Taking home the B&T Awards’ People & Culture trophy after the craziness of 2020 is no easy feat. Australia’s largest-by-ad-spend digital marketing agency, Sparro, pivoted carefully and rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic to support its team and clients.
Video check-ins, care packages and virtual events helped keep the team and clients feeling connected and cared for. Despite initial conversations around reduced hours, Sparro ended up doing the opposite and almost doubled in team growth since April last year.
Sparro was founded in 2013 by brothers Cam and Morris Bryant, with the two-man team operating out of their apartment. Built on the three values of transparency, agility and value, the agency has grown to over 70 marketers, more than 90 clients and a current retention rate of 84 per cent.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not the pool table and beer on tap that’s enabled the team’s growth.
“There’s so much research on what it means to cultivate a team of engaged, motivated and happy workers,” Cam Bryant explained.
“We’ve found that the intersection of challenging, fulfilling work; constructive feedback and training; and a positive work environment where there’s autonomy and supportive mentors have worked best for our team.”
“At the end of the day, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach for every employee, but having those regular conversations and an encouraging work culture are a good place to start.”
Agencies are renowned for working overtime and under-resourced teams. Sparro works at 65 per cent utilisation to stop overtime and empower knowledge sharing. The agency runs an extensive skills development program through training, workshops, mentoring and hands-on work.
All training sessions are recorded over video conference and uploaded to their internal platform – ‘The Brain’.
Sparro has a strong focus not only on developing the technical skills to excel in the role, but emotional intelligence and leadership qualities.
With no set headcounts for positions, there’s no limit to how quickly people can progress. All employees have monthly catch-ups with their team lead to review their personal development plans, discuss goals and gain feedback, while performance reviews take place twice a year.
Cam and Morris Bryant also model servant leadership, from cooking birthday lunches on the barbecue to being available to help with a tricky task, and this outward focus flows down through the teams.
Sparro’s culture starts with a collaborative approach to recruitment. The agency hires for unique thinking, with their team consisting of everyone from finance graduates to lawyers. Sparro values an openness to learn, the desire to challenge and be challenged and idea sharing.
With no CVs, and interview questions tailored around problem-solving, leadership and passion for digital, Sparro attracts a diverse range of people.
Some innovative Sparro practices are:
- Fluid interview panel – staff of any seniority can join – creating a diverse perspective and allowing junior staff to practice leadership. To ensure fairness, the script and questions are kept consistent in interviews.
- Transparency – a website blog outlines the hiring process, communicating what candidates can expect and how to prepare.
- Typically hiring in groups of 2-3+ and aiming to onboard several staff at once, which reduces nerves and allows people to find a ‘buddy’.
It’s all about the people at Sparro. From fortnightly coffee pairings to a culture of mentorship, Sparro strives to create a supportive environment where the team can grow.
An open-plan office with an outdoor area and breakout spaces for meetings is designed to cultivate a culture of collaboration, while offering quiet areas for the team to focus. Yearly retreats, holiday parties and anniversary lunches help the team to bond and just have fun.
Weekly Multi-Sport competitions, access to a qualified counsellor if they’re feeling stressed and a dog-friendly office promote overall wellbeing.
The team is offered flexibility in their day, whether being able to work from home, 4:30pm Friday finishes or “Summer Fridays” where you can work a bit extra to leave as early as 2pm to hit the beach.
Not to mention, Sparro provides additional leave for volunteering and supporting racial equality protests, supports “Give back to the bush” initiatives and works pro bono on the By Indigenous e-commerce website to give back to the community.
Ultimately, Sparro gives the opportunity for the team to thrive. “I love being in an environment where we are constantly challenging the digital industry and testing new ideas,” said Digital Marketing Specialist Zoe Mullane.
“Every day I learn something new.”
The 2021 B&T Awards are now open for entries! Find all the info here.
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