Inside WO: Jill Iannazzi on talent and culture building

WO’s Head of HR, Jill Iannazzi, started her career journey in business operations and now heads up our US talent and HR practice.

From fashion to driving culture 

I spent the last twelve years working in the design and innovation industry and I’ve always been interested in being at the intersection of art and business. I initially started my career in the fashion industry, however I always felt drawn to being part of a more creative atmosphere, so sought to move towards agency life. I joined an innovation and design firm and got exposure to helping build out their HR practices and shape internal culture, and it was here where I discovered what I was most passionate about; supporting and elevating the people I work with. From then on, I knew I was going to remain in the HR world. I went on to head up a small design agency in which I got the chance to reshape the entire HR practice, adding structure and implementing new initiatives to help them scale and grow. By the time I left, an office of 30 people had grown into a full blown global organisation. Now, I’m grateful to call Wolff Olins home, an agency that I had always aspired to work for someday. 

What makes someone a good cultural fit at WO

I’ve worked at several agencies and the culture at Wolff Olins is unlike any other. Our people want to spend time with each other outside of the office, they go to events together, they collaborate together and I think that makes WO truly special. When we recruit, we’re not only looking for a particular skillset, we’re looking for passion. We look for candidates with not only passion for what they do but also for the company they’re joining. I think that good candidates are able to stretch into thinking both strategically and creatively, and not just live in one narrow lane. All in all, I think talent out there knows Wolff Olins, not only because it’s a great name, but because they recognise they’ll get the opportunity to work with some of the best talent out there. 

How we create a culture that transcends borders

It all starts with leadership, and our Global CEO Sairah Ashman is truly the glue that holds the thread together across offices. She really sees the firm as a whole and no matter what initiatives we’re implementing, she makes sure it's right for the entire global business. She also does a great job of ensuring that we’re all communicating with one another and learning from each other - from our Global Crits to our Quarterly Meetings, we feel connected, even if we’re worlds apart. 

Recruiting in a pandemic 

The recruiting world is facing challenges that have never been experienced before. In order to deal with this new reality and the challenges of getting great talent, we’ve had to rethink our entire recruitment approach. No longer can we wait for talent to show up at our door, we have to actively find talent - and meet them where they are. I’m proud to say we’ve brought on an exceptional amount of new hires in the past year, and when you’re scaling that much, it’s vital that you have a strong recruitment strategy in place that can vet who is the right fit. 

Goals and aspirations 

Since day one, I’ve been working around evolving our professional development program. It’s vital for our people to understand how to grow at WO and to help them plan for their future professional ambitions. When you lay a strong professional development foundation, you encourage employees to invest their time into the company. Helping them establish tangible goals and giving them the tools to reach those is key to retaining talent, especially in today’s challenging job market. A big focus area for me is to continue to build new initiatives that will help shape our internal culture and differentiate us from other agencies. This is a pivotal time in which we have to draw from what has made us previously successful, but also reevaluate how to be the best agency to work for in the future. 

Rewriting the handbook for the future of work

The last few years have taught us to be agile, proactive, and adapt in the time of the "new normal." We have the ability to rewrite the handbook for how companies will work in the future, and, to me, that’s incredibly exciting. As our leadership team thinks about our ‘Return to Studio’ plan, we’ve wanted to stay away from following trends, and instead focus on what works for us, and for our people. We’ve noticed that our people thrive being in-person; it fuels creativity and collaboration. So we’ve established a hybrid model, one that allows our people those collaboration moments, but also ensures that everyone is set up for success wherever they’re working - home, studio, or elsewhere. This year, we’ve also given our people the opportunity to expense the technology and furniture needed to better equip their personal workspaces.