We’re humbled and excited to announce that The Tennessean has named GS&F one of the 2020 Top Workplaces for Middle Tennessee for the second straight year. The award, grounded in continual organizational improvement, recognizes past growth while signifying a positive upward trajectory and exciting things to come.
“To us, this is a report card from our staff on how we are doing as an organization,” says Adam Winstead, VP, Human Resources & Operations. “The award is reassurance that our efforts to build a good life for our employees are ringing true to our team.”
However, to Winstead, the award is more a “gut-check” for GS&F’s culture—not the end goal. “It can’t mean we stop moving forward,” he says. “We must always listen, learn and improve.”
In that spirit, and to celebrate this exciting recognition, we’re happy to highlight a few initiatives at GS&F that seek to make us, our work, our community and our world better.
Diversity & Inclusion
As our country continues the ongoing work of combating racism, our agency quickly became aware that we were not doing all we could to make GS&F an inclusive, supportive, anti-racist environment. We reignited the Diversity & Inclusion committee, sponsored by Emilie Guthrie, VP, Director of Account Management, to create a plan of action that will make our agency much more reflective of the real world where our work lives.
“We have much work to do within our own walls to attract and retain talent that better represents the people we hope to connect with in the work we create,” committee member Neely Tabor acknowledges. “And our team is really holding us accountable to expose our biases and blind spots so we can create an environment where everyone feels safe and heard.” When we’re an even more diverse set of thinkers and creators, we’ll be even better at connecting with our audiences and their varied backgrounds.
The committee brings together six unique individuals under a common goal of equality. Representing different races, genders, places of origin and sexual orientations, “we are hopeful that together we can create a more colorful and creative GS&F,” Tabor says.
Immediate efforts include addressing GS&F’s current culture effectively in order to create a plan of action unique to our agency’s needs. According to Tabor, “We’re also making valuable connections in our community and beyond so that we are not continuing to think and problem solve in similar patterns.” When it comes to our work, we’re creating new ways we can review our output more critically to ensure we never publish work that spreads stereotypes or is offensive.
While we have a long road ahead and much work is still to be done, we are committed to seeing it through and living out our values of accountability in new and deeper ways.
Amplify helps us educate, encourage and empower our managers to reach their full potential in a consistent yet radical way. When leading the initiative, “I point to our brand purpose: bringing out the best in each other,” says Guthrie. “Our managers are the future of the agency. When our people are growing, we all grow.”
As a result, Guthrie has seen managers grow in confidence, measure success in growth of their teams, and tackle hard conversations more effectively. “Now more than ever before our managers have encountered some tough moments, and we want to provide as much support and encouragement as we can,” Guthrie mentions. “The future will be focused on real-time resources to help them navigate each moment while bringing out the best in themselves and their teams.”
Whether it’s simply catching up with their team members, giving feedback when it’s tough or fostering trust along the way, our leadership works with managers to create an environment of advocacy, positivity and accountability.
At GS&F, we work hard and play hard—but we also recognize the need for a break in between. That’s where Hard Refresh comes in. The program “came out of the desire to implement learning workshops that didn’t follow the standard ‘lunch & learn’ format,” says Kristin Nelson, Director of Public Relations. “We wanted to allow our Friends to give themselves the mental space to learn and grow.”
We’ve explored everything from decision-making and self-doubt to improv acting and brainstorming. One workshop helped our teams shape a productive feedback process and improved both our team members and our work. And Hard Refresh helps us disrupt our own day-to-day approach, just like we work to disrupt our clients’ industries with fresh thinking.
On the docket for future Hard Refresh sessions is a course in presentation skills. “It embodies more than just building a presentation deck and public speaking,” Nelson says. “We want to help our teams understand holistically how things like their presence and engagement drive persuasive presentations—even in virtual form.”
The GS&F Community Committee inspires the agency to fulfill our brand promise by investing in the surrounding Nashville community and beyond through outreach and partnerships.
When Nashville weathered a tornado in early 2020 the committee quickly organized donations, cleanups and more, even allocating donations from those out of town who wanted to help. “Areas in need were changing daily, and we quickly pivoted to be boots on the ground in the communities that needed the most support,” recalls Mary Ann Chipkevich, Senior Media Planner/Buyer.
“We had teams out every day during the week of the tornado cleaning up in different locations and helping anywhere they could. Seeing the agency come together and bring in so much for others was wonderful.”
Check out this list of resources still working to rebuild Nashville after the tornado.
Currently, the team is working on a voting initiative. “We hope to get people at GS&F and beyond signed up to vote, provide resources and unbiased information for staff to conduct their own research, make everyone aware of key voting dates, and offer one-on-one support for questions on how to register to vote,” Chipkevich explains.
Health & Wellness
Designed intentionally to provide resources and tips to our Friends, the Health & Wellness committee exists to better our minds, souls and bodies. Connecting on this level has proven to be a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re always up for some creative problem-solving.
As part of the initiative, Kate Brock, UX designer, leads the team in a monthly Post-It challenge. “At the beginning of each month we like to reset our intentions and get back on track,” she says. “On a Post-It, we write what we want to accomplish this month, what we’re grateful for, and a motto to set the mood for the month.”
The committee also started weekly Coffee Talks—an hour of dedicated non-work talk—and Every Hour on the Hour, a Slack channel devoted to getting up for a mini-workout throughout the day, twice a week.
Brock acknowledges that this committee is a big step for GS&F when it comes to accountability. “We have a lot of growing to do to better represent the agency,” she says. Looking forward, the committee will continue to work on finding the best ways to support our teams’ health, making us all more available to influence our world for the better.
Working to Be Better
At GS&F, we look forward to listening, learning and becoming better for our community and our world. Learn more about who we are here, and get in touch! We’d love to meet you.