In Perspective: Ann Willis On Corporate Culture and the Benefits of Diversity

By February 20th, 2017

From London to Dubai, Singapore to Hollywood, our network of talent at Spafax spans the globe. Together, we speak over 40 languages and work across 15 times zones. And though having such a vast network of offices and staff has its challenges, the benefits of our diversity make it worth the extra effort.

In our latest Spafax Perspectives, Ann Willis, Global Talent Officer, Managing Director Special Projects discusses our global network, the idea of corporate culture and the importance of recruiting for “fit” as well as skill.

How would best describe the phrase “corporate culture”?

To me the culture of an organization is the unique ‘feel’ of the place – created in part by physical things such as the location and working environment – but mainly by how people work together with an understanding of a common goal, values and approach.

With 17 offices in 12 countries, internal communications can be a challenge. What’s important to get right with such a diverse and scattered employee network?

First, it’s important to get the basics right – this means understanding people’s working weeks, keeping regional holidays in mind and, of course, coordinating across time zones.

It’s also beneficial for teams who work together from different offices to meet in person. As much as technology such as video conferencing allows us to collaborate effectively, face-to-face time is a key foundation of communication and can sometimes be overlooked. One of the main benefits of larger industry events we attend is the opportunity to spend time with colleagues from other offices and build those relationships.

“Face-to-face time is a key foundation of communication and can sometimes be overlooked.”

And let’s not forget that with diversity comes various styles of communication. To help people understand their own and colleagues’ working styles better, we rolled out a training program in 2016 called DiSC – a leading personal assessment tool used by over 40 million people to improve work productivity, communication and team collaboration.

How does our diverse employee base work in our favor?

Many of the airline brands we work with are targeting an international audience but are also very associated with their national identity. At Spafax, our diverse employee base allows us to offer our clients the best strategic thinking and content sourcing internationally, underpinned by local market expertise. In practice, this could mean applying international consumer insights to a client’s entertainment strategy while being confident that our local knowledge ensures the best local content and properly reflects the airline brand identity and demographics.

Being part of WPP helps with connections to relevant sister companies. What are some other benefits of this relationship?

There is an underlying confidence which comes from belonging to the world’s largest marketing communications group. Being part of WPP also means we have access to best-in-class training programs as well as special WPP company events. Last month, we had the opportunity to join 35 other agencies at a Google event here in London, organized specifically for WPP PR agencies.

“There is an underlying confidence which comes from belonging to the world’s largest marketing communications group.”

How does an agency recruit and retain talent?

At Spafax we are fortunate in having a low turnover of staff and this is due to a number of factors. Our recruitment approach is key – we make sure to recruit for ‘fit’ and attitude as well as skills.

Staff events, a focus on training and development and employee-friendly policies, such as flexible work hours and home working, are also fundamental to retaining staff.

Three words that best describe Spafax culture.

  • Friendly
  • Informal
  • Collaborative