Coming Home

A collaborative and supportive atmosphere keeps staff engaged

There’s just something special about Aquent that brings former employees back and attracts new ones from completely different industries. One of its divisions, the 35-employee London office of the Boston-based US firm, is the grand prize winner in the small company category in the UK. Claire Blasi, an agent, launched her career with the company in 2010 and left in 2015, only to return in January 2018.

“I wanted to find out what it would be like to work with another recruiter because I only ever worked with Aquent,” Blasi says. “I went to work with a competitor, but the environment wasn’t right for me. At that point I already knew what I liked and I decided to come back. Now Aquent is ticking all the boxes for me.”

UK Managing Director Aliza Sweiry’s story was a bit different. She joined the company in 2013, jumping ship from a different industry altogether. With a background in outdoor advertising and media, moving to staffing was a bit of a risk, she says, “but to be honest, I’ve enjoyed it from day one and it’s a company that really does look after their people.”

Both Blasi and Sweiry credit the company’s family vibe and team-player atmosphere as to what attracted them to and keeps them working at Aquent.

“The reason I joined Aquent was because I really liked what the company stands for,” Sweiry says. “It’s not just this office but the entire company has this really good vibe of family wanting to do well and wanting to be successful.”

Blasi uses the words “friendly” and “collaborative” to sum up her experience with Aquent.

“There’s a lot of team players, so you feel like you’re part of the pack and you feel really appreciated and supported,” she says.

In her previous role, Blasi says she didn’t feel like she could be herself but when she returned to Aquent it was like coming back home. “It’s really important for me to feel like I can be myself and it felt like I came back to family when I returned to Aquent,” Blasi says. For Aquent, the idea of family is linked to its company culture. Gemma Baker, an account director at Aquent in the UK, says the office is a “sociable bunch.”

“Everyone gets on like family. People go out and we have summer socials and winter get-togethers,” she says.

Your Success Is Our Success

“What’s really nice here is when someone has a success everybody is generally happy for them, which I think is unusual in recruitment,” Sweiry says. “It not just about the individual here; it is about the team. … if you’re doing very well but the person sitting next to you is not, then as a company we are not really going forward because it is about everybody being successful.”

Baker echoes that statement: “Everyone really enjoys seeing each other do well.”

Aquent has fostered the idea of group success and family, which has led to recognition in the staffing industry. The company earned a spot on Staffing Industry Analysts’ list of largest creative/marketing staffing firms in the US in 2018.

So how does Aquent go about finding such people who care equally about their teammates’ success?

According to Sweiry, it starts at the interview process where the first assessment is about whether or not the applicant fits in with the team.

From there, they go on to different tasks depending on what their role is. The applicant would also have interviews with different people from the team that they will be joining to get a sense of the type of people that they will be working with. But there are also many different factors including skills, behavior and making sure that the employee is right for them and vice versa.

“I want them to be interviewing us at the same time to make sure that we are right for them,” Sweiry says.

One of the biggest traits she looks for when hiring at Aquent is the ability to be a team player.

“I don’t think you would feel comfortable here if you’re not a team player because everyone else is, so you would get quite isolated,” Sweiry says. Overall the typical profile of a worker at Aquent is someone who genuinely wants to do a good job and cares about the talent but also someone who enjoys their life.

While it’s important to be able to recruit the right people, it’s equally important to keep those employees. So how does Aquent go about keeping its employees motivated, engaged and focused on their goals?

Incentives and Transparency

Aquent holds an office update every month where the team talks about financial figures. During this meeting, the company celebrates the accomplishments of those who have hit certain targets.

When they reach certain milestones, employees can spin a wheel to win a prize every month. Employees can also nominate each other for awards such as “employee of the month.”

Quarterly winners and top billers also receive prizes such as half-day holidays and all-expenses-paid trips to exotic locations. On top of that, employees have their standard commission structure.

According to Blasi, the company also holds weekly updates where they go through their numbers to assess where they are in terms of their goals. This helps keeps them focused.

Blasi adds that Aquent’s supportive environment and transparency with its business also keeps workers motivated.

Other perks for Aquent employees include fun activities where the team gets together, such as miniature golf and races. The team also attends educational lunches that feature speakers, which helps keep them engaged and boosts camaraderie.

Another Aquent perk is an education and learning fund, which employees apply toward courses for personal and professional development as well as to learn more about their role and the industry.

Blasi took up the opportunity to take a body language course, which she says helps her prepare her candidates for interviews.

“Along with the education and learning fund, the company is happy to move individuals to other roles to keep them engaged,” says Baker, who was originally hired as a delivery agent before working her way up to her current role as account director.

The company also offers a forward-thinking approach to flexible working, allowing employees to work from home.

All of these features help contribute to a work environment where employees want to stay.

“There’s a massive chunk of us who have been here in excess of four years, which is not standard in a recruitment firm,” Baker says. Sweiry agrees. “In the UK office, we have people who have been here for years,” she says.

“There’s nothing worse than having that Sunday night dread of ‘I’m going to work’ and I’ve experienced that myself in other jobs,” Sweiry says. “I think Aquent is a good place where we don’t mind coming to work and I think generally that’s how people feel here.”

“It’s all about making sure that people are coming into work doing their job and at the same time are happy and content,” Sweiry says. “The happier they are, the better they will be.”