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  • Writer's pictureMelisa Chantres

Tips on Building a Successful Company Culture: Why EvClay Public Relations has lasted more than 80

By: Yeleny Brody and Melisa Chantres

Retaining good employees has always been critical to the success of any business. But the impact of COVID-19 produced a profound shift not seen before in the labor market. It has been the catalyst for many employees to reevaluate their priorities—leading to job or career changes, opting for early retirement, remaining virtual or even leaving the workforce entirely.

This past August saw a record 4.3 million American workers leave their jobs, prompting businesses and corporations to laser in on what workers want and need. While many employees are rethinking their career paths or striving for a better work-life balance, others are concerned about how they engage at work. The question is, how do we adapt and create an environment where everyone can thrive?

In our 80 plus years in business, we’ve seen how grounded ethics equals good business. Values do matter. Since our founding, the firm has adhered to fundamental principles that have guided us as we’ve navigated through world political upheavals, market crashes, client changes, catastrophic events, such as Hurricane Andrew and 9/11, and now the pandemic.

It may sound antiquated, but our agency culture, diversity and flexibility have been at the heart of our longevity. Through the decades we have learned, as the late husband of our former chairman advised, ‘to bend like bamboo’ in order not to be undone by external factors that we cannot control. These foundational principles have anchored us, helping us to build and maintain a successful team. But it’s one thing to adhere to your principles and another to implement them in a realistic and pragmatic way.

Creating the right work environment and understanding employees’ needs help to eliminate obstacles and stimulate performance. However, the needs of employees vary so there’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy. And what may have worked in the past may not work today.

Our founder, Ev Clay, was almost prescient in his understanding of the needs of working women. He was also an early proponent of diversity in the workplace. After leaving The Miami Herald as sports editor to strike out on his own, he named the firm Everett Clay Associates. The firm was comprised of associates, many of whom were working mothers with young children who needed flexibility and those who reflected the diversity of South Florida. This was decades ago, long before these notions became popular. Today, the firm has two executives who balance work and the busy schedules of six daughters.

Additionally, investment in professional growth is essential. This includes allowing employees to attend workshops and conferences, or providing tuition reimbursement for courses for professional development or advanced degrees.

Because workers today are also leaving a job out of boredom, lack of recognition, feeling overworked or limited opportunities for advancement, a company should provide quality management and supervision. Managers need to make sure that employees know what is expected and then create an environment where employee ideas, questions and concerns are welcomed. In addition, it’s important to make staff feel appreciated. Milestones should be acknowledged, be they big or small. And frequent communication, even virtually, contributes to loyalty and comradery.

Lastly, as we look forward to returning to post-pandemic work, flexible arrangements will be imperative. Some workers may still want to work remotely, at least part time. If this is not an option, consider other possibilities like flextime to keep employees happy.

But this is all new territory—there are few, if any, precedents for what the labor market is experiencing now. It’s inevitable that some employees will leave. However, creating a good ethical environment will at least make their decision to leave a difficult one because they were respected and supported.

We’ve seen this firsthand. Many who have moved on to pursue other opportunities or further their education have remained part of our “family.” And perhaps nothing can bring more pride and gratification than when you see their children come to work for you. Then you know you have made a positive and lasting impact on the lives of employees—past, present and future.

Lessons from eight decades of being in business for us has come down to ethical values, flexibility, appreciation and stability.

Perhaps, the ultimate validation of this is the fact that our current president, and mother of three, started out at the firm as an intern.

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