By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group
It’s no surprise that many creative teams are still operating lean and in cost-savings mode. But with the economy poised to improve, creative departments could face more retention difficulties than in years past as their most valued employees, who feel overworked and underappreciated, seek greener pastures.
Many companies don’t focus on retention until it’s too late. Now is the time to ensure top performers feel valued and are fully engaged in their jobs – and this involves more than offering competitive pay, attractive perks, or even interesting work.
In many cases, in-house designers’ decision to leave your company may involve issues that deal with you – their manager. Following are four hidden reasons your top designers may be headed for the door:
Reason 1: They feel no sense of progress. After tracking the day-to-day activities of several hundred workers over several years, Harvard professor Teresa Amabile found that making progress in one’s work – even incremental progress – is more frequently associated with positive emotions and high motivation than any other workday event. The takeaway: The key to motivation doesn’t depend on elaborate incentive systems, but rather a sense of making headway. Make sure your direct reports have the support they need to overcome obstacles so they can succeed. For example, if you’re typically slow to give feedback or approval on projects, realize that you’re slowing down your employees. Don’t be the roadblock that prevents them from moving forward.
Reason 2: They feel constrained and micromanaged. When budgets are lean, it can be an opportune time for firms to try new or unproven strategies. Sad to say, in a recent survey by The Creative Group, 64 percent of marketing executives and 45 percent of advertising executives said their firms don’t take enough creative risks with projects. Try to give your in-house team every opportunity to flex their creative muscle. If you work in a conservative environment with relatively inflexible design standards, look for opportunities to design for internal events/promotions where you may have more creative leeway.
Reason 3: They feel there are no opportunities to advance. Within many creative departments, transitioning into an art director or creative director role is the only way to move up. But not all designers aspire to management – or are cut out for it. Structure positions so employees can grow their careers without leaving your firm and create career paths that don’t require managing people to move up. Also, offer promotions to workers who have demonstrated they can succeed at the next level. When you promote employees to management roles, make sure they have the resources to succeed, such as a leadership seminar or mentor who they can turn to for advice.
Reason 4: They’re kept in the dark. In-house creatives are sometimes the last to learn of company challenges, strategies and bottom-line results. It’s easy to just give out orders and directions without tying them to bigger picture goals. But knowing as much as possible about the business as a whole is essential to your team producing the strongest work and feeling their contributions are crucial to the initiative’s success. Regularly share company news with your team. When assigning a project, put it into context: Why is this piece necessary? What does the business hope to achieve? Who will be using a particular item, and how? If you’re promoting a new product, show your team samples of it and explain how the new item will be used; if it’s a service, have them test it out.
Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small things that count the most. Think about the factors that are important to the in-house designers on your team and do your best to make the necessary changes to fulfill those needs. You’ll help to retain top creative talent under any economic conditions.
Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at www.creativegroup.com.