“Sometimes even the best work environment is not enough to retain talent”

“Sometimes even the best work environment is not enough to retain talent”

Barcelona, Spain. Olivia Walsh (Chief Creative Officer at Apple Tree Communications)

Is diversity a source of inspiration for creative management?

Of course! Diversity is key in everything we do in APPLE TREE. It makes for a better team, stronger proposals and a creative offering that is much more rich, much more powerful than if we were to have a homogeneous team.

Does your agency consider itself to be diverse?

Extremely. APPLE TREE was founded by three women from very different backgrounds, I’m from San Francisco, Kirsty is from England and Carme is Catalan, and our professional backgrounds and ages are also quite different, and that was just the beginning, now we have diverse teams in all our offices, and not just based on gender or race, but also in terms of accessibility, skill sets, age… we are very inclusive but to be honest, it’s something that has always come naturally. It’s so engrained in who we are, that it seems odd to have to point it out.

Can you say that European agencies are diverse? Why?

It’s hard to generalize… Is Europe diverse? It can be a slippery slope to ask these questions, but if I have to answer, I would say yes. Europe is extremely diverse in many ways, agencies are generally more “open-minded” than other types of businesses, and as I mentioned earlier, a good agency benefits greatly from a diverse make up.

In a profession as dynamic as advertising, how can you make it become a great place to work for 6 years?

Nowadays, everyone is talking about Purpose, which is great. But Purpose doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen just because people are talking about it. In APPLE TREE we have always put extreme emphasis on Goodness; we want great “professionals”, but we want even better “people” on our team. People who are courageous and curious, people who believe that we can help make the world a better place through the power of NEW THINKING in communication. I think our people, clients and collaborators feel that on a core level and that feeds back into the agency… in the end a great place to work is built by everyone, internal and external.

Google is recognized for treating its employees well, but it is also one of the businesses that has the greatest rotation of personnel. Is a good work environment enough to retain talent?

No. Sometimes even the best work environment is not enough to retain talent. Talented people sometimes move on, in spite of having a “dream job”. I don’t think we should focus obsessively on retaining talent… that’s’ too inward thinking; I think that we need to be our best selves individually and collectively all the time. People will do what they have to do, we should obviously see if there is a possibility of continuing the relationship, but in the end, companies need to be authentic and true to themselves and all of those who are still here or want to join us. I think you’d be surprised at how much just being ourselves can retain talent 😉

Has Apple Tree had an experience with anyone on its team that demonstrates this loyalty to the Apple Tree Brand?

I’m proud to say that there are so many, that it’s hard to pick just one example… Let me just say, that our very first employee is still with us; our very first creative is still with us; one creative changed continents to stay with us, another braved moving to a brand new city to continue the work we are doing; many who have left, have become our clients and so on…

What would you recommend to ad agencies to retain creative talent?
Be yourself, let people be themselves, listen more than you speak and enjoy the people that work hard with and for you.