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May 2, 2022

Practicing what we preach: EX learnings that make us a Best Place to Work

Read most People & Culture award submissions these days, and you can be pretty sure you’ll find a stat trumpeting an investment in staff training and development that “exceeds the industry average.” But this clearly begs the question – when everyone is exceeding the industry average, isn’t it time to reassess the average? 

The other thing about training and development is that all the courses in the world are worth nothing – besides a positive tick in the staff satisfaction survey – if there’s no consistent on-the-job application for the learnings. In fact, this Harvard Business Review piece suggests only 12% of employees apply skills learned in training courses to their actual jobs, and if new information isn’t applied, we’ll forget about 75% of it after just six days. 
AFFINITY has a big focus on outcomes – it’s why we’re “The Outcomes Agency” – and it’s why we put the same rigour into how we operate internally, as we do on solving our client’s business problems (or opportunities). We’d already been working with many of our clients on their Employee Experience (EX), even before the pandemic, but the last two years had certainly thrown the importance of this into sharp relief. And in the spirit of “practicing what we preach,” we decided to use AFFINITY as an incubator for many of our EX recommendations. 
Two years later, and two placings in the AFR Boss Best Places to Work rankings – the latest an incredible 1st place in the Media & Marketing category, plus a special award for Most Outstanding Wellbeing practice across all entries – gives us a pretty clear indication as to the effectiveness of what we’ve done. 
As we touched on above, it’s not just about throwing training courses at our people. It’s about making an investment in them that recognises the importance of what they do, and puts the right framework in place to help them do it. Here are a sample of the ways we’ve achieved this. 
Time to Learn – one of our earliest EX initiatives in this area was Library Hour; one hour a week every Tuesday morning dedicated to self-directed learning. We put the tools in place with subscriptions to the likes of WARC, and MasterClass, but left it to the individual to decide how they best use it. We’ve since had strategists learn to code, print designers learn to animate, even ukulele and graffiti lessons taken, and the impact this has subsequently had on client projects has been astounding. You might argue that it’s only an hour a week, but the culture of learning it creates has resulted in many of our staff boosting their learning opportunities even further. 
Time to Think – an initiative from the past 12 months that was at the core of our Best Places to Work submission, was the introduction of Thinking Thursday, a designated meeting-free day that was developed to create the type of uninterrupted time and space needed to solve client problems, improve internal processes and develop new tools or approaches. 
Our CEO, Luke Brown, had this to say on the initiative: “There’s a huge gulf between offering flexibility and creating meaningful flexibility. Rather than simply offering ‘flexible’ working arrangements, we wanted to imbue the opportunity to work from anywhere with our brand purpose, which is all about effective thinking. 
“Ultimately, this [Thinking Thursday] was a response to the crush of meetings and sense of non-stop work the pandemic had engendered. Work has ambushed our homes and taken over our lives by stealth. As a business that’s rewarded for the quality of our critical thinking, we consciously built a clear space for the whole team to do what we do best – think. And it’s paid off big time in terms of outcomes for our clients and the happiness of our people.” 
Time to Share – to help close the loop on the AFFINITY training and development initiatives, we’ve also developed a number of platforms that allow learnings to be shared with the agency team, and the wider marketing community. The AFFINITY Blog (where you’re probably reading this right now) has seen over 60 pieces of original content, written by approximately 75% of our staff, developed over the past 12 months. Many of these articles then feed into our monthly OutThink newsletter and LinkedIn outreach. But more importantly, it’s an approach that nurtures the critical thinking and written communication skills of the team, along with helping to lift the profile of our “Bright Sparks” through ongoing thought leadership. Team members also share a snapshot of their studies at the weekly Lab sessions. 
Our employee value proposition is for our people to go to bed smarter than they woke up each day – we work really hard to create opportunities throughout the week to ensure this happens, and these few examples are a perfect illustration of this. 
To demonstrate the benefits of a genuinely brand-lead business practice, the Best Places to Work recognition follows AFFINITY being named the second most effective Digital/Specialist agency in the world, and first across APAC, in the prestigious WARC Effective 100 in 2021. See the full AFR BOSS Best Places to Work list here.  
AFFINITY works with many of its clients on integrating EX initiatives into broader CX programs. If you’d like to explore how your Employee Experience could be impacting your customers, we’d love to help. Get in touch via 


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