Diversifying Talon’s Culture though People and Business Growth

Championing People: Talon’s Cultural Success Story

As we reflect on Talon’s third anniversary, sporting impressive growth and leadership credentials in OOH, we are pleased to reflect on some recent successes recognising our commitment and key differentiator around our people.

In February, we were awarded tenth place in the Sunday Times Top 100 Best Small Companies to Work For list. As part of this prestigious endorsement, Talon also achieved the top level three-star accreditation from Best Companies, the employee engagement specialists and Sunday Times partner.

The recognition followed recent achievements for Talon in the area of business growth as a Sunday Times FastTrack 100 company and among London Stock Exchange’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain.

Recognising strong business growth alongside real acknowledgment of Talon’s people first philosophy is something that is both unusual and immensely difficult to pull off. Driving significant levels of business growth in three years from a standing start, whilst embedding staff levels that have now reached 80+, is something that has taken close management and careful planning around establishing the right culture at Talon.

Of course, it’s not been an easy process, but from day one, the management team were very clear that part of the reason for setting up Talon – as an Out of Home agency with legacy connections to some of our competitors – was to do things differently.

So what have we done in this space to deserve such recognition?

It can become a clich, but we did very much place people at the heart of the organisation when we mapped out the vision of a future-facing agency driving revenue in the fast-changing world of Out of Home.

Talon staff have been our greatest asset and differentiator. Our churn rate in that time has been the lowest any of us have ever experienced in our time in media. Through a very open and accessible environment – there are no offices or closed doors at Talon – we have empowered our people to manage their accounts and departments, with the right combination of supervision and independence.

Simply put, we like people. We’ve hired smart people who care about what they’re doing and are happy to evolve and plan for the future. This protects both the culture and success of the business. In return, we aim to get the best from them and support them in driving fulfilling careers.

From a management perspective, the approach is equally empowering and allows the senior team to focus on business development, driving brand count through initiatives like Talon Generator and developing stronger client and agency relationships.

From CEO and Chairman Eric Newnham – a recognised GB Entrepreneur of the Year – an entrepreneurial culture encourages people across the company to engage with business development, an approach that has helped sustain continued growth and deliver impactful and effective campaigns for a range of advertisers (Google, McDonald’s, EasyJet, Sainsbury’s and others) and challenger and disruptor brands including Deliveroo, Propercorn, Rightmove and many others new to Out of Home and mainstream advertising.

Other factors that have been in place from day one at Talon, include a fully empowered People Forum, under the direction of Managing Partner Steve Bond and our Head of People Liz Jeffery, which meets regularly to improve all aspects of the Talon culture. This engenders a philosophy of constant feedback, open and honest two-way internal communication and a fully consultative process with our staff that often means we’re saying yes to new ideas. The benefit is that this does empower our people to drive the business and to get these things right, all within the context of a thriving workplace.

As part of this constant feedback programme, our ideas station is regularly reviewed and communicated. Examples range from the simple (birthday days off, social club, and holiday exchange) to the more involved (Charity support days and weekend experiences like the Talon trek). The social club ensures we’re combining hard work with a fun and sociable culture, with regular, coordinated and inclusive activities.  The jury is still out on our office fish tank though.

A twice-yearly employee survey (for Best Companies) helps with continuous improvement and all findings are fed back across the company and within teams; stimulating further debate around specific issues. These sessions can be incredibly valuable and creative in helping our future direction.

These initiatives reflect the emphasis on building and nurturing talent and creating a culture and environment that staff love to work in. Of course, learning and development is central to this approach with a programme that has grown and expanded over three years. This year we are running our own Academy programme for clients with the launch of Talon Inspire.

Added to that, we now provide a huge range of wellbeing initiatives and an extensive benefits package that keeps pace with some of the UK’s largest organisations and brings us back full circle to our Sunday Times Best Companies accreditation. These are communicated through regular one-to-one sessions to ensure staff are both aware of and taking advantage of benefits.

In short, we’ve worked from top to bottom from day one at Talon to create a rewarding culture where our people love to work for us and we support them in doing so through a range of career development, reward and wellbeing initiatives. In a sense the hard work starts now in ensuring we keep our people at the forefront of the business. But having set out to make Talon the best company to work for in the Out of Home media sector, we honestly believe we have achieved that.

This article first appeared in HR Director.