the great resignation” as “the great reshuffle.” Why do you see this as an important distinction, and how does this distinction change your approach to recruiting?
Kelly: While I can’t take credit for the coining of “the great reshuffle”, I find it a better definition of what we are seeing in the workforce today. Resignation, by definition, is the act of giving up a position or office. It’s static, final. But people aren’t quitting and walking away, never to work again. Instead they are “reshuffling”
The last two years have driven a forced rethink for people on what is most important in how they live their lives. This is most visible in the shake-ups people are making with jobs and careers since where we work and what we do are such a large part of what defines many of us. People reshuffle for new roles that are perhaps a better fit geographically or provide opportunities to expand their careers with better compensation and benefits. Others walk away from companies that no longer align with their values or how they want to live their lives post pandemic, even completely changing careers to answer that deeper question, “what do I want to be when I grow up” that some have pondered in the face of the pandemic.
This forced rethink is true of companies as well. After all, companies are run by people who have had similar struggles during the pandemic. And as managers, we ask ourselves, “Is this company doing everything it can to take care of its people? Are we building a culture that is engaging and inclusive? Is the work and the opportunities fulfilling to our team? Is this a company I trust and know that it has trust in me?”
If, as a company, we can answer those questions positively (and I believe we can), then we can have confidence in our ability to recruit and retain an amazing team during this “great reshuffle”.
What have been some of the biggest non-COVID related challenges to restarting office culture over the past year?
Kelly: Our office has been open in some capacity throughout the pandemic but, like many organizations, most of our staff was remote during the first 12-18 months. As a growing company, actively recruiting and hiring, we found connections and collaboration really challenging during that remote period. While we could successfully onboard and train new staff, we realized that our new team members, working only via Zoom and Teams, didn’t have the benefit of fostering deeper connections beyond their immediate team.
The lack of “working capital” across a broader subset of the company not only slowed learning but limited cross-team collaboration and this group’s connections to the company as a whole. When all you do is Zoom with teams all day, those "brady bunch" screens of heads all start to look the same. Trade a company, trade a Zoom screen. Turnover within this group was greater than we had seen in prior years.
We were definitely ahead of the curve in our return to the office in June 2021 with our Office First (with flexibility) model. Once we knew we could do so safely thanks to vaccinations and pooled testing (thank you CIC-Health!), we welcomed all staff back an average of 4 days a week, along with “work from anywhere” weeks available throughout the year. Not only did we have improved retention and professional development with our current staff, we found it was a powerful recruitment tool.
People are realizing they need something different than that Zoom screen and we are able to offer positive in-person experiences for those who are looking for it. As a company, we thrive on engagement, learning, collaboration and fun and I’m proud to say that the interactions, the mentorship, the relationships are back. While :30 minute Zoom meetings can certainly get a job done, we like to say it's the face-to-face :30 second meetings that make this job great.
Gupta Media’s average employee tenure outpaces industry contemporaries. Why do you think this is and what are you doing to nurture this attribute?
Kelly: Our average tenure is a little over 3 years and higher when you look at our management team, with many of our senior managers having 10+ years with Gupta Media. Long tenure comes down to two factors. First, Gupta Media is very, very good at what we do with an amazing client roster that respects and trusts our work. It’s the reason Harvard Business School teaches a case study on us to all its first year MBA students. It's an exciting place to work and very rewarding from a career growth perspective. Second, I believe our staff would agree that we can answer the questions I noted above positively – We take care of our people. We are working to create an inclusive culture. We are trustworthy. When you love what you do and the people and company you do it with, you tend to stick around.
Now, Gupta Media is not for everyone (or for everyone, forever). That is true of any company, especially early in a career. You start at a company, try it on for size, learn what you can while building skills and networks. At some point, people move on to their next role, their next company, even their next career (as we are seeing with this reshuffle). Turnover is natural and healthy for a company. You need that influx of new ideas and new people to continue to evolve as an organization.
What's important is that we work very hard to make sure everyone has that great first day and that great last day, with all the time in between being as fulfilling and impactful as possible. And after that last day? We want positive alumni who go on to become our next great advocate, our next great client or build on their experience and skills and boomerang back in a new, more senior role. That's what builds a successful Gupta Media culture.
For more from Kelly and about the Gupta Experience, make sure to watch her VentureFizz CXO Briefing below: