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Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Positioning for resiliency: Back to the (virtual) office, building and retaining talent

By Maria Fontanazza • [email protected]

How has the remote/hybrid working environment affected your business? Has it changed the way you bring creativity to the table when working with clients?

Jesse Kates

Jesse Kates, Neon

Jesse Kates, Managing Director, Neon, An IPG Health Company: The hybrid/remote environment has had profound effects on how we do business and most of them have been extremely positive. The best thing is that we now have a much larger pool of talent to draw from and are able to accommodate our talents’ individual needs and working styles in ways we never thought possible before. At Neon and throughout IPG Health, we have a truly flexible model that empowers individuals and their teams to make their own decisions about how and where they work. Our offices are open and – on many days – thriving with working sessions, client meetings, and social events. IPG Health has continued to invest and upgrade office technology and infrastructure to accommodate hybrid working well into the future, helping to seamlessly integrate remote attendees into the action, which is obviously critical, as nine out of 10 live meetings have at least a few remote participants as well. 

The remote environment, of course, has also hugely impacted how we bring creativity to the table. We try to structure a lot more interactivity into creative-focused meetings and use software designed to help with that. We also need to be really adept at monitoring and engaging in the chat features on the conferencing platforms, as some of our client team members often prefer collaborating that way. Having all these options is really wonderful in the sense that it allows for meaningful engagement in the ways that people feel most comfortable engaging. All that being said, for big creative presentations or working sessions, there’s still nothing quite like being in the room together. Whenever that’s an option, it’s the one I prefer. 

Renée Wills, Co-founder, Client Lead, Brick City Greenhouse: We were remote before COVID. We’ve always seen the remote model as a way to attract and retain some of the best talent in the industry, and this positioned us well for resiliency through COVID and after. 

Renee Green, Brick City Greenhouse

Renée Green, Brick City Greenhouse

Renée Green, SVP, Client Lead, Brick City Greenhouse: The remote/hybrid model has certainly had an impact on the way we approach new business. In years past, we relied so heavily on the two-hour live pitch meeting as our sole opportunity to establish chemistry and instill confidence in the agency team. But with a remote model, it’s forced us to think differently, because that two-hour pitch is rarely delivered in person. We now look for opportunities between receiving the RFP and delivering the actual presentation to build connections and allow potential clients to get to know our entire team on a deeper level.

Amy Hansen, Brick City Greenhouse

Amy Hansen, Brick City Greenhouse

Amy Hansen, SVP, Creative Lead, Copy, Brick City Greenhouse: From a creative perspective, when I worked at other agencies that presented live, we would spend so much time, effort, and energy on the presentation and the meeting itself — on the pomp and circumstance of the presentation — which would detract from the quality and quantity of the creative ideas that we brought forward. A live presentation created unintended influences. Being remote has allowed us to stay focused on developing ideas that really move people and are most effective at achieving marketing goals.

Brian Wagner, CMI

Brian Wagner, CMI Media Group

Brian Wagner, VP, Product Strategy, CMI Media Group: Our team has turned this into a positive working experience with both our internal clients, external clients, and our suppliers (publishers and data providers). One way has been by not necessarily doing business as usual, for example, by bringing empathy into the equation; we open calls asking about people on the line and their families, and we’ve developed stronger relationships that way. 

Courtney Kasey, CMI Media Group

Courtney Kasey, CMI Media Group

Courtney Kasey, VP Media Director, CMI Media Group: CMI Media Group was creatively staffed, hiring talent wherever they lived, before the pandemic started. Client teams weren’t structured by office, so we weren’t necessarily in the same office to begin with. This made the transition to fully remote easier than in most agencies. As for impact to our business, our talent roster has basically doubled in size since March 2020, meaning nearly half of our team members have never stepped foot inside a CMI Media Group office. We learned how to pitch business, and win, as well as hire and train new employees, all remotely. Our culture favors those with a growth mindset, so while building relationships and showcasing our creativity for our clients’ business, was at times more challenging virtually, there was a sincere team effort from the top down to share tips, ideas, and support, to have this fully virtual setting go from novel to normal. 

Katya Petrova, JUICE Pharma

Katya Petrova, JUICE Pharma

Katya Petrova, Chief Business Officer, JUICE Pharma: In many ways, the hybrid ways of working only reinforced the importance of the old “staples” in our business: open and frequent communication, the primacy of the strategy built on strong insight and the processes supporting and facilitating collaboration. The tools change, the philosophy of success in developing the creative product doesn’t. That’s why a culture promoting intellectual rigor and shared connected experiences is so important to have in place when part of your team is hybrid or remote. 

Brian Ward, Peregrine Market Access

Brian Ward, Peregrine Market Access

Brian Ward, Partner, Director of Organizational Development, Peregrine Market Access: The vast majority of our workforce is in-person at our Saratoga Springs, New York and Santa Monica, California offices. We have some full-time remote employees from around the country who integrate very well into our work processes. At Peregrine Market Access, we have built our workflow to accommodate the hybrid nature of the post-pandemic workforce and tap into virtual video capabilities and shared software systems to maximize collaboration. Plus, communication is the foundation of every aspect of our business and therefore is fundamental to our success. The pandemic forced us to be nimble in how we work and that has served us well. There will always be situations where an in-person environment can’t be beat, but we have the versatility to perform well in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid capacity.

Beth Bogacz, AbelsonTaylor

Beth Bogacz, AbelsonTaylor

Beth Bogacz, SVP, Human Resources, AbelsonTaylor: I believe it has affected us in a positive way. We used to only hire/relocate people to Chicago, and now we are able to hire and retain the best talent anywhere – geography is no longer a barrier. This enables us to fill open roles and support our teams much faster. Allowing our employees to work remotely or in a hybrid situation has also contributed to them being happier. Many like spending more time with their loved ones instead of commuting into the office every day. A few have even moved to other states while continuing their successful careers at AT. Proving that we could work effectively during the pandemic and deliver for our clients in a variety of different work environments was a game changer. 

Jay Carter, EVP, Director of Business Development, AbelsonTaylor: Everybody changed the way creativity was brought to the table during the pandemic. I think the question now is how do we optimize creativity post-pandemic? AbelsonTaylor is approaching this issue by encouraging in-person engagement on a regular, team-by-team basis. Wednesdays are our prime gathering days, with free lunches and interesting activities added to enrich the experience. But the highlight is always working elbow-to-elbow with one another, using everything at our disposal to solve client marketing problems.

Jay Carter, AbelsonTaylor

Jay Carter, AbelsonTaylor

I recently had two experiences that made me hopeful about this approach. Last week, as a group of us met in person to discuss a presentation of multiple different creative executions, we migrated to a Mural website, which had become our de facto collaboration tool during the pandemic. The fact that the full team was together in a meeting room and interacting with an electronic whiteboard brought two strengths together – the creative energy of our in-person collaboration and the established value of a well-tested tech tool. Rather than diluting either of these two ways of collaborating, they actually enhanced each other, making us more efficient in bringing creativity to the table.

The second experience was prompted by an Instagram post by my long-time colleague Brad Graetz. He’s joined in the photo by Christy Agee, Jeanine Clarke, and Kaelin Teegarden, all long-time veterans of AbelsonTaylor. They’re seated in the cocktail lounge of Chicago’s Old Post Office (our home) against the amazing backdrop of that space. It made me smile and wish I had been in the office that day. Our business is about people, and it’s impossible to forget that. People will come back to the office, whether regularly or from time to time, because they need each other and benefit by spending time together.

Shannon Walsh, Ogilvy Health

Shannon Walsh, Ogilvy Health

Shannon Walsh, President of PR, NA, Ogilvy Health: Learning to operate in this post-COVID-19 world has helped so many of us to be more mindful and deliberate in making purposeful connections. Work-life balance has always been encouraged and supported by Ogilvy Health and our return-to-office policy was created with this spirit of flexibility. With hybrid/remote working, people have more options to be their most productive selves, which has been important for working parents and others, and has provided us an opportunity to expand our talent footprint. It also has opened us up to new clients who are taking a similar hybrid approach and are no longer bound by geography when choosing their agency partner. That said, in-office time still remains valuable, especially with new hires and junior talent, allowing our employees to develop deeper bonds with colleagues and managers, while helping to maintain morale and foster a hands-on learning environment. 

Striking the right balance has been critical when it comes to delivering the kind of impeccable creative thinking that is core to our success and that of our clients.  And while we still very much rely on in-person collaboration, we have also introduced new ideation and collaboration tools that allow an integrated team from across practices, offices, and time zones to work together seamlessly. 

Rich Levy, Klick Health

Rich Levy, Klick Health

Rich Levy, Chief Creative Officer, Klick Health: Creative people find a way to be creative no matter what obstacles they face. Clearly, the pandemic – and remote work – were some of those obstacles, but they also came with silver linings. Zoom has allowed for more people to participate in meetings and presentations. Clients have had opportunities to meet more people who are intimately connected to the work. These are passionate people who can speak to how an idea was created, why specific choices were made and how they envision bringing it to life. Having more people at the table (virtual or not) has multiple benefits, from helping foster stronger client relationships while also creating a learning environment for future leaders. These presentations allow for more people to be involved in the process, giving them a glimpse behind the curtain, ultimately allowing them to see how ideas are made and brought to life. At the end of the day — it has made for amazing creative ideas. 

As we embrace our flexible, hybrid environment, we’re seeing more people collaborating, working in fewer silos, and having a great time creating incredible work. It’s been a really fun (and challenging) time to be a creative leader over the past few years. I’m so proud of how our teams have pulled together to create memorable work. 

