Add design value within your agency

We spend a lot of time talking about adding value for clients but how much thought goes into adding value within the agency?

First let me define value.
Value has two aspects; social and economic.

In that order.

Social value is the value added to people; your team, client team, customers and society in general.

Economic value is value added to your bottom line and your clients’ bottom line. Add to this the perceived or real value added for customers.

Social value should come first and it shouldn’t be just about how much your team can add to your bottom line. Ultimately the people we employ create our culture and reputation. It’s no longer good enough to have good designers. They should also be happy, good communicators, They have to love working for you and be your brand advocates.

Every business can add value for its people.

How valuable are our staff?

PwC, the global management company, released some research that shows how good people practices can add value. The Sustaining value through people report shows that improving the people side of the business will improve business performance.

The research found that companies with a people strategy have 35% higher revenues per employee, 12% lower absenteeism and more efficient performance management and reward systems. Three-quarters of those firms with a people strategy also feel their performance management systems are “very effective”.

Companies with lower absenteeism also have higher profits per employee.

Bilmes, Strueven and Wetzker in their book Development for high performance gave the results of their people scorecard, a set of quantifiable criteria including the number of training days provided and the type of training to measure how well companies manage their employees.

Companies ranking highest on the people scorecard earned higher total shareholder returns than lower scoring companies:

top scoring companies had an average return of 27% whereas those at the bottom earned just 8%.

There are many of these people performance score cards but they focus on performance of the employee.

Start with empathy

There is an alternative to just focusing on employees. Andy Wright CEO of Streamtime and Never Not Creative explains.

A lot of mine and ‘our’ thinking in this area has been informed by a recent study that we delivered with my Never Not Creative hat on. Never Not Creative is a non profit organization that I set up to address some of the challenges we experience in the creative industry. In a recent wave of our Mentally-Healthy research, participants told us that the number 1 thing that employers could do to improve mental wellbeing was to develop more empathetic leaders. This led us to a further study on empathy.

The empathy research showed us how much creatives value empathy. 86% said that empathy was very important to them at work, but only 38% believed that their employer thought it was important. We found that the stronger the belief that the business put profit first, the stronger their likelihood to leave in the next 12 months. It was felt more strongly lower down the ranks with 61% of junior-mid level people saying they’re planning to move on in the next year.

Add in personal development

Added to this the PWC research also stated that employee satisfaction is positively correlated with training, performance related pay and individual responsibilities:

86% of German workers in companies that provided training, individual responsibility and linked pay to performance said they were “very loyal” compared to only 66% in other companies.

Firms with the best equal opportunity policies had a five year annualised return of 18.3% while those firms with the poorest records had returns of 7.9%.

Take away

This seems to be positive proof that you can add social value by an empathetic approach which covers everything from flexible working arrangements, defining studio tasks to hiring practices, job descriptions and professional development plans for each team member.

Greg Branson

Always happy to talk the business of design – contact me if you would like to learn more.

Design Business Council : business advice for creatives.
We help designers build better, stronger, more sustainable, businesses.

More articles about business models

  1. Rethink your business model and think like a lean, design startup
  2. Is your studio fit for purpose?
  3. Productivity, mental health and profitability.

Design Business Review is Australia’s only online design management magazine. It’s professional development information written specifically for Australian designers by Australian designers. Best of all, it’s free.


Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.

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