It is an eternal truth: the companies with the most talented people dominate their markets. Nowhere is this truer than in the agency world, whose output is strategic and creative. At Klick, we long ago carried this insight to its logical conclusion when we decided that our #1 priority would be to create an environment that attracts and grows the absolutely best talent we can find.
The challenge goes beyond hiring a handful of the best minds for the most visible and strategically-important positions. Sophisticated clients know how to ask the difficult and important questions about who will actually be working on their accounts. If we were going to give them the answers they wanted to hear (that we have depth in our talent pool, and there is no bait-and-switch), we would have to build a culture that ensures that everyone across the company is fully engaged and performing at their peak—and we would have to create a management system that orchestrates their efforts cohesively.
Over the next few posts, we’ll highlight some of the core components of our culture:
- Our hiring and leadership development practices
- Our incentive and recognition systems
- Our values—the way we attach meaning to all of our work.
But before we dive into all of that, we want to share Klick’s most radically different feature: our operating system. It’s a part of our business that is so fundamental to our DNA that we call it our Genome.
A bit of context.
Our society is being reshaped by massive changes in the ways we connect, especially by the rise of the social web and smart mobile devices. Underpinning this force is the creative application of data. Powered by infinite cloud storage and processing, big data algorithms are personalizing virtually every product, service, and marketing message we receive.
Personalization is a game changer and it runs against the grain of the presiding philosophy of management, which seeks to standardize processes and people. It’s no wonder—that management philosophy and most of the tools that it uses were devised over a century ago.
Truly disruptive innovations take us by surprise. Henry Ford is rumoured to have said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Most first-generation technologies are faster horses. Email, for example, is just an unintelligent mechanism to speed the delivery of letters and memos.
Facebook, on the other hand, is something altogether new. It has no off-line predecessors (though it did have its on-line precursors in Friendster and MySpace). Facebook understands that its users want to share stories and manage their reputations. In support of that goal, it uses data to personalize every aspect of their experience.
Facebook is a leapfrog technology, but it is not alone. Zynga uses data to test ways that it can offer you virtual goods for real-world money, Netflix uses data to market movies, Pandora uses it for music, iTunes uses it for both, and Amazon uses it for pretty much everything. eHarmony is even trying to do it with people.
Each of these businesses uses data to deconstruct your preferences and predictively model what’s likely to get your desired response. When your preferences and habits are decoded, your choices become predictable.
Reframing the opportunity
Most businesses intuitively understand how data can improve their marketing efforts. Yet most fail to turn that same lens on their own people and processes. When a company is decoded, the preferences and habits that slow it down and frustrate its people are revealed—and better practices can be tested and rolled out. Personalization allows us to treat our people as, well, people, and not replaceable cogs.
Gary Hamel has said that businesses need to revolutionize the technology of human accomplishment. In a hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, their very survival turns on their ability to mobilize people who are not just talented but passionately engaged. By internalizing and adapting the connectivity and radical openness of the Web, Genome has done just that.
Genome empowers our people to get the most out of themselves. It’s made Klick more competitive and at the same time, it’s fostered a happier, aggressively positive culture. It’s made us into a place where the best people want to work.
In the coming weeks, I’ll show you how it works.
The technology now exists to truly revolutionize the way we run the human side of our businesses. We’re not talking about multi-million dollar enterprise systems, either—it’s the same off-the-shelf technology that you and your family have been using in your smart phones and home shopping applications. That these technologies have changed the way businesses market their products is well known, that they can be used to create more productive and engaging workplaces may come as a revelation.
At Klick, we have known this for a while—and we have the results to prove it. Stay tuned and we’ll share what we’ve learned because openness is how we attract that top talent so critical to our success.