Creating an outstanding company culture: It’s not all flexible working and beanbags

9 min read by Rosie Denny 3 Apr 2023

Creating an outstanding company culture

Last month, we learned of our finalist status at the UK Culture Awards. But what does it take to actually create an outstanding working environment? Our answers might surprise you.

Showcasing great work? We’re up for the challenge.

Since founding the agency, we’ve been passionate about the value of industry awards and remain committed to the rigour that’s required to reach winner status.

Yet, taking home the gongs doesn’t ever come easy, as James Bavington, CXO, muses in a recent article for The Drum: Awards: is the juice worth the squeeze?

Through a combination of expertise, passion and determination to reach a common goal, our campaigns have led us to wins at The Drum, UK Paid Media Awards, UK Search Awards and UK Dev Awards, to name a few.

But ‘people’ awards? That’s a different story.

This year, we felt that the time was right to celebrate the great people behind our great work. To our delight, this resulted in our finalist status in no less than three categories: Best Employee Development Programme, Best Working Environment and Best Large Agency to Work For.

Regardless of the result (the ceremony takes place in May) we’re proud of what we’ve done – and where we’re going. But for those that work here, and others who aren’t part of our team yet – what is it about the agency culture that’s worth celebrating?

We’ve shared a few snippets from our submissions. Don’t have time to read? This video covers it:

2022: the culture transformation begins

At the beginning of 2022, we had lofty growth targets that meant we needed to grow our workforce by over a third, whilst managing natural staff turnover as team members continue their career journeys. We started 2022 with an inconsistent agency structure and a fragmented employee onboarding process. Feedback agency-wide was that our existing workflow management system was difficult to use, leading to frustrations during onboarding and managing ongoing training.

To deliver the outstanding experience we needed to nurture talent, we kickstarted a development and culture initiative to create a full professional development and talent framework. Leveraging the strengths of our evolving operating system (OS), it combines talent, automation and tech.

The training framework is introduced on induction as central to everybody’s progression. This underpins all salary increases and promotions, providing total transparency and accountability.

Woah… salary increases! Now you’re talking.

A training framework? An operating system? Yeah, we get it, that all sounds pretty dry. But, it’s these processes – not just a bowl of fruit (although we have plenty of those too) that’s creating real, long-lasting change to the people who work here at the agency.

Let’s highlight a few of the impacts:

A stronger hiring process

As part of our strategy, we hired a Talent Manager, who sets up a chemistry meeting with shortlisted candidates to learn what makes them tick. A good fit leads to a second interview. With this dedicated expertise of recruitment, those reaching the second interview have already demonstrated an understanding of our values. Which means less wasted time for both sides.

Onboarding – removing friction and increasing efficiency

Candidates can now partially self-onboarded – accessing documents and an introduction to team profiles, the company handbook, the organisational chart and their buddy. All before their first step into the office or remote kick off call.


Our Talent Manager is the point of contact from preboarding to onboarding and beyond. On month one, every new starter:

  • Receives tools and systems training
  • Creates a training and performance plan
  • Creates a five-year personal development plan
  • Gets monthly one to ones and a clear view of their first twelve months

We automated movement through these to ensure everything is covered and accountable.

Mentoring, regardless of experience

Everyone has complete clarity on the agency structure, and the opportunities available to them, regardless of whether you’re an executive or COO. Take Emily Berriman, who’s now celebrating her first promotion in less than a year. The agency’s organisational structure now provides clear reporting lines so that less experienced members of the team have a constant mentor to impart knowledge and support their development. Or Imogen Jones, who recently shared her growing SEO knowledge with school leavers at Maidstone Grammar School For Girls.

Real benefits, from new home to pay rises

The combination of all these factors mean that we can celebrate the fruits of our success.
In 2022:

  • 18 of our 55 employees either bought their first home or moved into a new one
  • Everyone had a pay rise – justified by ensuring everyone has time to plan professional and personal goals that support the business.

“Our unique onboarding process is the final piece in a seamless employee journey driving retention and advocacy in a fierce hiring climate. Automations ensure all have all the tools, information and skills to successfully start their career at StrategiQ.

Our investment has created a consistently inspiring experience for candidates and seasoned staff with the emphasis always on development. People that join report that they have never had a stronger and more thorough onboarding. The investment was more than worth it at a time when most agencies are cutting back.”

Tyler Webb-Harding, Operations Director

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