BY KARYN BRODSKY
How an innovative ad agency CEO helps employees achieve a work-life balance
Are you a female member of the workforce with children or spouse who depend on you? Have a new baby? Dealing with a serious illness? Caring for aging parents? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are you know how difficult it can be to juggle each part of your world.
Though some of today’s workplaces still need to adopt policies to promote a healthy work-life balance, many have evolved and are making strides in their efforts to address life events. One such company that feels that company culture should be respectful and empathic during life’s challenges is the Colle McVoy advertising agency in Minneapolis, MN.
Colle McVoy was recently recognized as one of three Best Companies for Working Mothers by She Runs It (formerly Advertising Women of New York). Each year, the award acknowledges marketing and media companies that empower the leadership of women, including working moms.
CEO Christine Fruechte, who’s been at Colle McVoy since 2004 and CEO since 2006, says that work culture is important, for both women and men. It includes being cognizant that everyone has unique lifestyles, needs, and situations outside of work.
“To nurture 240 people starts with transparency and creating an environment where people can thrive. We try to do what’s ‘right,’” she explains. “This is our employees’ company; we survey them about what we can make better and meet face-to-face each month to discuss these topics.”
Fruechte says that she and the agency encourage people to be their “unique selves” and be able to express themselves, especially since they work in an industry of innovation and creativity. She points to four keys to success: prioritizing self-care—if you’re not happy or healthy, you can’t do your job well; creating boundaries and setting expectations—work will always be there, but people need to go home and free their minds from work; focusing on what matters by prioritizing the two or three things that are important; and finally, realizing that life is a journey, not a destination—you need to enjoy it.
Tenure at Colle McVoy is longer than national average, and Fruechte says that’s because everyone is very supportive of each other.
“Everyone’s definition of happiness is different; we lead with empathy and employ flexibility. For instance, we have core working hours, but there is flexibility,” she says. “In addition, our culture starts from the top down, as it’s vital that our leadership supports our people. Fifty percent of our leadership team is female, and many are parents, so they provide a unique, balanced perspective.”
Colle McVoy offers working parents an extended parental leave policy, a gradual return to work policy for moms and dads and a supportive work environment and mothers’ rooms for lactating moms. The agency also hires women during all stages of pregnancy, because, as Fruechte says, what matters is if the woman has relevant experience and will be a valued addition to the team.
“This sends a very strong message to our staff about our support for working mothers,” Fruechte explains.
In addition, five years ago, long before the #MeToo movement, Colle McVoy started a female leadership and empowerment program called Fostering, Inspiring, Relating, and Enriching (F.I.R.E.). The agency promotes employee growth with reimbursement for workshops, conferences, completing college degrees and masters’ degrees. Its Inclusion Council works to support those of various genders, cultures, religion, cultures, age, and more.
Colle McVoy features a “Zen Den” health and wellness room, which includes massage and other types of relaxation to decrease stress. They sponsor physical health challenges with activities throughout the summer months, and every fall they host a Wellness Week complete with career advice, financial planning, and health tips. The agency also subsidizes bike and computer loans and contributes to the purchase of park passes, marathons, and bike races.
Colle McVoy has been named a Best Place to Work for the last eight years by many outlets, Fruechte notes. Since 2016, the agency has been voluntarily audited to receive an Equal Pay Certificate of Compliance from the State of Minnesota. They also have been certified through the Minnesota Affirmative Action Plan for employing diverse and disabled employees.
Fruechte is proud that Colle McVoy is a trailblazer in making certain its workplace offers a positive, supportive environment, while extending understanding and compassion to employees as they juggle work and life events.
“It’s one thing to say an organization is flexible; we actually walk the walk,” she says. “It’s great to be in a place where you can do the right thing.”