“Quality is one of the cornerstones of this agency, so candidates who demonstrate quality in their work is an imperative,” says FSC Interactive President McKenzie Coco of the marketing agency’s approach to hiring. It is largely due to this commitment to quality that CareerBuilder recently recognized FSC as the winner of the 2014 Big Strides in Small Business Award, which recognizes small businesses for their innovative hiring and workforce development efforts.
Located in New Orleans, La., FSC specializes in social media and search marketing strategy. In the past two and a half years, FSC has doubled in size, from 12 employees to 25, an experience that has been “very strenuous, but very exciting as well,” according to Coco.
With such rapid growth, hiring the right people for the right roles is crucial at FSC, where the hiring process includes three rounds of interviews and a challenge: Candidates must present a creative proposal or analysis based on a case study of one of FSC’s current or past client to the agency’s leadership team. The exercise, Coco says, provides insight into the candidates’ quality of work, presentation styles and their thought processes.
Though the three-tiered hiring process may seem intense, Coco credits FSC’s high retention rate to this approach, as it sets employees’ expectations from the very beginning:
“Onboarding new staff members is even harder than onboarding new clients, so we want to make sure we make the right choice first in the very beginning, and that the employees are happy and successful in the work environment.”
A Commitment to Culture
When it comes to retaining employees at FSC, culture is key. “You spend more of your waking time at work than you do at home with your family and loved ones, so it was really important for us to create a good and energetic environment where employees can thrive,” Cocos says. With that in mind, four years ago, Coco and the rest of the management team created the FSC Code, which encompasses FSC’s mission statement and philosophy.
“The Code paints a really good picture of what we’re about. Should employees have any ethical questions in terms of what they should or should not do, they can refer to the code to understand what they should be doing.”
In addition to the culture, employees enjoy the sense of autonomy they are given at FSC, where it is all about empowering employees. “We hire people we know are talented and smart enough to be able to get the job accomplished. We give them direction and guidance, but they have the freedom to express their expertise and their creativity in their work. There’s very little micromanaging here.”
Part of that empowerment involves giving employees the resources they need to thrive in their roles, such as continuing education, which is crucial in the ever-evolving industry of search and social media. All FSC employees have access to a budget dedicated to training and professional development, which they can use toward anything from taking design classes to attending national conferences.
The company also sponsors monthly “Think and Drink” events, on-site happy hours where employees have the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and share knowledge in a laid-back, fun atmosphere.
When it comes to vetting future employees, FSC is laying the foundation by working with local colleges and universities (like University of New Orleans, Loyola and Tulane) to educate students about opportunities in online marketing.
“We see a lot of potential candidates come out of school with a basic understanding of what online marketing is, but there aren’t many 200- or 300-level classes available,” Coco says. In effort to bridge this skills gap and raise awareness about the skills this industry needs, FSC employees frequently appear as guest speakers in undergraduate classes and speak on panels about the classes colleges need to offer. The agency also has a robust internship and onboarding program designed to teach the skills incoming employees will need in order to be successful in their roles.
FSC’s outreach doesn’t end with the local colleges, however. The company regularly donates services to local nonprofits in effort to empower the community around it. “We’re constantly trying to impart knowledge and teach people (who may not be able to afford to outsource or hire someone like us) some basic things they could do themselves to help elevate their business,” Coco says.
It’s also not unusual to see an FSC employee speaking at a women’s business organization, a chamber or a small business association or volunteering with a local organization like Habitat for Humanity and Junior Achievement. “We try to do as much as possible to give back to New Orleans, because they give so much to us.”
Watch FSC Interactive’s video entry for the 2014 Big Strides in Small Business Award: