What's the one main challenge for anyone trying to create a world-class creative team? Finding the time to develop the team into an internal powerhouse that can compete with external agencies for the best and most inspiring work.
According to a 2016 Paychex survey,53% of employees claim they left their previous jobs because their "employers didn't care about employees," and 29% left due to "lack of skill development."
On top of that, survey responses from the 2014 In-House Creative Services Industry Report show that managers typically do not have the time to step away from the firehose of production work to identify career paths for the best and brightest.
Without the proper attention from managers, staff turnover increases, creating a vicious cycle where the team loses its star performers and remains too junior to compete for the best work.
We spoke with some of the most successful internal creative agency leaders in the business about how they're helping improve employee retention by focusing on career growth and development. Here are four of their tried-and-tested strategies for developing and coaching creatives:
1. Commit to Developing a World-Class Agency
People development does not happen by accident. Creative leaders must embrace an existing company-wide commitment to people development, or form their own programs. This means finding ways to develop contract/freelance workers as well. This is one distinct advantage of being an internal agency within a larger organization: leaders must communicate this commitment.
Find out what your creative team is interested in, both together and individually. Help them strengthen their skill set by promising to cover the cost of an online course or creating a sandbox where the team can go in and play around with a new tool. Investing in their interests will benefit both their career and yours as a leader.
2. Know the Nature of the Work
A prerequisite for structuring a talent development program is finding the time. The best leaders have a thorough, up-to-the-minute understanding of all production work and all true development work in the pipeline; including the people doing that work day in and day out. Creative management software solutions become invaluable when it comes to visualizing a team’s workload and efforts.
Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. When your team needs design or production support, jump in and assist where needed. Make sure you're agile enough to shift workloads around or call for all hands on deck when there's a hiccup in a project or deadline approaching. At the end of the day, your objectives are dependent on them meeting theirs.
3. Create Opportunities to Flex Creative Muscles
All production work and no development work makes Jane an unhappy designer. Great managers address staff fatigue by moving people across teams as necessary to ensure they are exposed to the right mix of development and production work.
Allowing your team to gain experience in all aspects of creative will help them not only build out their skill set, but provide you with a well-rounded, talented team (not to mention a force to be reckoned with).
4. Use Work Clusters to Build Career Paths
Identifying large "clusters" of work helps you recognize the superstars within your own team.
For example, if the majority of your team's work consists of event marketing, sales region support, and web development, you've just identified three main clusters. This means you've now created opportunities to raise your top performers to team/cluster leads.
By delegating leadership and trusting your team members to step up and shine, you've addressed their need for career growth and given yourself time to focus on the strategic aspects of building your world-class creative team.
But First, Check Your Vantage Point
None of these four strategies are possible without a clear view into the work coming through the pipeline.
Creative management software solutions offer this view with the click of a mouse. By implementing software solutions, there is less time spent on weekly reports, email updates, and management check-ins. And it gives leaders the tools they need to properly assess the development of each person on the team.
When we invest time and effort to understanding the work process and its patterns, we build the scaffolding for proper talent development, and the career satisfaction of each member.
Author Bio: Kate Thome is a writer and consultant. In over 15 years in banking and payments in various marketing, analytics and risk-related roles, Kate developed a keen understanding of the internal workings of marketing and creative organizations. At Visa, she served clients as the Head of US Risk Services. Also at Visa, she was a Consumer Credit consultant supporting clients in developing their card product strategies and in managing their marketing cost structures. She led direct marketing teams at HSBC and Capital One (formerly Hibernia National Bank). Kate was a participant in the Management Development Program at MBNA. She holds an M.B.A. in Marketing and Finance from the Freeman School at Tulane University and a B.A. in Philosophy from the College of the Holy Cross. Her writing appears on LinkedIn, Mutha Magazine and Talking Soup. She blogs about her memoir in process at http://irememberthatnight.blogspot.com. Kate lives with family in Northern California. Follow Kate on Twitter @kthome219.