THE FEELGOOD FACTOR begins at Karma Communications Group with a rainbow-lit entrance corridor. It continues throughout the central London headquarters of this creative communication agency, with neon signs, a sweet shop, table tennis tables and an in-house restaurant.
One meeting room is kitted out as an alpine chalet. The firm invites everyone for a long weekend of skiing each year. A trip to Les Arcs in France saw 80 of its 251 employees take to the slopes. The workforce have fun together, an 88% positive score, seventh on our list of mid-size organisations, and feel a sense of family with their colleagues (81%).
Karma produces everything from television advertisements to Twitter feeds for clients including the BBC, BT, Honda and Costa. “Making an idea happen is as important as coming up with the idea in the first place,” says Ben Bilboul, the managing director. “We gravitate towards individuals who have done it under their own steam.”
Recent recruits Vidya Varsani and Sebastian Tully-Middleton fit the bill. Away from her duties as a project manager, Varsani runs a business providing personalised wedding decorations, while Tully-Middleton has represented Great Britain as a 100m and 200m runner. “I came in quite raw to the industry,” says Tully-Middleton, who works in public relations and events. “In the first two weeks I was introduced to two people from every department and had hour-long meetings with them. It’s good to see how the cogs fit together.” Managers talk honestly and openly (80%) and are quick to respond to signs of anyone being under too much pressure (76%, ninth).
Alex Gibson joined as a junior account manager and within four years has become an account director. People may push themselves, but they don’t feel their health is suffering as a result (81%) or that deadlines are unrealistic (65%). “The approach towards personal development is a bit like your dad teaching you to ride a bike,” says Gibson. “They will say, ‘Off you go, you can do it.’ But all the time they are watching carefully to make sure you don’t fall off.”
Mission / Vision
Mission: To do the right thing for our clients, our people and the community we work in. Vision: To be the most integrated and progressive company in the communications industry.
Best Workplace Factors
Karma's highly integrated Performance Review approach is the best example as it’s individually tailored and the outputs are actively used. An online system powers the process. In February, there’s a backward review of historic performance, supported by 360 feedback. The individual writes their review of the year, assessing their own performance – both results and behaviours, sends this to their Manager who then writes the review and prepares for the Review meeting - the most important bit, finishing with objective setting/development discussion. Feedback from the users is that they can look at the output by team and across the company so helps identify high performers. It’s visual, there’s a simple graph to illustrate not just words which is important for the Creative colleagues. It’s simple and clear to use with very little time filling in forms so the bulk of time can be spent on the important bit, the conversation between the Manager and colleague.
To enhance wellbeing, Karma focus very heavily on health. Both preventative, by encouraging fitness - subsidised gym membership, in house yoga, football, Tough Mudder competition, Cycle to Work Scheme, Reiki and massage, as well as private medical cover for all to deal with any health issues that arise. Their young demographic means that their colleagues like to party and don’t always look after themselves as well as they should do which is one of the reasons why they provide free breakfast, a subsidised cooked lunch and help yourself fruit as no excuse for not eating properly! Twice a year, Karma run a Wellbeing Week – a full week of health related events that rejuvenate mind, body and spirit. During their last Wellbeing Week, they ran 12 different events from relaxing Reiki and Sleep sessions, to more frenetic exercise classes. They also had their own in house GP to chat with colleagues in confidence about any health issues that colleagues were facing. Karma also engaged Mind Apples, the innovative not for profit enterprise to talk to their staff about good mental health and how this can be enhanced. In Karma's Leadership Development Programme, one of modules focuses on wellbeing, in particular, improving resilience and how to boost psychological wellbeing of themselves and their teams.
At the beginning of the year, Karma took their employees away on a skiing weekend in France. They stayed in a charming fully catered ‘ski in ski out’ chalet, and sponsored the ski lessons for the beginners who wanted to improve their skills. They had a lot of fun on the slopes, enjoyed dining together in the evenings and closed the weekend with a fancy dress party. More recently, two of their employees celebrated their 10th year with Karma Communications Group – Hannah Matthews and Paul Zeidler who joined the business on the 1st November 2004. Karma held a special Halloween Party at the end of October to celebrate their amazing achievement. There were speeches, free bar hosted by the members of the Executive Team, DJ, and a lot of fun. They also run their Tea at Four on every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, during which they offer their employees a free selection of fancy teas, coffees made by their in-house barista and home-made cakes. Tea at Four is a great opportunity to stretch legs, fill bellies with delicious things and connect with work colleagues.