5 Ways to Make Your Agency a More Interesting Place to Work in 2017

Get a boat. Seriously

As the recruiter of all talent for Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, I see our agency through new eyes every day. Each time I welcome candidates, students or groups through our doors, I get to re-experience it from their perspective. I witness their excitement and, more often than not, their desire to be a part of it. It's one of my favorite parts of my job, and it's a daily reminder to appreciate just how special this place is.

Sophie Worth

Each of the eight W+K offices around the world is a reflection of three equal parts: A third is heavily influenced by the people who work there, another third comes from 34 years of accumulated W+K DNA, and the last third is flavored by the cities and countries they're in. Amsterdam is no different.

When you walk into our canal-side home, or any of our other offices, you're not greeted by awards but by portraits of the weird and wonderful people who work here. Every wall and space, from elevators to stairwells, features creative touches from employees past and present. There are no cubicles or private offices. Instead, you will find large colorful open-plan spaces that have been likened to the cozy familiarity of a well-lived-in home.

In the years I've worked here, I've seen our office continually evolve and be constantly redecorated, amplified, shaped and mutated by the 140 personalities of 28 nationalities that live under our roof. It's this alchemy between the physical and emotional space and the people that makes an agency interesting.

Here are five ways we've explored this idea that have worked for us:

Make it a safe place for creative minds
When you ask someone to be creative, you're effectively asking them to put themselves in a place of vulnerability. Creativity is a very personal thing that requires you to bare your soul and take risks. It requires bravery.

Our goal is to create a place where people feel safe, a nurturing environment where everyone feels relaxed enough to express themselves. This goes for the physical space as well as the emotional space. When people are free to fail, it's a lot easier for them to be creatively brave.

Let the walls belong to everyone
One of our 'Wiedenisms' is the phrase, "A white wall is a missed opportunity," a saying that vividly manifests itself in our office. On any given morning, you can walk in to discover a new mural, origami bombing in the elevator, or spontaneous staircase art installation.

If your agency can demonstrate it values self-expression and understands that ideas are nothing until they are released into the world, then you are on to something.

Get a boat
No, really—get a boat.

Last summer, after years of dreaming about it, we got an agency boat. We use it for lunchtime spins, interviews, brainstorms, meetings, post-work aperitifs and weekend outings. It's like our summer house, a floating extension of our office.  

If you don't live on a canal like we do, get your version of a boat. Find that thing that adds to your culture, brings people together, changes the scenery and shifts the perspective.

Encourage change, and then embrace it
Be open to change, and let it happen organically when it feels right. Just because something is, doesn't mean it should stay that way.

A few months ago, we turned our main boardroom into a living room for a pitch meeting. It worked wonders, so we decided to keep it that way. We recently hired creative talent to explore the ever-evolving landscape of gaming, VR, AI and experiential installations, and our "Department of New Realities" was born. We let them go nuts and out came Bitmap Banshees, a VR experience that energized the whole office. We move people around our network to cross-pollinate points of view and cultures, which not only exposes our people to new places and experiences, but enriches the global work we produce.

Don't be afraid to knock down some walls, hire people who aren't like you, move people around your building or network, or rearrange the furniture. Just don't stay the same.

Remember, one size doesn't fit all
Some people like desks so they have a space of their own. Others work better reclined on a couch, or at the cafe around the corner. One approach will never suit everyone, so we try to be flexible and offer a range of options. Variety, individuality, freedom and trust in people are always a plus.

Sophie Worth is the head of recruitment at Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam.