Employer of the Year: Top 50 marketing employers 2005

Benefits, training and flexibility in hours and place of work are crucial to standing out as an employer, writes Jane Bainbridge.

The common thread linking the top performers in this year's survey of marketing employers is their flexibility. With the idea of a job for life now just a distant memory, employees expect to put in ever-longer hours and the boundaries between work and home are becoming blurred. So it requires give and take on both sides to ensure a happy working relationship, and it is those employers that understand the need for more flexibility in relation to hours and place of work, or benefits and training, that score highest with their staff.

This year, more than 2000 employees from 283 companies ranked their employers on a range of issues that affect their working lives.

Of these companies, 151 received votes from five or more employees - the number required to qualify for a place in the top 50.

Claire Owen, managing director of recruitment consultancy Stopgap, which conducted the survey in conjunction with Marketing, says: 'There is a greater awareness of the need to invest time and energy in staff. People are much more demanding these days and want more than just a wage cheque.'

However, some companies have still to be convinced that they will enjoy sufficient return on their investment if they improve staff benefits or introduce flexible working. 'There is a degree of cynicism and not as much appreciation as there could be of what employers get back in return,' says Owen. 'Employee-friendly policies lead to greater retention and more-satisfied staff. People do not want to move jobs - they like to stay if they can - and organisations are coming around to understanding that.'

Senior managers at the companies that scored highest stressed the importance of staff enjoying their work, recognising that a happier workforce is more productive.

NatWest Primeline was the winner in the client category for the second successive year. Head of marketing John Wills says: 'We have a code of conduct with five key points which people work by, and we aim to ensure people enjoy coming to work.' This fits with a second crucial element. 'It is all about communication and respect,' says Stopgap's Owen.

'Companies need to respect the fact that people have different needs and circumstances at home.'

Top agency Redmandarin also repeated its success of last year. Both overall winners were notable for retaining their senior management, emphasising the fact that the loss of a well-regarded boss can affect how employees rate an organisation.

Many companies appear in the top 50 for the first time. While others have slipped out of the table, major names such as Reed, Volvo and Virgin have maintained a presence, although they have fallen down the ratings. Owen suggests that companies which adopted staff-friendly policies early have suffered as other companies have followed their lead. It appears that staff may be starting to take long-standing workplace benefits for granted.

TOP CLIENT EMPLOYERS Rank Company 2004 rank 1 NatWest Primeline 1 2 Reed Business Information 4 3 Lloyds TSB n/a 4= Procter & Gamble UK n/a 4= Barclays 2 6 ING Direct n/a 7 Emap Consumer Media n/a 8 Totaljobs Group 12 9 Diageo n/a 10 Alliance & Leicester n/a 11 CACI n/a 12 Real Radio n/a 13 Guide Dogs for the Blind Association n/a 14 Campbell Grocery Products 17 15 TML Financial Solutions n/a 16 General Mills n/a 17 Onspeed n/a 18 BT n/a 19 Homeserve GB 6 20 Bring Me n/a 21 National Instruments UK n/a 22 Nestle UK n/a 23 Maxxium UK n/a 24 VisitBritain 18 25 Adobe Systems UK n/a 26 UKTV n/a 27 Virgin Mobile 14 28 London Underground n/a 29 T&F Informa UK n/a 30 BUPA 25 31 National Express n/a 32 Loans.co.uk n/a 33 Mencap n/a 34 Marlow Foods n/a 35 Volvo UK 8 36 Yorkshire Tourist Board n/a 37 Emap Communications n/a 38 Shell International n/a 39 Jenks Sales Brokers n/a 40 Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors n/a 41 British Gas n/a 42 Best Western Hotels GB n/a 43 National Blood Service n/a 44 Expolink Europe n/a 45 Group 4 Technology n/a 46 NCP n/a 47 Westminster City Council n/a 48 Business Link for London n/a 49 John Dickinson Stationery n/a 50 Ferrero n/a TOP AGENCY EMPLOYERS Rank Company 2004 rank 1 Redmandarin 1 2= Claydon Heeley Jones Mason n/a 2= Added Value n/a 4 Momentum n/a 5 Consolidated Communications Mgmt 11 6 ?What If! n/a 7 Oxford Strategic Marketing n/a 8 Bespoke Communications n/a 9 Brand Learning n/a 10 Brave PR n/a 11 Hotwire 13 12 Red Door Communications n/a 13 Cow Communications n/a 14 Shine Communications 4 15 23red n/a 16 Dynamo 16 17 Latitude n/a 18 Toast Marketing n/a 19 Presky Maves n/a 20 Forward n/a 21 Fuse PR n/a 22= Acclaim Events n/a 22= Pearlfisher n/a 24 MarketingFile n/a 25 Gekko Partners n/a 26 Target Marketing Communications n/a 27 BI n/a 28 Jack Morton Worldwide n/a 29= Red Cell Response n/a 29= iris n/a 31 glue london n/a 32 Alcone Marketing Group n/a 33 Loewy n/a 34 RPM n/a 35 Crazy Horse Brand Warriors n/a 36= The Forster Company n/a 36= Vital 3 38 Loyalty Management UK n/a 39 Bluhalo n/a 40 Research International 24 41= Avvio n/a 41= CHA n/a 43 Tree n/a 44 TRO n/a 45 Attention n/a 46 Barrett Dixon Bell 21 47 iD n/a 48 Flagship Consulting n/a 49 Brahm n/a 50 Incite Marketing Planning n/a

TOP CLIENT: NATWEST PRIMELINE

Staff: 14, of whom eight are in marketing

Description: Personal banking service, generally for more affluent customers

Achievements of past year: Won Your Money special award, cited as a business that focuses on customers. Scored 98% customer satisfaction in own survey.

Success due to: 'A strong planning process that involves the whole team,' according to head of marketing John Wills. 'We focus on alternative development to test people's communication skills and creativity. One of our team worked with underprivileged children in Scotland for a week. He came back a stronger person. Customer comments, both good and bad, are regularly circulated. We share the compliments as well as those things we could do better.'

TOP AGENCY: REDMANDARIN

Staff: 15

Description: Sponsorship consultancy

Achievements of past year: Underwent a change of ownership after owner Incepta merged with Huntsworth, and is now being divested to Media Square. Management at Redmandarin handled this transition, keeping employees informed, while also winning significant new business - including contracts with UBS and Atos Origin.

Success due to: 'Increasing flexibility as to how people work', according to chief executive Sally Hancock. 'So much of our work is international and people travel a lot. We try to make sure the workforce is multicultural and multilingual. It brings a real freshness to the business.'

BEST PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Client: CACI

Agency: Brave PR

To feel valued, employees need to know they are progressing and developing their skills. They are also more likely to remain at a business that offers training.

Investment in professional development is about improving individual performance. It may be offered internally or externally, depending on a firm's resources.

CACI is a data company that specialises in direct marketing and retail and location planning. It offers training tailored to the roles of employees.

Head of marketing Paul Lewis says: 'A select few get training in public speaking and media skills to raise their profile. If people can't get the training they need in-house, I encourage them to do a course outside.'

Annabel Hillary, joint managing director of Brave PR, has put professional development at the company's heart. 'Our philosophy is about developing people from the moment they arrive,' she says.

This requires a degree of input from senior members. 'There is lots of training on the job and the directors get involved,' Hillary explains.

'We do a training session every two weeks when everyone writes a press release for a hypothetical brand and tries to turn it into a news story, as well as one-to-one training on new accounts.'

Hillary is a believer in incentives. The predominantly young workforce has shown little interest in pensions, gym membership or private healthcare. Instead, everyone has a Top Shop card.

TOP 5 CLIENTS 1 CACI 2 NatWest Primeline 3 Barclays 4 Emap Consumer Media 5 Reed Business Information Source: Stopgap/Marketing survey TOP 5 AGENCIES 1 Brave PR 2 CHJM 3= Momentum 3= iris 5 Fuse PR Source: Stopgap/Marketing survey

BEST LEADERSHIP AND BRAND VALUES

Client: Real Radio

Agency: Bespoke Communications

It takes more than a mission statement to ensure employees live and breathe a brand.

A combination of leadership, vision and focus on core values are required to ensure all staff work toward the same goals.

Marketing services company Bespoke Communications displays its principles in its name. 'It is bold and simple,' says managing director John Milsom.

'We started the agency determined to avoid the things we did not respect in the agency world. This is a civilised, grown-up, supportive environment.' He thinks the values are acquired through 'osmosis', but a dinner every two months and drinks every Friday help reinforce the message.

For Real Radio, which is part of the Guardian Media Group and has stations in Scotland, Yorkshire and Wales, the management style is 'lead from the front'. Group marketing manager Helen Dickinson says: 'Our chief executive John Myers is inspirational. Radio is all about people and the management team's passion is infectious.'

Real Radio sets out its vision and values annually in a leaflet. 'We share information with suppliers and advertisers,' says Dickinson.

Its strategy is to focus on its own performance rather than react to what its competitors are doing.

TOP 5 CLIENTS 1 Real Radio 2 NatWest Primeline 3 Guide Dogs for the Blind 4 ING Direct 5 Onspeed Source: Stopgap/Marketing survey TOP 5 AGENCIES 1 Bespoke Communications 2 CHJM 2 Momentum 4 Redmandarin 5 Added Value Source: Stopgap/Marketing survey

BEST RECOGNITION OF MARKETING

Client: Procter & Gamble UK

Procter & Gamble is an example of a company with marketing at its core: 97% of general managers at the company began in marketing and half of the UK board is made up of marketers.

'We are a marketing-driven company; it is rooted in our philosophy,' says corporate marketing director Roisin Donnelly. 'We are the biggest marketer in the UK, we have the biggest budgets and we want marketers to be loyal to P&G.

'We give early responsibility and a lot of coaching. All the managers are responsible for coaching and developing people - it accounts for a huge part of our time.'

The marketing department is surveyed every three months in a 'passion poll' to highlight areas requiring attention. The latest brought up demands for more coaching and concern about the work/life balance.

'We're testing things at the moment such as a "cut the crap" initiative which frees up time on low-value work to spend more on better stuff,' says Donnelly.

TOP 5 CLIENTS 1 Procter & Gamble UK 2 Diageo 3 ING Direct 4 NatWest Primeline 5 Real Radio Source: Stopgap/Marketing survey

BEST EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Agency: Redmandarin

Sally Hancock, chief executive of Redmandarin, prides herself on the 'generous' benefits the sponsorship consultancy offers.

The standard package includes pension, health insurance and a financial bonus. 'We know what works,' says Hancock. 'It helps that we are small and doing well.'

The heavy workload and large amount of travel mean flexibility is crucial.

'We have a number of people who work flexible hours and we try to be democratic,' she says.

TOP 5 AGENCIES 1 Redmandarin 2 Added Value 3 Consolidated Comms Mgmt 4 ?What If! 5 CHJM Source: Stopgap/Marketing survey

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