Primate | Digital Agency Edinburgh

What is your cultural temperature?

What’s your cultural temperature? 

‘Culture’ - it’s become the whirling dervish of profit-proofing strategies, zoom sessions, and seminars, as the business world heads off media hollering that a mega-recession looms. 

Culture was permeating business long before the global pandemic, a societal shift in mindset, a swing towards an employees market, and yet there’s a noticeable outpouring of the ‘positive culture changes’ you should be making appearing across LinkedIn and social media. 

The Primate Culture 

I’m insanely proud of the culture we’ve built at Primate, but it wasn’t seismically shifted in the wake of Covid-19, it’s been the true linchpin in our agency.

From the day Primate was founded, culture has played a crucial role. It’s been a catalyst for our success and it’s intrinsically challenged our profitability. It has impacted everything from our hiring decisions to the clients we approach, the relationships we curate to the energy in our studio, the vibrancy of our work and, most importantly, the health and wellbeing of our team. 

We have always offered fully flexible working from any location, yet more importantly we’ve developed an expectation that if anyone feels unwell physically or mentally, they’ll take some time off until they feel better again. In a recent finance meeting, we were asked by someone external if we’d sacrifice culture, in search of higher profitability, and the answer without hesitation was no. 

I believe passionately that positive culture and excessive profitability cannot go hand in hand. The billionaires of Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg and more are not ethically possible. They require one portion of the workforce to be underpaid and overworked. A trait the Creative / Ad industries have also been renowned to leverage. 

Taking our own temperature 

In reflecting on our culture, with the plan of extolling our virtues and learnings, I realised it had been a long time since we took the ‘cultural temperature’ of our agency. I quickly shared an anonymous questionnaire to see if we really are living our values and delivering the workplace we want to, or if we’re well off the mark. As one of our values is ‘Always Honest’, here are some shorthand results - 

We first asked our team how they would describe the culture at Primate, answers included: 

  • Friendly
  • Relaxed
  • People-First
  • Inclusive
  • Supportive
  • Flexible
  • Collaborative
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Driven

There were no negative takeaways, and our brand values (or synonyms of them) made the list - Always honest, embrace progress, include everyone, have no fear. 

In asking what our team valued most at Primate: 

  • a whopping 91% chose Flexibility
  • another 91% chose The People 
  • whilst only 16% selected The Pay Cheque

In asking what their driving ambition was, and what they wanted in future (choosing their top 3) we were surprised and realised we have a major gap to fill - 

  • Training/ Education, was 75% 
  • Making more money, was 50% 
  • Doing more social good & 4 days weeks, tied at 41% 

Of course people want and should aspire to earn more money, we are living through a cost of living crisis. However, given we’ve always felt Education was a key part of our offering to the team, that 75% figure was stark and needs a lot of work.  

Everything evolves - life, digital, work & culture 

Culture is evolving, it is everything and it is intangible. It’s not our free milk or our very agency work space (0% selected The Office Space as top 3 value). Our success is clearly treating people as people, and trusting them to be productive with the autonomy of flexibility. 

Whilst many sectors remain unable to adopt the sort of working principles that we offer - the NHS or factories as two key examples - I don’t believe we should be herding everyone back into the office just because some of our society cannot work from home. We should be testing the theory, the practice, the challenges, the major issues, the vast benefits, and collectively sharing and feeding into a change within society that’s much larger than ourselves.

In the 1890s, manufacturing employees were working 80 - 100 hour weeks, life expectancy was a mere 40 years. 

In the 1920’s Henry Ford created the 40 hour working week, because people needed ‘downtime’ to buy things and grow the economy, alas not because we all needed to work less. 

In 2022, it’s time we tried another revolution and fully embraced flexibility, supporting those other sectors with our learnings as we go. It’s worked for Primate for 12 years, let’s make it the positive cultural legacy of the past two years. 

When was the last time you asked your team about your culture, what they love, what they need? Highly recommend, 10/10, create your questionnaire this afternoon.