JD Cassidy, DSW/Syneos Health

JD Cassidy, GSW/Syneos Health

JD Cassidy, President, Advertising, GSW/Syneos Health: In our current hybrid environment, we’re more connected than ever to the global resources we have at hand through the Syneos Health network. This constant communication to our global teams has allowed us to think bigger in our new business pitches, and work better for our current clients. Today, we’re focused on meeting our clients where they want to meet us – whether that be via Microsoft Teams or in a conference room. 

 The past few years have reminded many of us why we entered healthcare communications and the sense of purpose and fulfillment it provides. We continue to stick together, emphasizing our employees’ and clients’ total health and wellness while remaining confident in the way we show up for the communities we all serve. 

Mondy Telmer, Greater Than One

Mindy Telmer, Greater Than One

Mindy Telmer, EVP, Executive Creative Director, Greater Than One: The remote/hybrid model has pushed us as a company to be more “creative” when it comes to working for and with clients daily. The remote environment has advanced each team member’s ability to work with less-used software pre-pandemic For example, when ideating for tactical planning and beyond, we:

  • Consistently take advantage of the Teams break out groups feature to go from a large “kick off” group to smaller break out groups ¾ seamlessly, at the touch of a button
  • Use the Miro’s electronic walls to put up “stickies”
  • Record (via Zoom or Teams) more of our meetings then before to accommodate for the new flexibility people’s work schedules demand in this post-Covid era

We also think differently when presenting creative. Pre-COVID, big conceptual ideas and pitches were often “live”. A live presentation, when good, inherently allows for more energy and drama as you show the work. Now, we must think about how to add energy to a creative presentation when we are not “in the room”. Some ways we approach this is by:

  • Adding more movement to reveal creative ideas, unveiling “elements” to an idea that build to a bigger picture
  • Using music to evoke an emotional response and sonic branding to make an important point more memorable 

Lastly, we have learned to become more “creative” when it comes to getting to know our clients. Setting aside the first 5-10 minutes of meetings on Mondays and Fridays to “talk” about what plans are for the weekend or what we did after a weekend, has made a big difference. Learning about fur babies, marathon victories, horror fandom, and what’s in people’s Netflix queues helps us connect and relate to each other in a way that adds joy to our work lives. 

Pilar Belhumeur, Greater Than One

Pilar Belhumeur, Greater Than One

Pilar Belhumeur, Executive Creative Director, Greater Than One: Working remotely has changed the way we connect with our clients. Knowing how to connect virtually is a skill that we have all needed to develop to sustain those close client relationships. It has changed how we bring creativity to the table. We have developed new ways of collaborating, brainstorming, and interacting with clients. We have also brought new solutions to the table to execute work virtually. For example, we developed new ways of doing photo and video shoots virtually to keep all client staff safe during the pandemic. We also used virtual whiteboards to bring disparate groups together for development of UX deliverables such as journey maps, personas, and we also used them for group brainstorming to bring people together. Chat has become more prevalent than email as far as quick communication to get things done and Microsoft teams became an integral and efficient way to manage projects and communicate. 

Mike Myers, CrowdPharm

Mike Myers, CrowdPharm

Mike Myers, Managing Director and Partner, CrowdPharm: From our beginnings, CrowdPharm was designed with remote work in mind. Having an open approach to work and engagement enables us to tap into the abundance of creativity and talent around the world. With respect to client interactions, the changing environment has provided us with many new tools that foster interaction. We use these tools to enable our clients to experience the broad level of global creativity that we bring to every assignment. 

Steve Bernstein, Partner, CrowdPharm: CrowdPharm was designed to be around the world and around the clock since the beginning – many years before COVID. What has changed is the industry’s acceptance of this model. For many years, clients have always asked for a new agency working model but they really weren’t ready to accept it. Today, the remote/hybrid model is not only accepted by clients, but also preferred.

Susan Perlbachs, EVERSANA INTOUCH

Susan Perlbachs, EVERSANA INTOUCH

Susan Perlbachs, Chief Creative Officer, EVERSANA INTOUCH: It seems we’ve been answering this question for years. I guess that’s because it has been years now! I see more similarities than differences in how we bring creativity to our clients. We still structure ourselves in cross-functional teams with synergistic relationships; we are still looking for that actionable insight that allows us to connect with our customers; we still hold the art director/copywriter relationship sacred, using this time-proven partnership to push creative boundaries and ensure our communications change behaviors. Sure, we’ve all added a few software names to our repertoire like Mural, Stormz, or Miro. But at the end of the day, creativity happens everywhere – whether in offices, remote or hybrid. Good ideas always have a way of finding their way into the world. We are an agency that values creative and creative ideas. When you hire true creative thinkers, it’s hard to keep a good idea down. 

Matt Schneider, Calcium

Matt Schneider, Calcium

Matt Schneider, SVP, Account Director, Calcium: Calcium is a people-first organization, and the healthcare communication industry is one that is built on the power of human connection. The intimacy and value of a face-to-face meeting with a new customer or internal team members is hard to replicate. And above all else, we believe that the most meaningful connections happen in person.

However, when the pandemic hit, and when we knew our business would be moving almost 100 percent virtual, we challenged our teams to put an even more focused lens on staying proactive, engaged, and curious, both internally and externally. We found that despite not being able to be physically together, an extra push in these three key areas allowed us to maintain the meaningful human connection needed to keep our business successful. As restrictions started to lift, we kept the best interest of our people at the core of our go forward plan. We know that each individual works best in their own ways, so we gave our teams the flexibility to make the right choice based on where they felt most productive. The response to this approach was met with positivity and productivity and helped strengthened our culture during an unprecedented time.

The past two years have caused a dramatic shift in the overall market landscape of the healthcare industry. The power of personal selling has taken a back seat to non-personal, primarily digital communications, and we’ve seen our customers become bombarded and often overwhelmed with content coming at them from all angles. 

Now more than ever, it is imperative that we stop and think about the true needs of our customers and how they like to be communicated to. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with a core group of client partners that have embraced this mentality. We feel that regardless of whether a creative solution is shared virtually or face-to-face, if it’s rooted in meaning and connects with our customers on a personal and customized level, then it has an opportunity to help successfully contribute to our client’s business.

Liz Landon, Fishawack Health

Liz Landon, Fishawack Health

Liz Landon, Chief People Officer, Fishawack Health: Virtual and hybrid working are an essential part of our daily lives at Fishawack Health (FH). Due to the global nature of our work and our cross-functional ways of working, our team members are constantly collaborating across our 22 offices and 19 city hubs in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and across our core disciplines (Medical; Marketing; Policy; Value, Evidence and Access; and Consulting). 

We have a mobile working philosophy based on the principle that employees, with the support of the organization and their managers, should feel empowered to make the right decisions for themselves, their teams, and their clients in relation to how and where they work. This fosters a greater sense of trust, ownership, and engagement, which enables individuals to do their best work. 

While we’re considerate of what’s happening in the market, we base our decisions on what our people want and need, not what our competitors are doing. We have no official days in the office. Instead, we are creating what we call “connection days” in our locations to encourage people to come together, as we know this can energize teams. 

Our foundational belief is “Better Health Happens When We Connect,” and connection is the key to any great creative. As we have honed our hybrid working approach, we have uncovered new opportunities to innovate. For example, great ideas often hit at different times, and now we are not restricted to a fixed meeting to share our thinking. Brainstorming as a team has become more democratic, as it is less likely to have one or two voices dominating a virtual call. We have a “camera on” culture, so we can get to know colleagues around the world while closely collaborating. 

Our philosophy has also changed the way we now use our offices. Since our employees are working in a hybrid and mobile fashion, we have changed the setup of our physical office spaces to be more purposeful and collaborative for meetings, workshops, training, and socials, which ultimately enhance creativity, productivity, and fun.  

Employees value time in the office when there is a reason for being there, and they value heads-down time working remotely when there is a reason for being offsite. Being nimble with our policies and our workspaces helps our colleagues to shift gears from ideation with colleagues in person to focused work, heads down, at home and all the work modes in between.

Practically, our business is powered by cloud technologies and platforms that enable our teams to work efficiently and collaborate globally to innovate and meet our clients’ needs. For example, we use Egnyte, a shared and protected file-sharing platform, and Miro and Trello for running virtual brainstorming workshops. 

Robin Shapiro, TBWA/WorldHealth

Robin Shapiro, TBWA/WorldHealth

Robin Shapiro, CEO, TBWA\WorldHealth: Our new hybrid work approach is ultimately a good thing for business. We’ve long embraced a geographically boundless approach to talent recruitment, which has been great for business because it opens the aperture and encourages greater diversity. In recent years, this approach has been embraced by every agency, which is a good thing for everyone. 

There is also a concern, though, considering the impact of less human connection. Relationships are at risk of becoming transactional. That could have a direct impact on client and employee retention. To prevent this, we’re working harder at facilitating trusting and durable relationships from the start – both within our agency and with our clients. We’re enhancing our onboarding approach, encouraging smaller live team gatherings versus relying on larger events, and stressing learning programs that increase empathy and understanding. It’s still early days, and we have a lot to learn, but we’re excited for what’s possible. Watch this space!

Jenny Love, SVP, People & Culture, PRECISIONeffect: We had already started to reach far afield for the best talent – so with COVID, we doubled down, identifying extraordinary contributors, wherever they sit! We now have team members in 27 states and more than a few have chosen to travel internationally. Many of our team members are working hybrid, but others fully embrace the flexibility to manage their work and family lives from the same spot. We’ve learned to be evermore intentional in how we communicate and connect. We have overhauled our onboarding efforts and support for emerging managers. When we bring teams together for critical meetings or collaborations, the joy is palpable. We have weathered, grown, and continue to adapt and change!

From day 1, we sought out technology solutions that would allow us to continue to collaborate with clients. Simon Wilson, our director of innovation, introduced Miro, a virtual infinite whiteboard with mind-blowing capabilities for real-time, online work. It’s now our standard for workshops – and as we move to hybrid, it equalizes the impact of those in the room and online. Simon also developed WildCards, an inspiration app (found on Apple and Android stores) to encourage divergent thinking internally and with clients.

What is your organization doing to attract new talent and retain existing employees?

Courtney Murphy, Ogilvy Health

Courtney Murphy, Ogilvy Health

Courtney Murphy, Global People Director, Ogilvy Health: Many companies describe recruiting as the “war for talent.” We’ve seen it posted on social channels, in publications, and heard it discussed on prestigious panels. I’ve always thought that was the wrong way to describe it because, although we are competing for talent, it’s up to the talent to determine what it is they want out of an agency – reasons that could vary drastically from person to person. There’s never a one-size-fits-all approach and at Ogilvy Health we are striving to create deeper partnerships and relationships with prospective talent to ensure the best match possible for both the agency and the individual. We are working to create deeper partnerships at the outset by tapping into our current employees’ networks and building relationships with different groups and organizations to get to know the talent on a more personal level. We are also working with our current leaders on the importance of their role when it comes to attracting talent. Hiring cannot be seen as simply transactional. Too often, recruiters and hiring managers can lose sight of the candidate’s experience in the drive to make the quick hire without taking the time to assess if it’s a fit on both sides – this results in what I call a transactional hire. They can lose focus on the importance of the unique needs and desires of the individual candidates. It’s no secret that all levels of talent want to be part of a winning and cohesive team. By building off of our current momentum and sharing our awards, our new business wins, and by inviting talent to come meet with us and get to know our people and culture, we give them the opportunity to see for themselves that this could be a place for them to do the best work of their lives! It’s imperative that talent teams stop making recruiting so transactional, celebrating quick hires for the sake of time and start making it deeply personal again. 

With attrition at an all-time high in our industry, talent leads need to begin taking a forensic look at the “why” of it all. The reality is, there are multiple reasons, but the truth is, transactional hiring is a major contributor to high attrition. If an agency is making a transactional hire, they are taking a gamble and making a lot of assumptions that the new hire will be a long-term fit for agency. So far, statistics show that hasn’t worked out to be the case. But if an agency is committed to making a deeper connection and truly working to match with the right candidate, there is a better chance that individual will stick around a lot longer. We’re all doing our best to retain talent. But it’s certainly no longer about which agencies have bagels on Fridays, or foosball, or the beer cart. Recruiters must start by recognizing that the talent they’re looking to retain or bring in is motivated by their own specific needs and desires. By factoring in and addressing each individuals’ motivations, the people not only feel seen, heard and valued, the agency inevitably benefits because their employees are more engaged, invested and committed. To create this formula for better retention and attraction, agencies need to invest in their managers and train them how to thrive in both hybrid and high-touch environments. 

Courtney Mullen, CMI Media Group

Courtney Mullen, CMI Media Group

Courtney Mullen, SVP, SEM Dept Lead, CMI Media Group: CMI Media Group listened to what employees wanted in terms of flexibility and remote working to not only retain existing employees but attract new ones. Additionally, we have opened up recruiting to new locations in order to attract new and diverse talent in the industry. Our extensive training program has allowed us to bring in talent with experience that may be outside of pharma and get them up to speed on the nuances of a very unique industry.

Priscilla Segnini, CMI Media Group

Priscilla Segnini, CMI Media Group

Priscilla Segnini, Supervisor, Paid Social, CMI Media Group: Being open to feedback and listening. CMI Media Group has been proactive about making a conscious effort to listen and open spaces for employees to share their input in future business decisions. When employees feel heard and the organization implements changes to improve the current policies and procedures, morale increases and there is a trusting relationship leading to people enjoying being part of the company. In addition, the open-door policy has led to great results during the remote environment contributing to employees advocating for new people to join.

Minnie Damle, SVP, Human Resources, Brick City Greenhouse: Our remote and flexible working model is a big attraction to talent who value work-life harmony. We lean into operating and leading with trust, respect, and transparency in all we do. This allows our employees to do their jobs with comfort, ease, and enjoyment. We’ve created an organization and culture that puts our employees first. This is lived through any initiative, brand assignments, and employee development opportunities we implement. 

In the next 12 months we will focus on establishing clear career paths, providing training/learning opportunities, and furthering employee development to allow for optimal career growth. We are also placing an importance on ensuring that we provide cross-departmental opportunities to stretch beyond the current role/assignment. Our goal is to ensure our employees always have a pulse point on their performance and a focus for growth in supporting their personal and professional goals.

