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SinnerSchrader: The staff’s the thing

The happier the employees, the better they perform - digital agency breaking new ground in battle for talent

“Managing Director People & Culture” – the term scarcely trips of the tongue. But the job description of this new position at Hamburg’s SinnerSchrader digital agency is simple. The aim is to create an attractive, inspiring and motivating work environment, taking into account gender and diversity issues. In the job since 2017, Peggy Hutchinson is setting a good example as the first woman on SinnerSchrader’s eight-strong management team. Hamburg News spoke to her.

Hamburg News: What does the job “Managing Director People & Culture” imply?
Peggy Hutchinson: For us, the staff are the most important by far. That has always been the case, and it has always been a challenge to recruit and retain talent. This new position helps create a corporate culture that meets the needs of the staff. Both our private and our professional lives have become more volatile and complex, and we have to cope with this. Management’s task is to deal with these changes and find solutions to challenges that are new to us. In this way we can create a secure work environment for the staff to engage and work effectively.

Hamburg News: What are your aims in the agency world, which of them are easily attainable, and which more long-term?
Peggy Hutchinson: My constant aim is to have an agency in which people feel they are treated equally and so deploy their strengths. It’s important to have a trusting environment, so that staff are able to experiment and make mistakes to create the basis for disruptive product development. The courage to do and to change must be internalized. There are other major issues from the “People & Culture” aspect that must be pursued over the longer term. Diversity management – in all its aspects – is a top priority here. Breaking up outdated patterns takes place gradually, and starts with the thought – where is undiscovered talent yet to be found in the world.

Hamburg News: What’s important to staff today? Money? Fun and fulfilment? Work-life balance? Secure job?
Peggy Hutchinson: A wide range of different projects, with challenges on content and technically that allows the staff to test their boundaries is essential. People today are self-confident and want to be creative to move things along. Work-life balance must include individual, part-time models at all levels. I work part-time myself, so that I can spend time with my children and have a relaxed evening meal instead of coming home stressed out. Others have hobbies, or want to write a book – we aim to facilitate this.

Hamburg News: And money?
Peggy Hutchinson: Money is always an issue, certainly when jobs are plentiful. There is stiff competition for staff, and huge salaries are being demanded. We look over our pay structure once a year, and find solutions in consultation with our staff.

Hamburg News: SinnerSchrader is offering mentoring programmes on gender and diversity and similar. You’ve set yourselves the goal of a 50:50 ratio for speakers at the NEXT digital conference this month.
Peggy Hutchinson: Currently we have 60:40 ratio, with a male majority, but we are well on the way. At the start, we asked for women exclusively, and only when there were no applicants did we look for men.

Hamburg News: What can we expert at the NEXT?
Peggy Hutchinson: Global challenges that we can solve with digital technology are at the focus, as well as problems that have arisen as a result of digitalization. A handpicked group of 1,500 delegates will discuss issues such as making digitalization more human. You must not miss Virginia Dignum, an expert on Social Artificial Intelligence from Delft University of Technology, and Amber Case, a U.S. cyborg anthropologist. They are both investigating human-computer interaction and how we deal with the way that information changes how we think and act – the way in which information changes us and our environment.

Interview by: Yvonne Scheller

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