Saturday, August 26, 2017

3 Tips for Retaining Great Creative Talent

Can in-house agencies be as creative as out-of-house agencies?

Earlier this week, The Drum published this interview with AirBnB CMO, Johnathan Mildenhall who is in the middle of a creative review for the brand but "says the management consultancies are not in contention, believing they’re incapable of retaining great creative talent".

Which is interesting, as he seems to think that in-house agencies, and out-of-house agencies in general, are capable of retaining great creative talent.

Overall, I'd say that's a good thing, but in-house (and out-of-house) agencies often have a lot of trouble retaining talent, too. There are a few areas that companies can focus on, in addition to making the right hires in regards to skill sets and with the right "fit" in terms of personalities that will work well together.

Value of Creative:

Many times in-house agencies are creatively strapped compared to their out-of-house counterparts. Innovative projects and "blue sky thinking" tend to go to the outside agency and the in-house folks are left to execute. Creativity is either squashed or just not nourished in the same way as at out-of-house agencies. There needs to be a space where collaboration can happen, where ideas can be pinned up and shared among the team. The technology to create needs to be valued as well, so that teams have the tools to do their jobs. You wouldn't ask an accountant to do their job without something to be able to calculate with--and for creative teams there is an overhead cost for getting people set up with the tech they need.

Creativity also flourishes better when there is a system of trust in place. For employees to know that they are trusted and free to explore their creativity is critical. And nearly as critical is to understand that you've hired an expert who has likely studied their field and should be looked to for advice and know-how, not just as "short order" cooks. Value what they bring to the table is important to keeping them happy (just like any other employee in any department).

Corporate Culture:

Cultivating a creative environment is not a core competency at many corporations. Many times that also stems from the general culture of a company or priorities where Operations, bottom lines, and many other factors tend to get higher priorities. As companies look to bring more work in-house, they need to consider how they will allow creative to flourish in its own pocket within the larger company to achieve greater results. Consider what your agency's environment was like, and then think about what the environment is like for your in-house team. Is it comparable or does it need to be improved with features to help drive better creative thinking?

In some cases, companies have set up in-house agencies as their own entities within the company, which provides some more flexibility and new structures to be more easily set up rather than trying to retrofit existing processes which can be more difficult or not make sense. This can help keep creative from becoming too embedded into the company as well, leaving the ideation free from all the nitty-gritty that folks in marketing will bring to the table (legal/etc) that should not be barriers to the ideation process. Staying at an arms distance allows for the ability to be agile and nimble but without getting too lost in the weeds. The balance can be met in-house, if set up correctly.

Growth Opportunities:

As many bring creative capabilities in-house, it's often done with the idea that in-sourcing is cheaper than out-sourcing. When cost is at the forefront of a decision, one has to also understand that often it results in teams that are understaffed and overloaded with work. I've seen many, many, many job descriptions asking for someone to basically do 2-4 different jobs that one person really shouldn't be doing--at least not anyone who will do any of the jobs well.

People leave jobs because they are constantly overloaded with work or they don't see opportunity for growth, and that their role will never evolve or grow because there is no scale built in to the team they are on. This is also why people leave out-of-house agencies, too. In order to keep people for the long term, you have to show that you're willing to give raises and provide growth opportunities--it's the number one reason most people leave ANY job.

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