Early 2018 saw in the AdNews People and Culture Award, founded by iknowho. We wanted to sit down with returning finalists The Royals and hear more about their consecutive nomination. As Dan Beaumont, Managing Partner, says: ‘Culture is everything at The Royals, it’s genuinely at the centre of who we are.’ We caught up with Dan and Kristy Camarillo, Talent Manager at The Royals to discuss their motivations, challenges and initiative successes.
What motivated you to enter this year’s People and Culture Award?
Dan – Our culture is our number one priority in the business. We know that if we get that right, everything else flows from there. If you haven’t got that right, I would argue that it’s more difficult to do great work for clients, win business and build a great agency.
It’s important for us to establish a reputation of valuing our culture and our people. We need to signal to the market very clearly that The Royals is a great place to work and we value people, irrespective of ethnicity, gender or age. That’s why we enter culture awards.
Kristy – Ultimately, awards not only attract clients but also talent. I think being recognised for something we’re heavily invested in, which has been our People and Culture, has allowed us to attract the right talent and to retain those people.
Being finalists 2 years in a row has shown consistency from your People and Culture initiatives. How do you stay on top of your game?
Dan – It’s consistent because we haven’t changed our priorities. The way we manage the agency is like an operating system; a little bit like the operating system on your smartphone. We upgrade our OS constantly; we fix bugs, add functionality and make the system operate better – that’s how we approach The Royals. So when it comes to our culture, the way we have managed it evolves and we strive to ‘get better at getting better’.
We measure the strength of our culture by commissioning Culture Amp to survey our staff. We use the data and the responses from Culture Amp to spot the patterns and insights that will help us improve each experience within the agency. Culture Amp gives us a benchmark – we’ve had two surveys since we set our benchmark of 81% and we have started to see patterns form. Our new engagement rate is 9 points over our previous level of engagement – now we’re in the 90’s. To put that in context, the average score for our industry in this country is 67%.
Kristy – The annual Culture Amp engagement surveys measure recommendation, pride, motivation, present and future commitments. We have regular pulse checks to see how we are tracking. We use all these results to help refine our focus for all our initiatives for the year ahead, so we know what is important to our people and where we need to focus. We will be launching our Learning and Development program soon, which has come off the back of consistent feedback of what has been really important to our people.
Our initiatives come from the bottom up, not the top down. We want to ensure that the voice of all of our Royals is representated, listened to and considered.
Which People & Culture initiative do you think has created the biggest impact to the business?
Dan – Lots of little things we do have a big impact on our business. We have an unwritten rule particularly with the five partners: we give before we take.
A Christmas draw
Every Christmas we throw a name in the hat for every year each person has worked at The Royals. We draw a name and that person gets and all-expenses paid trip to SXSW Festival in Austin; this is a real celebration of the staff.
The unconference is an away weekend, which is 3 days and 2 nights across both offices, Sydney and Melbourne. We have been to Hobart, Byron Bay and last year we all climbed to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, where we had our first values awards presentation. We have 3 values – Audacity, Camaraderie and Revelry. Nick, our Creative Partner, has created patches for each of these values, and we award them to people who demonstrate those values. The unconference is a chance for all of us to get away together and do something we have never done before. This year we went glamping in King Valley and enjoyed everything the vineyards there have to offer, and then some.
Monday Morning Assembly
Every Monday morning we have an all-staff meeting with both offices connected across video conference, where we talk about the week ahead. It’s about transparency, where staff can ask questions about what is going on in the business, then we have a presentation on something that is inspiring and interesting – staff members are responsible for this. It’s a big part of kicking off a successful five-day sprint in the agency.
Most Interested Day
It’s easy to get caught up in our busy day-to-day work so each month we give one Royal the day off, to get out of the office and take part in an ‘interested’ activity – it might be an advanced driving course, trapeze lessons, how to manage a beehive. The aim is to change up people’s daily working days and stretch them a bit – get them out of their comfort zone.
So it’s not just one initiative but all the little things, and everything contributes to our daily working lives and the overall culture of the business.
How do you continue to maintain a positive culture even during stressful times?
Dan – We over-communicate; I think that is the thing that has got us through the past nine months. We use that Monday morning forum to update people. We’ve participated in several large pitches and our strike rate is excellent, which has added a significant amount of revenue, that has required us to hire 40 new people over the past six months.
The Royals are known for looking for talent from a range of backgrounds, what impact has this diversity had on the business?
Kristy – We do not have a separate diversity policy, it’s just ingrained in everything we do. A lack of diversity in our business is a lack of relevance. We have people from a range of backgrounds – a marine biologist, lawyers, accountants, military psychologists, individuals from 15 countries that speak 12 languages and span three generations. Bringing such diverse perspectives and experiences to our work allows us to create better, more effective work for our clients and it drives our business forward.
Dan – It can always be better. Dene and I spoke about merit vs quota in our last interview, and we still approach recruitment with an open mind. I like the idea of blind recruiting. We can always be more diverse, but we need to make sure new Royals have the right skill set and fit our #mostinterested culture. As for where they come from, their gender or their sexual orientation – who cares? Working with a diverse group of people makes for more interesting conversations, more interesting strategy, more interesting ideas, and that is the truth; otherwise you generate a generic ‘house-style’ body of work.
As The Royals have offices in Melbourne and Sydney, what challenges do you face for the culture spanning two locations? How do you overcome these challenges?
Dan – The rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne is very much alive, not just at The Royals. We move people around a lot as they work in projects in each office. This facilitates our single agency mindset; we called it ‘1 egg with 2 yolks’. We don’t enter NSW or Victorian Agency of the Year for that reason. Some publishers try and pull us apart, but we have one P&L and that’s how we manage the business across the board. Operating as one agency/ one culture means we don’t need to duplicate services in both cities.
Kristy – We share resources, we cast projects appropriately (based on skills and experience). We try to come together as much as possible – face to face, Hangouts, phone to maintain collaboration – which is a cornerstone of The Royals.
Dan – We share finance, we share production, and it’s a really efficient way to build. If we open a third office, we would do it the same way. It’s a benefit of being independent –we can move quickly and make decisions on the spot.
Thank you to The Royals for another great award entry. Check out what was discussed in last year’s interview.