Renée Wills, Brick City Greenhouse

Renée Wills, Brick City Greenhouse

Renée Wills: While we’ve always thought of our remote model as a feature that helps in attracting and retaining top talent, it’s become even more so since COVID. In the past, with new employees, we generally had to take a chance on whether they would thrive working from home in our remote model because that employee had never experienced it before. Now, prospective employees know whether remote working suits them, so that risk is gone. And, as other companies call people back to the office, there is a large group of prospective employees who will jump at the chance to remain working remotely.

Steve Bernstein: Everyone who works with us is a member of our family. We share our successes and give our incredible talent the experiences they need to grow personally and professionally. We set out to build an agency with an amazing culture that inspires talent to choose to work with us. This culture enables us to recruit and retain talent more easily than some of the traditional agencies we inevitably compete against. 

Mariela Orochena, IPG Health

Mariela Orochena, IPG Health

Mariela Orochena, Director of Talent Acquisition, IPG Health: IPG Health leads with curiosity and equity in mind when attracting and hiring the right talent for us. We proactively engage talent in and outside of the industry, recognizing new skills and backgrounds are necessary for the success of our business. Our talent acquisition strategy is anchored in three core areas to help us identify and retain new talent: The work, the people, and the culture. 

  • The work: We continue to lead the way as an employer of choice for talent looking to grow their careers with award-wining, meaningful and innovative work in health. 
  • The people: We maintain deep relationships with external industry partners and internal stakeholders to identify a diverse pool of talent who we can offer immersion programs to that can upskill and reskill them to ensure they succeed here long term. Once they are here, we empower their growth through our talent philosophy proactive career management, which equips all employees with the power and opportunity to grow their career within our global network. 
  • The culture: We lead with curiosity and equity in mind. We are relentless in securing a pipeline of talent for the future that focuses on key skills and experiences necessary to help us shape the future of health. To achieve this, we work with our managers to ensure we constantly explore new backgrounds and that we are all equipped to provide an equitable hiring and development process. 
Glenn Zujew, Klick Health

Glenn Zujew, Klick Health

Glenn Zujew, Chief People Officer, and Deanna Pathak, Global Head of Talent Attraction, Klick Health: Our talent strategy revolves around the candidate experience – from the moment someone applies to their first day on the job – to ensure we attract and hire the best people, and their first impressions are positive. We have invested in early careers, in diversifying our talent pools, and in tools that allow us access to more passive candidates.

We rely on our Klick Difference behaviors, like being people-first, embracing entrepreneurial spirit, playing the long game, leaning into our hacker roots, and prioritizing outcomes over optics to guide how we interact, hire, and find people who will add to our culture. We embed diversity into each and every process, role, and interview. We launched hiring-manager diversity training that trains interviewers to understand their biases and develop the tools needed to combat them. We know diversity makes us stronger and better, and we live that. 

We have an e-Scout program on our proprietary operating system, Genome, that helps identify the best candidates for Klick. When our recruiting team vets candidates, they can use the tool to pull from potential Klicksters with similar previous work experience, ask whether they know the recruit(s), and ask if they’d recommend them. We credit this program with helping us make better hiring decisions and finding people who will live the Klick Difference.

Deanna Pathak, Klick Health

Deanna Pathak, Klick Health

Our goal is to give Klicksters the support they need to grow as individuals and support our organizational growth. We believe Klicksters want to keep learning, growing, and evolving. In support of nurturing our high-performance culture, we launched Klick Cultivate, our growth and development ecosystem. Cultivate centers around four difference-making career moments: onboarding, performance, leadership, and growth to curate and deliver the tools, technology, processes, and learning that matters most to our Klicksters. We also added LinkedIn Learning to our Klick University portfolio of courses. We developed manager toolkits, DE&I training, added more courses to our Healthcare Talent Accelerator, and updated our peer buddy and diverse mentorship programs just to name a few. We also had some fun with our offices being open again. We had a massive 25th anniversary party – featuring Tiësto to help us dance the night away. We brought back our Halloween party, costume contest, and Pizza Wednesdays. We opened a brand new state-of-the-art office in Philadelphia, and we’re in the midst of launching no less than eight global offices.

Robin Shapiro: People are attracted to join us for many reasons, but I hope more than anything that it’s about the culture we’ve created. We’re values-based (Be Authentic, Do Good, Raise Hell) and ingrain our values into every aspect of work, from the questions we ask during interviews to how we recognize and reward excellence. As part of our values, we focus on DEI efforts in a holistic way. We are willing to do the hard work, ask the tough questions, and most importantly, make purposeful change. Our focus on DEI has been there from the start because it’s important to me as an ally. It’s also important to me as a working mom and a female creative director. I faced a lot of false assumptions and biases early in my career. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have strong agency leadership pushing for change. Our agency’s focus on DEI has only amplified over time, with employees raising their hands to take on a role in building and scaling our efforts. 

