By Sarah Liverance

One big question we’ve asked ourselves at SW&A is how can we best help our clients succeed in this fast-paced, volatile business environment? Clearly, we must be nimble, efficient, and incredibly effective to bring clarity to their tough marketing challenges. We’ve decided that having the most engaged and fired up team of associates is the best way to accomplish that goal. But where’s the roadmap for that?

Well, our creative team decided to “make it up and make it real.” We created Our People Flywheel – a homegrown framework for growth. It’s not perfect and we’re still tweaking it, but so far it’s working.

Here’s how it rolls:

Hire the Best – It’s no surprise that everything starts here. When we assess candidates, we screen for experience and test for skill sets but the bulk of our interviewing energy is focused on fit with our unique culture. Each person we hire must have “help others succeed” baked into their DNA. They must demonstrate natural alignment with our 5 core beliefs. And we don’t just take their word for it. We don’t delegate reference checks to recruiters but rather we personally conduct in-depth checks that go way beyond the 3 standard references each candidate provides. It takes some creativity but it’s arguably the most insightful element we’ve included in our hiring process.

People Flywheel

Engage & Support – We use our annual employee engagement survey to understand unique drivers to engagement for our team. There are plenty of sources that outline standard engagement drivers on global, national, and regional levels but our team isn’t just any team. It’s important to understand the drivers unique to SW&A. For us, it’s learning & development, interesting and challenging work, and a sense of personal accomplishment. We’ve carefully crafted an engagement program that targets these drivers, and each year we measure how well we’re doing. Even more important, we correct our course as necessary. Some specific elements of our engagement program include:

  • Power of 32 – Coined back when we were a company of 32, Power of 32 is our own special form of collaboration. The solutions
    we develop for our clients are exponentially more valuable to our clients when they leverage the collective 250+ years of experience and creativity our employees have gained across multiple industries. And every time we bring the Power of 32 to solve problems, we learn more from each other.
  • Spirit 32 – Recognizing that ‘above and beyond’ mindsets are necessary for client service, we designed this program to equip our associates with a toolkit they can draw on to make them happier, more successful professionals, parents, spouses, friends, sons, and daughters. Some of our Spirit 32 initiatives have focused on mindfulness, energy management, emotional intelligence, sleep strategies, productivity, and having a growth mindset.
  • Flight Planning – Our version of professional development is based on 3 key principles:
    • Play to strengths – The foundation is a deep conversation and understanding around “what I’m great at” and “what I love doing.”
    • Author your own career – Consistent with “make it up and make it real,” we ask each associate to identify their ideal role – even if it’s one that doesn’t exist today.
    • Ongoing feedback – We strive to create a feedback friendly culture where we can learn and grow through regular feedback from our colleagues and clients.
  • Deliver More Than Expected – It sounds trite but it’s true. This is what our associates do and they do it especially well when they are engaged and supported.
  • Growth – We strive for trifecta growth. When our people grow personally and professionally, they bring the positive energy and expertise required to drive growth for our clients. When that happens, our business grows. And round and round the flywheel goes.

We love the simplicity and power of Our People Flywheel. It’s rooted in common sense but it yields magic. And who doesn’t love magic?

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Sarah Liverance is a Partner at Sklar Wilton & Associates. She is our Engagement Champion focused on People Development as well as the financial health and smooth operations of SW&A.