You All Want to Work for Edelman

What a difference a decade makes. The Holmes Report headline from yesterday’s newsletter is as stated above, with news that Edelman was chosen as the favorite place to work by a two to one margin over our nearest competitors in the U.S. and Europe.

It was not always so. Paul Holmes, earlier in his career, correctly criticized our turnover, especially in the senior ranks. He also said that we were seen as a hard place to work, too political and divisive. The level of satisfaction for entry level people was high but by the third or fourth year at the firm, there was burn out.

We have worked hard to rectify the issues. We have put into place a world class human resources department (for the first forty-plus years of Edelman, we did not have an HR function). We try hard to offer a substantive 360 review annually, with career planning a key element. We’ve strived to share our success with those at the start of their careers often receiving a bonus equivalent to two weeks of pay, and more senior individuals beyond that. Every summer 75 of our most promising young executives attend the Edelman Leadership Academy. And for the bold, we have the Edelman Fellows program, sending as many as 15 of our best to foreign markets, from developed to developing and vice versa.

But it is a lot more than money and career prospect. We have a serious effort to get our people out into the community, offering a grants program through our Global Citizenship group (last year we gave away $150,000 for 160 applications, and since the program started, we have given $800,000 to more than 300 non-profits around the world), plus paid time off for community service of 8 hours per year; last year we completed 32,000 hours of skills-based and general volunteerism with organizations around the globe. In the U.S., we have the Edelman Escape program, which provides selected employees with $2,500 to either Live a Dream or Give a Dream. We initiated the GWEN program to assure that our female employees had a community and a commitment to becoming leaders in our firm (goal is 50 percent of top management as female by 2017). In the past year, we have also extended our commitment to diversity and inclusion by creating employee networks for LGBT employees and allies (Edelman Equal) as well as African American employees (Edelman Griot), with more to come this year.

This has much to do with management as well. I know what I am good at… going out to see the Edel-team, telling them what is going on in the business every six months on a firm-wide broadcast, doing the Trust Barometer and Earned Brand presentations before we go live at Davos and Cannes. Where I tend to fall down relates to process. Advancing culture requires discipline as evidenced by the effort this past year to refresh the firm’s values. Ensuring we have the right focus on talent is why HR reports to our COO, Matt Harrington, who has led the effort to get succession planning in place for the top 100 jobs at the firm, has updated the annual review approach, and made sure that we are moving to a structure that allows executives to move between client management, geographic management and practices or crafts.

We have the advantage of being a private, family-owned business. We invest ahead of revenue and we take chances on people, giving them jobs before their time. If you want to avoid being stepped on by huge and hungry dinosaurs, you had better continue to move quickly. I am really proud of this evolution of Edelman to becoming the favorite employer and thank all who have been part of the journey.

Richard Edelman is president and CEO.