Beth Bogacz: We have updated some of our policies to be more responsive to employee needs. These include moving to a flexible time-off policy to let employees take time off when they need it, enriching our parental leave to give parents four weeks off to spend time bonding with their new child, and providing 100 percent full pay for short-term disability. We also hired a DEI director to build and manage agency-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Additionally, we have a robust learning and development program that provides opportunities for employees to progress in their careers, whether they are just starting out or are industry veterans. We offer an intensive onboarding program, career development and role-specific training, a mentoring program, and additional outside training so AT employees can increase their knowledge while learning from new voices. 

Lisa Brigham, AbelsonTaylor

Lisa Brigham, AbelsonTaylor

Lisa Brigham, Director of Talent Acquisition, AbelsonTaylor: A key strategy we’re employing to attract new entry-level talent is partnering with colleges and universities to educate students about AT and promote our internship program. We strive to give our interns real-world healthcare advertising experience that broadens their knowledge, sharpens their skills, and adds significantly to their credentials and professional contacts. 

Something we do differently from many other agencies is treat interns as full-fledged employees. Each works alongside a full-time staff member on actual client accounts and ad hoc business assignments in addition to collaborating on a mock ad campaign presented at the end of the internship period. We also give our interns full exposure to the agency’s leadership and operations to provide a strong sense of AT’s history, organization, capabilities, and culture. Cross-department networking is encouraged both formally and through social activities. 

Our approach is paying off. Of the 10 students in our 2022 summer internship program, three were hired as full-time AT staff and two others are participating in part-time internships through the end of 2022.  We’re also successfully differentiating ourselves as an agency through the quality and value of the program, as shown through sample comments from last summer’s interns:

  • “I wasn’t getting coffee for people – I was doing planning work on five accounts and assisting with a new business pitch. I felt like my opinion mattered, my skills were valued, and that I was part of the team.”
  • “I learned you don’t have to be an advertising major to succeed at AbelsonTaylor. It’s a place where people with diverse backgrounds can thrive.
  • I felt seen and heard, got involved with work that mattered, met a broad range of people I could learn from, and really enjoyed myself. It was a great experience.”

Liz Landon: In a rapidly evolving and growing sector, we need to ensure we remain competitive to attract and retain top talent at all career levels. Our commitment to our people is what keeps employees here and attracts new ones. We strive to enable our employees to do, be, and feel their best by creating the teams, community, and culture where they can find purpose and thrive. This includes:

  • Providing personalized capability development and career path navigation, enabling our employees to progress their careers with purpose
  • Working every day to build an inclusive, psychologically safe, collaborative culture where all can thrive
  • Striving to offer unparalleled flexibility, benefits, and wellbeing support to team members balancing life and work 

We work every day to be responsive to our employees and their suggestions for making FH a great place to work. For example, they tell us that they value flexibility, so we have embraced mobile ways of working and flexible work arrangements. We continue to reinforce our commitment to employee wellbeing and provide the support and flexibility our staff members need to manage the challenges of life and work. 

We have a team of dedicated people and HR professionals who support every employee, making sure each feels known and supported. We have also built a dedicated Career Experience Team that provides the tools and support to ensure every employee — from new hire to long-standing colleague — enjoys a purpose-driven career where they have the tools to progress. This includes opportunities for learning, internal mobility, and cross-functional collaboration.

To support us in this mission, we have recently implemented four new training and development platforms:

  1. Fuel50: An AI-driven career development platform that allows employees to map out their own career journeys.
  2. Coursera: A world-class online learning platform with more than 8,000 courses from top universities and companies around the world.
  3. High5: A platform to express appreciation and recognition for FH’s global workforce.
  4. Connect: Our internal communications hub, where every employee receives personalized messages and content based on their team, capability, and location to help them work more effectively and feel connected to the rest of the global organization.

We place a strong emphasis on nurturing early careers with activities such as our global annual summer internship program, global graduate program, Supporting Training and Enhancing Professional Skills (STEPS) program for medical writers, and continuous coaching and mentorship. These programs offer individuals the opportunity to play a crucial part in bringing treatments and therapies to market, while solving complex challenges in healthcare and allowing them to kick-start their careers along the way!

When we look for proof that these elements of our employee value proposition are compelling, all we have to do is count the number of “Boomerang” employees who return to the company, proving that even when employees do leave us, they often come back.

Lew Campanaro, Fusion

Lew Campanaro, Fusion

Lew Campanaro, General Manager, Business Unit Lead, Fusion: We are consistent when talking with both existing employees and prospective applicants that Fusion is a destination for individuals to develop and cultivate new, bold ideas. Each employee adds a unique perspective and makes our agency better as a whole. We believe that consistent message helps create an agency culture from the top that we strive for an inclusive workplace that values and celebrates staff diversity and the ability to promote new and fresh thinking. 

