Flushing Out Mistakes With Solid Systems And Protocols
November 3, 2020
Harmon Brothers is known for producing bold, unapologetic (and sometimes absurd) video ads. Their viral ad campaigns have helped clients (such as Squatty Potty, Poo Pourri, and Purple) reach over 1.4 billion views and drive over $350 million in sales.
But (unsurprisingly) they're not known for a traditional workplace.
“There's no 9-to-5 here," explains Kaitlin Snow, one of six Creative Directors at Harmon Brothers. "You come in when you want as long as you get your stuff done. Because of that kind of structure, we’re not as much of an organizational brain.”
And while a flexible environment may be great for creativity, the leadership team at Harmon Brothers soon realized it wasn’t supporting the business long term.
Convincing creatives to follow protocol
Without clearly documented systems and protocols, employees had no compass for doing what they do. Mistakes were being made not once, but repeatedly.
For example, team members were saving content under the wrong name or creating duplicate files. And these seemingly small mistakes created big problems for the creative directors over time.
Sometimes, teams would need to revisit a campaign 6 months or even years after they first produced it. And it would be difficult (impossible even) to find the data they needed.
This led to hours wasted on hunting down content that should be accessible in seconds. It was total chaos.
Kaitlin attempted to fix the problem by corralling the bones of the organization into a Google Doc. But she says it was like “pulling teeth” to get creative team members to read the 14-page manifesto.
But that wasn’t the only challenge the company was facing.
Drowning during onboarding
Harmon Brothers also had a historically bad onboarding process. On top of not having documented protocols, there was no standardized process for getting new creatives up to speed.
So a lot of the time, new hires were thrown in the deep end on Day 1 and told: "don't drown!" And veteran employees would have to get them out of the water or teach them how to swim.
But mostly, they were just getting them out of the water. Veteran employees would simultaneously need to complete their projects and get the newest team members up to speed. So they would often just complete the new hire's task for them, so they could get back what they needed to do.
This wasn't effective for anyone. New hires weren't learning how to succeed in their new role. And existing employees were wasting time that could be better spent elsewhere. Kaitlin knew there had to be a better way.
Teaming up with Trainual
That’s when the Harmon Brothers started documenting their business with Trainual, the world’s best onboarding software.
And Kaitlin and her fellow Creative Directors were pumped about the prospects. (They even captured Creative Director Mandy Harmon's reaction when she heard the news.)
Trainual finally meant they could present technical information in a way that would keep creatives engaged. And compared to her long-winded Google Doc that rarely ever got read, the new training software holds people accountable.
Now, Kaitlin assigns content directly to her team and tracks in Admin view who knows what. That way, she can follow up on any incomplete training before mistakes are made. Something she could never do with her Google Doc.
Plus, she can even test in-app whether or not someone understood their training.
Kaitlin told us, “the quizzes are helpful on the data side because you can see if they absorb the information and understand how to name our files correctly.” That way, when it comes time to apply that knowledge, everyone is confident about why and how it should be done.
Pushing out a playbook
Kaitlin has since turned her 14-page document into a Trainual. And has had wild success getting team members (new and existing) aligned on how Harmon Brothers does things.
She's even seen an uptick in consistency across the creative department. Meaning, fewer mistakes, easier data recall, and much happier clients.
And Harmon Brothers is gearing up to use the tool at scale. Spearheaded by Kaitlin and Katie Camilleti, Harmon Brothers' Director of Operations, the company is working to document their entire company in Trainual.
The duo has already white boarded all of the necessary Subjects for each role and divvied up the work. Now, they're partnering with other departments to actually build out the content.
Kaitlin is the first to admit that documenting your business takes some upfront work. But on the back end, the company saves an unprecedented amount of time. And it's well worth the effort.
Growing without growing pains
And thanks to having everything documented, the duo also instituted a smoother onboarding process.
When a new hire starts, all a manager needs to do is assign out the content they need to know. That way, new hires can learn at their own speed. (And in most cases, they get up to speed faster!)
But the duo has also created a robust orientation Subject to really introduce new team members to their company's culture. And it covers things like the company's unconventional hours, general need-to-knows, and more.
New employees now have one centralized place with everything they need to know for their new job. So they don’t have to rely on colleagues who are super busy with client projects.
And the same goes when someone gets promoted. Kaitlin can easily assign the Creative Direction at Harmon Brothers section to a newly-promoted creative director. And almost immediately, they know exactly what to expect and have clear plans of action.
Smooth moving with Trainual
By centralizing their knowledge in Trainual, the 50-person team at Harmon Brothers is more in sync than ever before.
New and existing employees know exactly where to go for answers. And they now understand the why behind what Harmon Brothers does - so they actually do it.
And when systems and protocols evolve, Kaitlin can update the content and roll it out in real-time.
The result is fewer mistakes, less hand-holding, and more time to focus on what they do best: creative, branded storytelling that sells.