Advertising agencies can be fun and exciting places to work for, but the industry is also known for being highly fast -paced, extremely competitive, and its staff constantly under intense pressure to come up with great ideas on a regular basis.
But Raymund Sison wanted a different kind of work culture. The Creative Chief of independent digital agency Propel Manila, together with other members of the company’s leadership team, constantly strives to create an organization that puts their people’s well-being over profit.
And their efforts are paying off. Today, Propel Manila is not only a highly successful creative agency — it counts as its clients fast-food giant Jollibee and luxury brand Kiehl’s — it is locally and internationally recognized for its advocacy works such as Recreate Pride 2020, Complex Emojis (this one in partnership with MindNation; more on that later), Pride @ Tech, and Love Versus Hate.
“I believe creatives and communications professionals have a duty to offer our best and brightest ideas to help solve the world’s most pressing problems,” Raymund says. “We should use our creativity to create ideas that truly matter to the community.”
“Creativity is not just about doing design or writing; you can be creative in every little thing you do at your office, even if you’re an accounting firm or an engineering company,” Raymund points out. “It’s about finding more innovative ways to do your accounting in the middle of the pandemic, or using digital means to make your engineering even more robust and secure.”
When team members are creative, they solve problems faster and easier than ever before, discover new ideas that will keep clients interested and engaged, and help businesses adapt, innovate, and thrive — — all necessary during these trying times when tried-and-tested business methods are no longer working.
If your team is struggling to be creative because of the pandemic, here are five tips from Raymund on how to get their brains fired up and thriving:
1. Prioritize the team’s well-being. “When people are well, they do well; and when they do well, the business does well,” he points out. “At Propel, we believe that the best kind of talent development is human development, so we created programs that will help our team grow professionally, mentally, and emotionally.”
To start, Propel has a Mind Matters Program, a mental health and well-being policy that includes free mental health cards and mental check-ups for staff, weekly talks and forums on mental health, and the designation of the last Wednesday of every month as Mind Day, a no-work day.
Raymund also encourages his team to take a rest whenever they need it. “I always encourage my people to please tell me how I can help them be better, be creative, or be a better human being,” he says. “If they are stressed, then I will give them the time to breathe.”
2. Promote inclusivity. Safe spaces boost creativity because when a person feels safe, they can be more open about their thoughts and ideas. “Openness is the foundation of creative thinking,” Raymund points out.
Propel does this by making sure their office is inclusive and respectful of everyone’s rights. “Our bathrooms at the office are gender neutral; we also have a Pride at Propel group in the office for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees,” he shares. “Recently, there were talks in our industry about harassment, so right away we made sure to reifnorce our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination polcies to make sure that we have a safe environment for everyone.
3. Support diversity. Raymund is proud to say that half of Propel’s 70-plus team is female, while 19% are members of the LGBTQ+ community. “We like to keep our talents as diverse as possible because when you put them together and make them work on one goal, that is where brilliance happens,” he says.
4. Practice servant-leadership. “To quote from Simon Sinek, ‘Leadership is not being in charge, it’s taking care of those in our charge,’” Raymond declares. “My leadership style is very much a combination of a kuya (big bother) and barkada (friend); there’s a lot of care but I’ll also be the first one to call you out if needed. I believe that calling out is a way of showing care, because you are telling your team the truth on how they can be better.”
5. Walk the talk. Propel espouses purposiveness — how can the team use their creativity to help the community? “And because mental health is one of our main advocacies, we feel it’s important that we spread the word about the importance of well-being in the workplace and the community,” Raymund says. “This is where our partnership with MindNation comes in.”
Last July 2020, the two companies worked together to create the world’s first ever Complex Emojis, free social media stickers and gifs which users can post to communicate their hard-to-understand and complicated emotions. The ad for this was named a finalist in the 2021 Ad Stars, the world’s only international advertising festival which combines creativity with cutting-edge technology, and also in the Asia Pacific Tambuli Awards, the creative show that celebrates creativity with positive world impact.
In August of that same year, Propel Manila Culture Head Mau Valenzuela joined MindNation CEO Kana Takahasi and Head of Communications and Content Cat Trivino for a Mental Health Matters Livestream via Facebook, where they discussed mental health in the advertising industry, and how leaders can have better mental health care practices in the workplace.
Lastly, to mark Pride Month last June 2021, Propel partnered with MindNation for the latter’s toolkit on supporting LGBTQ well-being at work, which is a guide for business leaders on how they can make their workplaces safe and inclusive for their queer employees.
“I want my team to continue to create more ideas that matter to the world,” Raymond says. “Creativity is such a superpower and I want to use it as a force for good, to make people better, to change behaviors, and make the world a little better than it was before. Right now is a pivotal time in our society. More than ever, we need to come up with insightful, innovative, and empathetic solutions that can help address humanity’s needs. For me, the pandemic is not an excuse to not have great ideas; there’s no better time to be creative than today.”
Are you passionate about workplace well-being? Partner with us to build a world where mental health is valued, accepted, and supported. Visit www.mindnation.com or email [email protected] to know more!