Dynamic Career Development @ Razorfish
High-Tech, High-Touch, High-Impact
By Joan Dasher, Director of BlessingWhite's Mid-Atlantic and Southeast U.S. regions
Dateline 2010: Cutting-edge digital marketing agency Razorfish (a Publicis Groupe company) faced a challenge. After experiencing two acquisitions in as many years (Microsoft in 2007 and Publicis in 2009), followed closely by the great recession and increased competition in their industry, the company was faced with higher than usual turnover and lower than usual employee engagement scores. Most troubling to Chief Talent Officer Alicia Shankland and Director of Organizational Development Deidre Bliss Fischer: a number of employees indicated they didn’t see tremendous career opportunities at Razorfish and expected to look elsewhere in the next two years.
The agency world is known for movement of clients and talent (sometimes together), so some turnover is an industry hazard. Shankland and Fischer didn’t explain away the results, however. They knew that Razorfish needed a more committed workforce to drive the organization’s priorities for 2010.
A multi-faceted, organization-wide career campaign
Engagement survey data revealed that 39% of employees overall said they knew how to manage their career at Razorfish. “We needed our employees to know that they can carve out their own unique brand and future — that there is a lot of fluidity in career paths at Razorfish as long as the employee takes the initiative,” says Fischer.
BlessingWhite’s 2011 Employee Engagement Report confirms that focusing on career issues is an effective retention strategy. This is because perceived lack of career opportunities is the top reason people leave organizations.
The Razorfish team knew from the start it wanted a well-rounded, multi-touch approach with a lot of activity and visibility in their major hub offices. Given their expertise in digital communications, they planned an online career portal for employees but they didn’t stop there. They knew that online experiences, however robust, would not deliver the impact needed on their own.
So they decided to declare October 2010 “Career Month” and provide what Fischer describes as a “festival environment.” This initiative was designed to provide employees with access to thought leaders, career-related learning opportunities, career coaching, cross-discipline learning, and the launch of the online Razorfish CareerLab portal to sustain the learning beyond October. Fischer explains, “We were trying to create an energized and engaging environment for all employees at a time when people are a bit introspective about the months behind them and start looking ahead to the next year.”
Career month features
October kick-off: Razorfish CEO Bob Lord introduced Daniel Pink (author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us), who delivered a motivational in-person presentation in Chicago that was simulcast to all offices and remote locations. Pink’s message was based on his book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, and was a call to action for individual employees to own — and take action on — their careers.
Razorfish’s CareerLab portal has 5 core areas.
CareerLab portal: This online resource, with the tagline “build your experience,” was launched during October as the hub for all things career and is an ongoing career resource. It has the following components and framework:
- Know Yourself — Career management advice, assessment tools, and resources like discussion guides for employees and managers (powered by a customized BlessingWhite career portal inside the umbrella Razorfish site)
- Connect — Professional networking advice and opportunities
- Learn Inside — Access to Razorfish’s learning and development tools and resources
- Learn Outside — Access to external continuing education advice and opportunities
- Stretch — Posted career opportunities and success stories of employees with unique career paths
Web Classes for Managers and Employees: A primary goal of Career Month was to drive effective career conversations between managers and employees. To ensure that employees were clear on their goals and actions to own their career development and that managers understood their role in supporting them, Razorfish partnered with BlessingWhite to develop custom web classes: Your Career @ Razorfish and Career Coaching @ Razorfish for managers. Several web classes were delivered each week to accommodate various time zones and employee schedules. The customized career tools in the “Know Yourself” component provide the means for sustainability and follow-up.
Career Coaches: Two days were set aside in the end of October at several locations for individuals to schedule one-on-one meetings with outside career counselors.
A Variety of In-Person and Virtual Workshops and Forums: Employees had access to workshops on networking, personal branding, and building portfolios of expertise. Panel discussions on topics like working abroad and the future of media provided additional context to the many career possibilities at Razorfish.
During Career Month, Razorfish provided 230 hours of activities, offered 42 different session topics, and logged over 3,100 participant hours.
An employee survey on the experience showed that Career Month was very well received and exceeded expectations. Here are a few of the underlying drivers of its success:
Secure high-level commitment and field support. Shankland says, “Executive sponsorship was strong. There were no barriers. They all understood the data and were committed to this as an organization-wide initiative.” Field support of the centralized HR plan was also crucial.
Brand the experience and have a communications plan. This strategy was an obvious requirement for a firm in the business of communications and branding campaigns, but it is important for any organization rolling out a company-wide initiative. All CareerLab materials featured a consistent look and feel, and a series of promotional messages drove participation. The HR team worked with their communications colleagues to set expectations and build excitement before and during Career Month.
Provide compelling content and tools. Shankland and Fischer knew their audience as well as the latest research on today’s career landscape. The messages and classes were designed to provide useful information and motivate employees to take control of their careers. The managers’ content addressed the common concerns that managers have in a candid and pragmatic way, to ensure they were confident and competent in conducting career conversations.
Razorfish Internal Marketing campagin
Use multiple touch-points. Razorfish was purposeful in creating a campaign that included keynotes, the online portal, in-person workshops, web classes, and one-on-one career coaching. This approach drove high participation, flexible access for remote employees, and sustainability.
2010’s Career Month was so successful that the Razorfish team is planning another series of events in September 2011. Fischer explains that the revised time frame reflects careful analysis of data on employee participation as well as the post-Career Month survey: “We realized that we may have had too full of a schedule for employees, and that we can achieve comparable results with a shorter, targeted experience.” Until then, the HR team is supporting career development with regularly scheduled web classes for managers and employees through the online CareerLab portal.
Most important, Shankland and Fischer can point to significant increases in employee attitudes about their careers. Fifty percent more employees now say they know what’s required to successfully manage their career at Razorfish, and that they have opportunities to achieve personal career objectives with the firm. That data suggests a game-changing future for the Razorfish workforce and for the bottom line.
Joan Dasher works with clients to create organizations where results are impressive and employees thrive. She manages her own career in BlessingWhite’s Mid-Atlantic and Southeast U.S. regions. She can be reached at Joan.Dasher@blessingwhite.com.