Why one agency is looking to internal data for setting workplace policies post-pandemic 

Sponsored by CMI Media Group 

As the talent shortage continues, a positive workplace culture and well-rounded benefits are more important than ever.  

This is especially true when it comes to flexible work. According to a 2022 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 70% of employers consider flexible working benefits to be “very important” or “extremely important.” Additionally, 63% of employers said they offer most of their workers the opportunity to adopt a hybrid work model. 

In this Q&A with Julia Missaggia, Chief People Officer at CMI Media Group, the conversation focuses on the many considerations workplaces make as they set corporate policies. The questions and answers explore how leadership is navigating hybrid work policies and employee feedback. 

What are some of the toughest decisions or considerations made recently in your workplace? 

Julia Missaggia: The past few years have been stressful, to say the least. We’ve experienced the pandemic, a tough political climate, the talent shortage, near recession and an incredibly transitional socioeconomic climate. We’re dealing with highly sensitive situations daily, and each of them seems to impact the other.  

For example, nearly everyone has seen their work life change due to the pandemic, with some continuing to work from home full-time and others wanting to return in person daily. This is an issue where, if you have 10 people, you’ll have 10 opinions and preferences. It’s been very challenging to find solutions that work for everyone. 

Can you share an example of how these issues impact work life? 

Julia Missaggia: Even before the pandemic, we offered flexible work to all employees, including the ability to flex working hours or work from home two days per week. Of course, during the pandemic, everyone worked remotely.  

Now that we’re approaching post-pandemic life, we need to navigate what the future of work should look like. Fortunately, we have already begun to implement alternative work arrangements and explore ways in which our employees could enjoy flexibility while maintaining productivity at work. This is incredibly complex, as it impacts our staff, clients and partners.  

Questions include whether we should maintain the same level of office space — striking a balance between productivity in terms of hours worked from home — but also maintaining culture and in-person opportunities to connect, how we conduct training and other development opportunities, how to make sure our clients are feeling satisfied with our level of service, what our parent company is recommending, and on and on. 

While many people prefer to work from home, many others like to be in the office around people, and we have seen benefits to learning, development and client service when teams are onsite together. There’s an immeasurable cultural benefit that results from organically connecting with peers and a developmental impact on early career talent with mentorship in the office setting. We need more programming and intention to make this happen. 

Our leadership spends a significant amount of time discussing this, listening to our people, listening to our clients, reviewing productivity data and piloting solutions. Most people would be surprised at how much thought, discussion and work among our leadership goes into making sure that our staff and clients are getting the support they need. 

How often is a decision made solely on the opinion of the executive team?  

Julia Missaggia: Never. Although the executive team has incredible experience and insight, true leadership comes from listening to and representing your people. 

Even with all of that preparation, do you ever get it wrong? 

Julia Missaggia: Of course. This is incredibly sensitive and difficult. We prioritize continuing the conversation and getting feedback so that when things are not hitting the mark, we can change our approach. 

It’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time, so we aim to align with our corporate values and do the best we can. We believe in learning, sharing transparently and optimizing. Our approach is that our programs evolve as our people and teams evolve.  

Can you give an example of what this looks like in practice? 

Julia Missaggia: Summer Fridays are a popular benefit across our industry, and we were happy to introduce them, but rather than set it and forget it, we continue to collect feedback. This has resulted in several evolutions of the program over the years to fit what staff and clients need, including currently extending it throughout the year rather than only during the summer.  

As another example, we use the same approach with our future of work planning. At this moment, we’re evolving our current approach, incorporating learnings from surveys we conducted with staff. Some of the ways we communicate include quarterly Town Hall meetings in which we address questions that impact our staff and share updates proactively to ensure our people feel part of the larger agency plan.  

Our executive leadership team embraces a very open-door policy, and we encourage our people to talk to us openly or anonymously. We also hold weekly leadership meetings to keep a pulse on basically everything that matters to our staff so that we can work together to help understand why decisions have been made or pivot if needed. 

Sponsored by CMI Media Group