By Diane Domeyer, Executive Director, The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms.
What can your business do to become more effective at recruiting and retaining top creative talent?
I know that’s a burning question for many creative leaders navigating today’s highly competitive hiring market. Managers in the creative space have told me they worry not only about being able to staff their current projects adequately but also whether they can access the right talent for future opportunities when they arise.
Their concerns are reflected in surveys by our company on the state of creative hiring in the United States. Ninety-two percent of hiring decision makers say it’s challenging to find skilled creative professionals today. And 78 percent of companies are worried about losing current creative staff members to other job opportunities in the next 12 months.
There is no simple formula to make an organization more effective at hiring and retaining in-demand creative professionals. That’s because so many factors — from organizational culture to clientele — can influence an employer’s ability to attract top talent. Still, I believe one way companies can gain an edge over other firms trying to hire is by learning what’s most important to today’s creatives, which may not be what you think.
My recommendation is based in part on findings from the Creative Workplace survey of more than 1,000 industry practitioners, which was conducted by The Creative Group in partnership with AIGA. The goal of the survey was to find out how creative professionals really feel about their jobs, companies and career prospects. We also consulted a number of creative team managers to learn how they’re keeping up with the changing expectations of workers. What we found from both groups led to these recommendations to increase your odds of hiring and holding onto in-demand professionals:
1. Be More Flexible About Where Your Creative Team Members Do Their Work.
Nearly seven in 10 creative professionals in our survey said they wish they could work from home or at another non-company site more frequently than they currently do; only 30 percent of respondents said they prefer to always go into the office. Yet about one-third (36 percent) of employers don’t allow their creative teams to work remotely at all, according to our research. If your company is currently among them, you may want to consider changing your policy.
Without question, managing a dispersed team can be challenging for creative leaders. But our survey suggests that offering alternative work arrangements, such as telecommuting, flextime and compressed workweeks, is a good way to boost your ability to secure skilled talent. You can expect more leading employers to do the same because they will be feeling pressure from their workforce.
Just make sure your creative staff members, no matter where they work, have access to the right tools for communication and collaboration. And, as often as possible, gather your team together in one place. Even though many creative pros want the option to work off-site, nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents to the Creative Workplace survey said in-person meetings are the most effective way for them to communicate with their teammates.
2. Give Your Team Resources and Support to Develop Their Skills.
Helping employees grow their skills has long been a best practice for retention — and providing compelling training opportunities can prompt new talent to join the business, too.
However, according to the Creative Workplace survey, many employers need to do a better job of providing support to creative staff who want to acquire new skills: A strong majority— 88 percent — of creative professionals told us that they’re worried about keeping their skills up to date. And more than half of the survey respondents (58 percent) said they think the quality of training resources and opportunities their company provides is either fair or poor.
I haven’t met a creative professional who doesn’t want access to training that will help them stay marketable as they advance in their career. What they want in particular is the opportunity to learn new technology that can help them work more efficiently or to experiment with emerging technology, like artificial intelligence. And yet, the Creative Workplace survey found that 70 percent of creative workers view their company’s efforts to prepare them for new tech adoption as either fair or poor.
Given these findings, it’s safe to say that helping your creative staff continuously build new, relevant and even leading-edge skills can go a long way toward positioning your firm as an employer of choice.
3. Ensure Access To A Pipeline of Skilled Talent By Embracing New Staffing Models.
The current shortage of skilled creative professionals is likely to persist into the foreseeable future. So, even if your business becomes more successful at recruiting and retaining talent, there no doubt will be times when you still won’t have enough creative staff to handle all the work coming in from your clients. Or, you may lack access in-house to specialized expertise that certain projects demand — like digital initiatives that require both creative and technical skills.
Like many employers, you’ll likely turn to outside resources, such as freelancers, for support when these situations arise. But you can expect the competition for high-caliber freelance talent to get tougher, too — and soon. According to the Creative Workplace survey, 37 percent of creative teams say they will rely more heavily on freelancers in the next three years.
To avoid a last-minute scramble for creative talent and other types of skilled professionals, I see many companies embracing flexible labor models. They rely on a mix of core full-time employees along with interim and project-focused professionals and on-demand specialists. Collaborating with a managed services provider for strategic marketing, design and digital initiatives is also becoming more common. Seamless communication with your in-house project manager helps your project stay on track and on budget. This approach also allows you to scale, so you have staff as you need them based on business objectives. In addition, it gives you access to specialized skill sets outside of the creative industry, such as technology, legal and administration.
Following through on the action items outlined above aren’t the only things your business can do to help ensure it has access to an ample supply of creative talent. For example, providing competitive compensation is always a must. But by stepping up to offer more flexible work arrangements and upskilling opportunities to your creative staff, you’ll likely be moving closer to the expectations of many in-demand professionals. And by opening the door to new staffing models, you can worry less about whether your organization can handle future challenges and opportunities.