Manchester-based, full-service digital marketing agency Embryo has already made huge strides in 2021 with rapid staff growth including 20 new hires in the last 12 months, an expected turnover of £2.5m and aiming for a headcount of 45 by the end of the year. With a proud ethos of ‘we see what others don't' the marketing agency continues to develop forward-thinking strategies for success. The latest development comes as Operations Manager, Cicely Ward, has created and implemented a new people development programme which is not only innovative in management guidance in the current climate of isolated working but is also aimed at account managers and executives in the company. The digital marketing agency prides itself on brand delivery messages that hone in on innovation and progression and that's why Embryo thinks that other industry leaders could benefit from their development programme.

Embryo's staff development programme

Embryo strives for an ‘above & beyond' approach, not only for clients but also for colleagues and the business in general. A key aspect of Cicely Ward's role as Operations Manager is guiding people on how to progress both personally and professionally. Her role became particularly reactive in 2020 as remote working impacted the landscape of the HR profession. After quickly growing the team by 84.6% in 2020, and further developing the management team, Cicely realised that these changes to the company structure and team needed to be carefully managed. 

‘This is when I realised I wanted to launch the Embryo people development programme' says Cicely Ward, ‘not only did it benefit all of us, but It also set a high standard for the business and to show any new members of the team how much we value the importance of personal development.'

The development programme is twofold, with an overall structure to aid company progression and support the workforce. A tailored programme specifically for managers to implement provides guidance in managing a team across their departments and clients, whilst encouraging the team to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses. The second programme targets account managers and executives to help them with their own professional and personal development. ‘This programme' says Cicely Ward, ‘helps the team learn new skills, set goals, and review the additional reading set for each team member to take part in. One of which we study throughout is ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team' by Patrick Lencioni.
Whilst navigating the challenges for HR during remote working, it is extremely important that employers maintain regular contact with employees and create an open space to raise concerns. The development plan tackles these issues head-on as it allows us to dedicate set time with the line managers each month to communicate with each other and discuss our own progress.  

Why other businesses should be trialling this in the workplace

In light of the effects of the pandemic on business, HR leaders pivoted and adapted the ways they work and how staff workloads and company working were organised. The structure of the development programmes helps to accommodate employees transitioning to the new normal within the business landscape of working from home seamlessly. Embryo believes other businesses should be trialling their development plan in the workplace to not only help teams progress as much as possible with these adjustments, but also to provide as much support for them in doing so.
Key issues for HR leaders to target while working from home involve remote support and supervision, whilst also keeping staff engaged. This is something that the digital agency suggests is addressed by the 1-1 monthly meeting with the teams, specifically tailored to each department and speciality. For Embryo, this branches across departments including Digital PR, SEO, PPC, Social Media, Web Development and content. The limitations of a remote workforce are also challenged by phase two of the management programme, which assists in management processes and supports the growth of their own team's development.

Part of the management programme offers guidance in supporting mental health in the workplace. This recognises how companies need to balance workloads as well as providing an interest in well-being alongside productivity. Mental health-related workplace absences in 2020 soared to a cost of £14bn, increasing by £13.4bn from 2019, as reported in a study conducted by Westfield health.  Embryo recognises the issues faced in navigating the current working climate and believes that their development plan aids their employees by providing a continued point of focus.

The development programme is extremely useful for companies experiencing rapid company growth as we see society and business across the UK begin to get back on their feet after the turbulent economic impact of the pandemic in 2020. Embryo has seen a rise in headcount of 20 new starters in the last 12 months alone which is expected to continue increasing, calling for changes in internal HR, employment and management structures.
Cicely Ward comments ‘following the rapid growth towards the end of 2020, it became clear to me that providing the correct management guidance was crucial to help us remain stable for the opportunities ahead in 2021.'
As we move further into 2021 and adapt to new working situations business leaders and HR professionals must become more aware and conscious of ways in which workers can stay both professionally and emotionally connected. The Embryo Development plan shines a spotlight on how companies can aid in both professional and personal development and will potentially see an increase in interest from business leaders hoping to achieve a structure to accommodate this.