Epsilon recently ranked as one of “America’s Best Employers” by Forbes – #3 in the media and advertising industry and #227 overall. Building a strong company culture is something that takes time and constant innovation. What does it take to attract and retain talent with such an unprecedented focus on company culture? We sat down with Jane Huston, Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Chris Hanson, Vice President, Talent Acquisition at Epsilon to get their take. Here’s what they had to say:
In your mind, what makes for a strong company culture and how does Epsilon help foster that?
Chris Hanson (CH): No matter an organization’s size, a strong culture is driven by the leaders of an organization. Even in a startup the leader sets the tone. In a smaller environment, it’s easier to carry out the message. As an organization grows you need to make sure the message cascades down – leaders have to rely on their leaders and it’s everybody’s job to carry the company culture. Communication and transparency are at the forefront of that.
Jane Huston (JH): At Epsilon it’s important that the messages of our leadership team come to life. Whether it’s an opportunity for associates to see an executive video or talk to local leaders, communication and transparency are essential to driving company culture. We have programs in place that deliver messages on a quarterly, monthly and weekly basis. Keeping the message fresh and current is an important part of being authentic and driving transparency.
Beyond leaders driving organizational culture, it’s also about liking the people that you work with. At Epsilon, we look for smart, passionate associates who are excited by the work that they do. When a group of these people get together, it’s contagious and creates a great working environment.
CH: We’re making a conscious effort to find people who will continue to foster and enhance our culture – and for us that’s something that starts during the interview process. That cultural fit can be hard to measure but it’s easy to see when we miss the mark.
JH: As long as we’re being authentic about who we are – there should be no surprises – and that makes for a better onboarding experience for our new hires. That first impression has a lasting and meaningful impact in maintaining a strong company culture. We want our associates to feel good about where they work every day.
What do associates look for and expect when it comes to company culture?
JH: Associates expect an environment of inclusion, one that is going to look for continuous feedback, offer flexibility and leave room for a little bit of fun. People want a place where they can be themselves and it’s important we provide that environment for our associates. Again, it comes back to being authentic through honesty and transparency.
Something we’re seeing – especially with Millennials – is their desire to work for a company that stands for something. Responsible corporate citizens want to work for a company that is socially responsible and creates opportunity for people to follow their passions outside of work.
CH: Epsilon’s Community Outreach program is designed to help foster social responsibility at the local office level. Offices are encouraged to participate in programs in their community that have meaning to them, whether it is getting a group of associates together for a Habitat for Humanity build, conducting food and toy drives or volunteering at local soup kitchens. These initiatives help bring our local associates together to support the communities we live and work in.
What is the role of culture in attracting and retaining talent?
CH: It starts with the first impression. If you are authentic, you are going to be able to attract and keep like-minded people.
JH: In retaining talent it is important to offer associates a place where they are able to grow their career. One driver of that is continuing to offer new and exciting work that challenges associates. Another part is continuing to evaluate what the associate value proposition is. We’re fortunate to have a fantastic parent company in Alliance Data, who allows us to continue to offer great benefits. From a competitive benefits package, to a generous 401K match and employee stock purchase program– we wouldn’t be able to offer such great benefits without a supportive parent.
Epsilon has a strong heritage that goes back more than 40 years. How does Epsilon continually innovate to attract and retain talent?
JH: You don’t know what associates are looking for unless you ask. So we do. A few years back we recognized our expansive growth left us with competing cultures. We had to make a decision about our story, what it means to work at Epsilon and what that feels like.
To accomplish and uncover answers we conducted focus groups across the company. Maybe we didn’t know the authentic story at the start of this initiative but it helped us better understand our associates. We found at Epsilon we work hard but we also take the time for our personal lives. We do great work for great clients that energize us, which makes it exciting to go to work every day. And best of all, we work with our friends.
To stay on top of shaping our culture we conduct an annual employee survey and make adjustments based on the outcomes. It’s a constant feedback loop.
CH: We’ve listened and as a result we’ve become more modern. It’s important for folks to see that their voices are being heard. For example, employees wanted to wear jeans to the office, so we made that change a few years back. It all goes back to listening and allowing people to be themselves at work.
Is there anything else you want to share?
CH: It’s a competitive hiring landscape. Not only are people looking to work for a company with great culture but people want to work for a company that is growing, that is profitable and one that can offer a stable work environment. That’s something we offer.
JH: Not only do we provide a strong company culture, but we’re the best at what we do. We’ve been recognized by Ad Age as the #1 World CRM/Direct Marketing Network and #1 U.S. Agency from All Disciplines. Forrester Research has named Epsilon a leader in their Email Marketing Vendors Wave Report (Q3 2014), Database Marketing Service Providers Wave Report (Q1 2011) and their Loyalty Program Service Providers Wave Report (Q4 2014).
For people who are the best at what they do that’s compelling and it’s something they want to be a part of.