The Year of the Employee

Jennifer Curley by Jennifer Curley | February 14, 2022

My newsfeed is full of content about the transformational change in the workplace and we have seen some of this firsthand at Curley as we focus on hiring, retention and building an agency of distinction.

Getting culture right is more important than ever in creating a workplace where employees actually want to work. One approach we’ve taken is investing in a fundamental cultural pillar – our employee manual – as our first impression for new employees, the guidepost for the current team, and as our roadmap for agency leadership to continue striving for distinction.

We have spent the past three months revising our company employee manual, but what we have really been doing is ensuring our policies and benefits reflect our Curley values, so we can have a thriving and happy team.

In examining our benefits and policies, our priorities were to be distinctive where we can; meet the team where they are today; and be flexible in the ever-changing climate of work and the evolving needs of our team as we continue to grow.

Our process included asking our employee-led culture committee for input and incorporating it; looking at what other agencies and companies we respect were doing; and keeping grounded in our Curley values. We also agreed that we would treat this as a fluid document and be willing to continue to adapt our policies and benefits annually (or biannually as needed) to reflect the changing needs of our team and evolving environment we work in.

For me there are four things that I am most proud of:

Culture Committee:  Curley’s culture is fundamental to the company ethos, demonstrated by the “house rules” on the office wall underscoring what we can expect from each other and how we choose to do business. Highlights include leading from every seat, embracing a culture of belonging and collaboration, and not taking ourselves too seriously.

The staff-led Culture Committee creates an atmosphere that is inclusive, supportive, and respectful, while maintaining a fun and rewarding experience. Through activities and corporate social responsibility initiatives that motivate, inspire, and encourage collaboration, the Culture Committee ensures our values are not just words on the wall, but actions and values we live by.

Curley College:  In early 2021, we launched Curley College, our professional development and training program leveraging the best available thinking in strategic communications and DEIB while creating customizable content tailored to each experience level. The program includes a financial set-aside for each team member and a quarterly curriculum designed specifically to enhance team and individual growth.

To ensure this program mirrors our values, we created customizable training for each employee—accounting for different styles of learning, interest areas, and professional development needs and added Curley-centric training to reinforce our culture.

Benefits Consistent with our Values: We re-examined our benefits to ensure they are aligned with our values and focused on wellness, flexibility, pay equity, and supporting causes that resonate with our mission. A few highlights include:

  • Wellness:  Fostering a culture of wellness is a top priority, and we offer benefits promoting health, happiness, and productivity to help our employees balance work and wellness including an annual stipend to reimburse for wellness-related expenses such as gym memberships, fitness equipment, massages, acupuncture, spa services, nutrition/meal services, therapy, sitters; ergonomic workstations and standing desks to combat a sedentary lifestyle; and two company-wide mental health days per year.
  • Volunteerism & Civic Engagement:  Volunteer work is an important part of our culture, encouraging employees to use PTO to volunteer for important causes. For example, in 2021, many team members participated in the Susan G. Komen Walk in Place event, and we donated time/money to help with breast cancer awareness—turning Curley pink in October. We do pro bono PR, supporting Dress for Success DC (fostering economic empowerment for disadvantaged women) and GlobalWIN (fostering women leaders in innovation). We encourage team members to get involved in industry-based organizations, paying for memberships/board seats. And, every two years, we treat election day as a company-wide day of service for employees engaging in civic participation.
  • Support for Parents & Pets: We provide 12 weeks of paid leave for full-time new parents (moms and dads), offering new parents the option to take an additional four weeks of unpaid leave. While we provide strong health benefits to employees/their families, we go a step further and offer employees discounted pet insurance for their furry family members.
  • Pay Equity:  We created pay equity across the firm and implemented a bonus pool program for all full-time employees, making them eligible for the profit-sharing plan.

Flexible Work Environment:  Curley has an unlimited personal time off/vacation policy, but to ensure employees were actually taking time off, we required one full week off for each employee during the summer, closed the office between December 24- January 2, and evolved the firm’s summer Fridays to ensure no meetings after 1 p.m.

In addition, we evolved our return-to-office plan to maximize flexibility, while prioritizing the collaboration we value. Our plan includes between one and three days per week of in-person “intentional collaboration” between 10 a.m.-3 p.m. to avoid long commutes and allow our parents to manage childcare responsibilities. We will continue to evolve our in-the-office plan as the world continues to change and as we see what works for the team and our clients.

With this year marking Curley Company’s 20th anniversary, I am reminded of one of the goals I set for myself two decades ago. I wanted to create a place where I wanted to work—so I set in motion the values we still embrace today. Going through the process of re-evaluating our policies and benefits reinforces how our values continue to guide us in ensuring Curley is an agency of distinction.

I see the global dialogue on transformation in the workplace as a tremendous opportunity to make positive change and am excited to bring some of it to fruition at Curley.

My deepest thanks to all who played a part in making this vision a reality. Please stay tuned, there’s always more to come!