Case Study

PHD Launches Programs with Reflektive and Ranks #1 Agency for People Development

The Challenge

For many years, PHD has been known in the agency world for its people first culture that generates a unique and infectious working environment. Based in the Sydney office, Manon Pietra, People and Development Director, and Gemma Weaver, People and Development Specialist, were looking to incorporate this ethos into PHD’s people strategy and performance programs.

As the fastest growing media network in Australia, PHD sought to move away from their traditional approach to performance reviews and develop an employee-centric process focused on positive reinforcement. Their key objectives in building new performance programs were to drive retention and engagement, and to continue their legacy as an employer of choice.

The Solution

PHD leadership understood that performance couldn’t be solved with only reviews. They needed a multi-pronged approach to boost productivity, alignment, and engagement. With a nod to PHD’s innovative culture, they launched several programs with Reflektive.

Measuring Employee Sentiment with Engagement Surveys

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, PHD started using Reflektive’s Engagement solution. “Given all of the changes with COVID, we sent weekly pulse surveys to better understand how employees were feeling. The other positive benefit of these frequent surveys was that it encouraged the leadership team to meet more often, with the goal of acting on our survey insights,” said Gemma.

Empowered with data, the exec team addressed what was top of mind for their employees: work-life balance and feelings of isolation. As a result, PHD leaders would block off their calendars starting at 5:30 pm, and encourage their teams to do so as well. They also held social events such as virtual happy hours and virtual team lunches.

“These simple actions really improved morale,” said Manon. “We then shortened our pulse survey – this was really easy in Reflektive – and only included one question. We wanted to hear what was on employees’ minds, so we could action changes and address them in our All-Staff Meetings.”

Using OKRs and Performance Reviews to Boost Employee Development

PHD also implemented a modern approach to goal-setting and performance reviews. The company adopted the OKR framework to add structure to the goal-setting process, but also sought to empower employees with developmental goals. Manon and Gemma trained employees on the different types of goals, including:

  • Technical & Performance
  • People & Partnerships
  • Training & Development

Employees used Reflektive’s “Key Results” functionality to share specific actions that they would take to accomplish their objective. Once again, PHD added their creative touch to this performance program. Per Manon, “In the Key Results, we encouraged employees to focus on qualitative results rather than quantitative ones. We really wanted to focus on professional growth and the development of soft skills, and qual results – such as ‘improve presentation skills’ and ‘foster more communication on my team’ – help to support that.”

In their performance discussions, PHD incorporated Reflektive goals to provide managers with quick insights on whether the employee was on-track, behind, or ahead on their projects. They also enhanced their performance reviews program to focus on positive reinforcement and continuous improvement, rather than a “what went wrong” approach.

Manon and Gemma scheduled a Reflektive 360-review with questions on what employees are doing well. To complement the 360-review, PHD also launched informal check-ins that pull in Reflektive’s Conversation Starter questions. The company used the following development-focused topics from Reflektive in their check-ins:

  • What are some highlights of your performance since your last check-in? Have there been any significant challenges?
  • How can your manager (and team) best support you while we continue to work remotely?
  • How can your manager help create more clarity and/or opportunity for growth over the next 3-6 months?

With their enhanced performance review program, PHD saw a 95% completion rate. Reflektive’s technology also saved time for managers, and helped the HR team with automated emails and easy progress tracking.

“We love that we can continuously evolve our process with Reflektive — including both the review format and the questions,” said Gemma.

Evolving Recognition for a Remote Workforce

Finally, PHD developed and enhanced their recognition program to instill their key values. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, PHD had a “Recognition Tree” in their office. Employees provided kudos on the tree’s leaves. Associates would recognize peers that embodied PHD’s values of “curiosity”, “collaboration”, and “courage”.

When PHD pivoted to a remote work environment, they used Reflektive’s Recognition Wall to bring their values to life. They leveraged Reflektive’s hashtags to reinforce their values, and encouraged employees to provide recognition during their All-Staff Meetings. “People post recognition every day,” said Gemma. “With Reflektive, employees can recognize both individuals and teams — it fits so well with our project-based work at PHD.”

The percentage of PHDers that received Reflektive Recognition increased by 144% from March to April, when employees started working remotely. Employees continue to provide more virtual recognition than they have before. Per Manon, “Recognition really drives positive sentiment at PHD. It reinforces our culture, and brings satisfaction when you see that coworkers recognize you for your hard work.”

The Results

PHD’s innovative approach to performance management helped generate powerful results for the company while reinforcing its culture of continuous improvement. Not only did PHD’s employee engagement outpace its peers, but its employer brand was recognized as the best in Australia.

Employee Engagement Results

  • 95% of PHDer’s feel that they have the opportunity for growth (compared to 77% industry-wide)
  • 98% of PHDer’s believe that their company “has clear values which are communicated and respected by all staff”
  • Workforce happiness levels at PHD are 14% higher than their industry average

Employer Brand Awards

  • PHD is ranked the #1 agency in Australia for its commitment to people’s development
  • 2020 HRD Most Innovative Award
  • Employer of Choice Finalist, HR Awards 2020
  • Most Innovative HR Team, HRD 2020
  • Employer of Choice, Australian Business Awards – August 2019
  • HR Management, Australian Business Awards – August 2019

PHD, an Omnicom Media Group Company, has 6,000 people in over 100 offices worldwide. Driven by their philosophy of “finding a better way”, PHD is renowned for being one of the most innovative media agencies by challenging convention and breaking new ground in communications thinking.

Media Agency

Year Founded

London, UK


Leading the way in the evolution of global comms planning

curiosity, courage, openness, creativity, collaboration


“2020 has been a tough year for businesses around the world, but Reflektive really helped us boost our company culture and improve employee sentiment. Reflektive has enabled us to thoughtfully pivot when we couldn’t do it otherwise.”

Manon Pietra
People and Development Director

“We love that we can continuously evolve our process with Reflektive”

Gemma Weaver
People and Development Specialist

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