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Rawnet gears up for growth with fresh people strategy and processes to help its future business and culture flourish

Rawnet is a strategic digital agency expanding fast in a competitive digital talent sector. At a time of change, it needed expert support to build scalable people strategies while nurturing its creative commercial culture. 

Rawnet is a fast-growing firm supporting clients through strategic digital transformation. Adam Smith, its Managing Director, has overseen the evolution of a strong creative and commercial culture over two decades. 

When Rawnet was acquired by Castelnau Group in 2021, he wanted to grasp every opportunity for growth yet knew there would be new challenges. He foresaw a sharp rise in demand and increased team pressure, so brought in Gemma Hood from Culturehood to help. Rawnet now has a growth-focused people strategy that is cohesive, complete, and true to its values. 

Perfect time for a fresh perspective 

Adam recalled, “there was a ton of work to do. We had to grow fast. We had more and more staff, many of which wanted to code remotely. It was going to be harder and harder for our culture to remain intact.”

The task was to help Rawnet to grow while preserving the culture through change and reduce the risks of employee churn at a time when retaining scarce talent would be vital. Adam said: “Gemma came in just at the right moment, as we went from our culture happening naturally to needing proactive support.”

Adam recognised that Rawnet needed a fresh framework with customised processes. He required someone who understood the uniqueness of agency environments. He explained, “I needed someone who had done it before. I can spot agency people a mile off. I didn’t have to tell Gemma how an agency works. She has seen the same battles.” 

Through an in-depth discovery and design process, Gemma worked to understand the existing employee experience, assess the business’s needs, identify priorities, and design a strategic people model for an ambitious future. 

Building a brand for growth

Rapidly increasing workloads meant that Gemma’s first priority was recruitment. A good employer brand was a strategic necessity to attract new talent. Adam noted that “we had to take on a lot of talent very quickly, so Gemma advised us that we needed to work on values, employer branding, present ourselves better with an employer video, and get a proper onboarding process in place.”

To keep recruitment costs under control Gemma recommended more direct recruitment directly. Adam brought in Heather McKenzie as Head of Culture to fill that need, and the company now hire 85% of its people directly with significantly reduced associated costs.  

Gemma also wanted every candidate, successful or not, to have a great experience – and ensure that those that join aren’t lost early on. A slick and repeatable onboarding process helped joiners to feel part of the team and fully productive faster. Adam remarked, “we could have got there slowly with trial and error, but with Gemma we got there first time, and in a quarter of the time it would otherwise have taken.”

“Trust was never an issue. I knew Gemma would work tirelessly to achieve what she said she would. Bringing her in was definitely a smart move – she is passionate, energetic, and friendly, but she is also realistic and looks at the long term.”

Rawnet now boasts a 90-strong and highly engaged team. It has a 100% approval rating on employer review site Glassdoor, was named one of Campaign’s Best Places to Work in 2022 and has been shortlisted in the 2023 UK Company Culture awards in the ‘Best Team Culture’ category. 

Hybrid Leadership pressures

Rawnet has a hybrid workforce, which requires team leads to engage people effectively. As Adam sees it: “People who work remotely aren’t always exposed to the culture, but they do need to feel valued. You must keep them engaged.”

Gemma built Rawnet’s values into the heart of employee engagement. Helping team leads understand the importance of employee experience and a positive culture was essential, so she created the CultureLabs framework. Each lead owns an area, so that they can deliver against milestones within the key pillars of employee experience. 

Participating in Slack channel chats around these has made her seem part of the team, Adam noted: “Most people assume Gemma works here, because she acts as part of the business, working with our team leads and presenting at our quarterly meetings.” 

 

The response has been positive, he confirmed: “Our team leads truly appreciate Gemma’s help. They are becoming better managers as they understand the softer side of people management. Having someone who listens and helps them achieve is welcomed.” 

Gemma created a Rawnet Legends mechanism for managers and co-workers to recognise and reward excellence, also encouraging Adam to supercharge employee benefits, enhance maternity/paternity offers, and introduce private medical insurance. She also instituted quarterly employee Pulse surveys: a safe space for staff to feed back.

the company now hire 85% of its people directly with significantly reduced associated costs. 

Impacting business through people

The outcomes of a more mature employer approach are crystal clear to Adam.“Gemma has got us fully up to speed with all we need to do as good employers. To get full engagement, you need the right processes – not just doing things ad hoc.”

He certainly appreciates the value of retaining staff: “The longer people stay, the more valuable they become. Bringing in help around culture may sound fluffy and unquantifiable but it isn’t. Agency average annual churn rates can be 20-30% – people often leave after two years. A firm of 70 people might have to recruit 25 people a year. If they stay five years, it can save you hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

Rawnet is also keeping its talent: “Our turnover is now virtually zero. It’s very rare to lose people especially those who have properly settled in” he added. Adam gave Gemma the autonomy to build a people and culture strategy fit for the future.

 

He reflected: “Trust was never an issue. I knew Gemma would work tirelessly to achieve what she said she would. Bringing her in was definitely a smart move – she is passionate, energetic, and friendly, but she is also realistic and looks at the long term.”

He and his leadership team have learned to grow and manage a bigger business. He confirmed “Working with Gemma helped educate me that we must ensure everyone has their say, has a framework for development, knows what is expected, and has regular reviews. In a small business it can be informal, but that doesn’t work at scale.”

 

He concluded: “People don’t realise that you can outsource this kind of help. We outsourced the process and put in place the right steps to allow culture to flourish. That third-party view is invaluable.”

Rawnet now boasts a 90-strong and highly engaged team. It has a 100% approval rating on employer review site Glassdoor, was named one of Campaign’s Best Places to Work in 2022 and has been shortlisted in the 2023 UK Company Culture awards in the ‘Best Team Culture’ category. 

Find out more about Rawnets company culture here.

If you're a business owner looking to boost how you attract and retain talent without the guesswork, book a discovery call to discuss how Culturehood may be able to help.

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