We have reshaped two key areas of our employee experience. The first is a more intentional interviewing, hiring, and onboarding process. We are now a fully remote company, so we do not have the same opportunities to interview employees and onboard the “old way.” We need to leverage the interviewing process differently and more strategically. 

Second, we provide more robust employee development opportunities. I believe that now more than ever in our remote environment, employees want a clear path toward future development and opportunities. We are now offering more training courses, both professionally and personally, mentoring opportunities, and stretch assignments outside of normal job descriptions to provide expanded skills and elements of new roles. 

Jen Cully, Greater Than One

Jen Cully, Greater Than One

Jen Cully, HR Director, Greater Than One: Greater Than One has multiple initiatives underway to both attract new talent and retain the talented employees we have today. Our People & Development team is working to enhance the processes involved in recruiting and retention to better align with our people-first culture. Some initiatives include: a newly structured job architecture to help employees understand their career path and options within the agency, a refreshed compensation strategy, new medical plan offerings giving employees affordable options with increased service coverage, improved onboarding experience, and an enhanced learning and development plan to further sharpen employee’s skills and gain understanding of what the agency does. All of these initiatives help increase job satisfaction and provide a stronger sense of belonging. GTO also provides unlimited paid time off (PTO) and is a fully remote agency, which allows us to recruit talent anywhere in the U.S. Both of these benefits give employees the flexibility to better balance work and life.

Katya Petrova: Our company is opening a new chapter in its rich history of firsts and is gearing up for another phase of growth in 2023. Being part of this team requires taking on a lot of work and responsibility, but, most importantly, it takes a certain mindset to feel accomplished and fulfilled in the fast-paced, rapidly evolving environment. With our on-board talent, as well as the folks aspiring to join the agency, we are extremely open and detailed about our vision, our plan to get there and the effort it will require. Nothing reflects it stronger than our mantra Energy is Everything. And it attracts and engages the talent which thrives on the challenge of bringing high-voltage kinetic ideas to clients – ideas that are in sync and evolve with the times. Sharing the aspiration to grow together, by leapfrogging established dynamics in the industry and rewriting old playbooks, is critical for being successful here. And from the shared goals comes shared purpose which cements talent’s relationship with the team and the agency.

Jenny Love, PRECISIONeffect

Jenny Love, PRECISIONeffect

Jenny Love: Our mission of helping innovative companies change the standard of care combined with our culture of Wecentricity continues to be a strong magnet. We’ve offered our teammates extreme flexibility in defining the where and when of how they work. As a result, we’re attracting both fresh talent and senior leaders and thinkers who jive with our approach and appreciate the comprehensive, convergent offerings we can bring to our clients via our broader organization of PRECISIONValue & Health. 

We have created many programs to attract talent and engage our current Effectors, including overhauling our onboarding process and developing tool kits and training for emerging managers. We’re continually assessing market data to ensure our pay bands are competitive and supporting growth within departments as well as intercompany transfers. We’re bringing our teams together in real time and online with virtual engagement and peer-to-peer rewards programs that give everyone a voice in how it feels to be a part of PRECISIONeffect.

Scott Neverett, Partner, Director of Human Resources and Corporate Culture, Peregrine Market Access: John Guarino started Peregrine Market Access to be a company that truly takes care of its employees, knowing they are our greatest resource. In fact, our first company value is “We value each other”, and there are many ways we demonstrate that. We are now in our second year of offering no-cost healthcare for employees and their families. One hundred percent of healthcare costs are covered, including the premiums, deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket expenses. As a company that specializes in market access, we never want cost to be a deterrent to our employees or their families receiving the care they need. 

Peregrine Market Access also has a very generous paid-time-off (PTO) policy. Employees receive more than six weeks off, including vacations, holidays, PTO, and two paid shutdown weeks each year (in July and December) aimed at giving our employees well-deserved time to rest and recharge. Another new benefit that’s in the works is a stock program that we plan to roll out in 2023. We want to give employees the opportunity to own part of the company. Additionally, we started a Peregrine University program to train and educate our employees on the complexities of our business and to support them in their professional development. 

Collectively, these efforts have translated into distinctions that we take pride in. For 2 years running, our employees’ feedback has allowed us to be certified as a national Great Place to Work. Beyond the positive workplace culture, our quality work has helped us earn recognition as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America, according to Inc.

Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Uncertainties of 2023: Looming recession, inflation, and reduced investment (Part II)

Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Tech trends, opportunities, and woes (Part III)

Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Putting words into action (Part IV)

Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Moving into 2023 (Part V)

 

Maria Fontanazza

Maria Fontanazza is the director of content, Med Ad News and PharmaLive.com.