Building a Passionate Work Culture in the Marketing and Communications Industry
The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Monica Padillo, this chapter is titled “Building a Passionate Work Culture in the Marketing and Communications Industry.” In it, Jos Ortega, the Chairman and CEO of Havas Ortega Group, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in creating a positive company culture.
As Chairman and CEO of Havas Ortega Group, Jos Ortega ensures that his company is able to maintain a culture that makes all employees feel empowered and motivated to work. Of all the things he holds to be true in his 37 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry, one of them is the belief that marketing and communications professionals are greatly shaped by the culture of their organizations. Of course, this idea is apparent among many companies as well, but workplace structure differs everywhere.
“It goes back to people and culture every day. If you have a certain culture, then everything you do follows from that,” Ortega said. “And when you have a clearly defined culture of collaboration, innovation, and invention, you need to determine how they will be demonstrated inside your office because the office design manifests your working style.”
One of the ways that Ortega creates a conducive workplace for his employees is by physically making the Havas Ortega office colorful and open. Their office has meeting pods and various wide spaces where employees can meet, collaborate, and develop ideas. Havas Ortega employees would not feel too confined in the office as they have glass walls as well, which allows them to peek outside whenever they feel too overwhelmed with their workload.
They especially have a part of the office called “La Ledge” (The Ledge), a veranda where Havas Ortega employees can talk while enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the outdoors. The Ledge also serves as an outdoor cafe exclusively open for Havas Ortega employees.
“The Ledge has become a place where most of our informal meetings happen. It creates an open and relaxed environment where people can brainstorm ideas. And because it’s outside, it’s just more conducive to talking and thinking and sharing,” Ortega said. “I believe that, more or less, the way we design our physical space defines how we do things.”
Aside from arranging such conducive office spaces, Ortega also initiated “rituals,” or little but memorable celebrations. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of their most common rituals was their La Ledge Nights, wherein Havas Ortega employees wrapped up their days by having alcoholic drinks in the evening at the Ledge. They were typically done after their monthly town hall meetings, which was also where they aired announcements, welcomed newly hired employees, and celebrated the birthdays and anniversaries of some of their staff members.
According to Ortega, they would also have work-related celebrations done at the office. Whenever any of them wins a business deal, they would all stop their work, gather in the main area of the office, and ring a bell that acknowledged their success—a scenario similar to the opening of the stock market. When asked why they had such a ritual, Ortega explained that it creates a winning attitude among his employees. They also get to feel good about themselves after getting individually acknowledged for their hard work.
“We’d like to celebrate more things right. These celebrations are just quick town hall meetings for us. They don’t last for an hour and a half. We celebrate for five minutes, get energized, and go back to work,” Ortega said.
But Ortega knew these initiatives were not enough to empower his workforce. He is aware that, in most cases, employees still cannot separate their personal life with work, even more so when they have problems that affect their mental health. He recalled an instance where one of his millennial employees posted a long rant on Facebook about how she felt emotionally aggravated by her work.
Ortega admitted that he initially did not understand why that particular employee had to post about her problem before tackling it firsthand―for people in his generation, they just dealt with their problems directly. But he discovered in one of their ethnographic studies that millennials often need to process their problems before working through them. Learning that 74% of his workforce are millennials, Ortega knew he had to do something about it.
To help resolve these issues, Ortega launched TALK, a holistic mental well-being program to support his employees. Havas Ortega administered free workshops on mental health in partnership with local mental health clinic In Touch Community Services. They also have a dedicated 24/7 hotline which their staff members can call to talk with a professional mental health consultant. Ortega additionally initiated a full week of different programs that aimed to provide a perspective to support work-life balance, leadership, and personal matters that affect performance.
According to him, having these initiatives in place became significantly helpful when the pandemic affected the Philippines. “Mental wellness and mental health suddenly became a big topic because everybody was literally locked in different corners, whether as an individual or with their family and in a constrained space,” he said.
“So I think it was an automatic shift for us to focus more on mental health because we already had these programs. It’s going to be one of the critical things we needed to address and I’m glad we knew how to work on it upfront.”
As evidenced by these efforts, Ortega does not take mental health issues lightly, and he hopes other business leaders think similarly as well. He believes that mental wellness in the workplace starts with the head of the pack. Ortega summarized this idea in four simple points: First, leaders must accept and acknowledge the issues. Second, they should select their “champions” who could take on mental health as a cause within the organization. Third, they should institutionalize their efforts on mental wellness.
Lastly, Ortega believes leaders must walk the talk. “It’s important that leaders actually apply initiatives on mental health themselves and demonstrate them to their employees.
By setting a good example, they are able to complete a great picture of a true leader,” he said.
With such a passionate business leader, it’s no wonder Havas Ortega is able to operate in top shape, even in the midst of a pandemic. However, Ortega knows his work does not just stop here. For him, there is still a lot of work to be done and he will consistently face them head on with the belief that his organization would be nothing if he did not value his employees’ needs and wellbeing.
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Jos Ortega, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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