Kiera Lawlor, Head of Happiness at award-winning social media agency Social Chain, explains how creating engaging campaigns for its clients begins with engaging its own people.
Can you remember your first day at work? Even for the most experienced of us, starting a new job is daunting.
Clammy palms and the panic that you’ll forget your new manager’s name – sound familiar?
But imagine a first day when the whole company comes out to welcome you, and you’re handed a gift box brimming with tech and goodies. That’s what Sean Brown, Head of Talent, discovered when he arrived at Social Chain.
Captioning a photo of his new MacBook, social media bible, branded hoodie, stationary and a bottle of rum to toast his arrival, Sean took to LinkedIn to write: “I think I’m going to enjoy myself here.”
But the welcome pack is just the beginning when it comes to how the agency looks after its people.
The Manchester-based company launched in 2014 when co-founders Steve Bartlett and Dominic McGregor set out to help companies reach their consumers.
Today Social Chain has a reach of more than a billion, counts Apple, Spotify, and Puma among its clients, and can get a brand trending in minutes.
Its motto is ‘Deeper than engagement’ – out to create projects that resonate with people and inspire them into action.
But the company firmly believes this begins by engaging its own team – and that’s the responsibility of Kiera Lawlor, Head of Happiness.
“I think engagement is a key thing in the workplace,” says Kiera. “If we’re engaged in our own professional environment, we’re better placed to help brands to engage their consumers.
“It’s any employer’s dream to have staff who get up in the morning and want to go to work, and that’s genuinely how people feel here.”
But how has Social Chain created its highly motivated environment? Kiera and the team have created a programme that hones in on people’s happiness and individuality at all stages of their employment – and it starts at the recruitment stage.
Kiera said: “One of the massive things we look for when hiring is whether someone’s going to fit in with the culture. They might not be the most experienced at what they do, but we’d rather have their personality and what they can add to the team than someone who’s experienced but doesn’t share the same enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is key.”
Selecting passionate employees is one thing, but it’s another to maintain that same level of drive in the months and years that follow.
Kiera has this covered too: “We all have personal development programmes. I sit down with new starters and find out what they want to learn about and what we can do to make it happen. We call them Happiness Meetings. If a person has a development idea, they can chase it – no one will ever turn around and say no here.”
Team members also share their own knowledge at weekly Lunch and Learn sessions. Over a meal put on by Social Chain, employees take it in turns to give presentations on a hobby or skill they’re using to benefit their work.
And that’s not the only time there’s food in the office. Social Chain understands that well-fed employees are happy employees, so the kitchen is restocked twice a week with croissants and cereals, snacks, lunch options and – best of all – bacon sandwiches to banish the thought of Monday-morning blues.
Whether it’s National Gin Day or National Cupcake Day, Kiera keeps on top of all reasons for the team to celebrate together.
“I want to make sure there’s always something going on to keep it exciting,” she said.
And what with a fully stocked bar, a slide and ball pit, and French Bulldogs Louis and Pablo wandering freely between the benches, Social Chain hasn’t just created a workplace; it’s built a creative playground.
But it’s about more than just having fun. Playing hard lends itself to something else – working hard. And Social Chain’s people certainly do lots of that.
“We have barely any recorded sick days. Holidays are unlimited – we can take as many as we want – but because people love being here, they don’t abuse that. It’s just nice to know we’re trusted to get on with our work and get it finished.”
It’s down to this hard work that Social Chain has thrived so much in such a short period of time. In just over a year, the team has gone from 15 people to 74.
The business has also recently opened offices in Berlin and New York. By looking after its people, its people are delivering amazing projects for their clients, and these clients are propelling the business forward. Social Chain has created a thriving chain reaction – and it all begins with engagement.
Kiera said: “Employee engagement here means that everyone’s dream is to see the company get as big as it can possibly get. Everyone is so invested in Social Chain. They want to see it grow.”