The communications materials produced by your in-house team need to support your corporate mission, give your company a competitive business advantage and make a positive impact on your company's bottom line. Which means what your department creates must be of the highest quality. Therefore as a creative leader, your challenge is to keep your in-house talent engaged, inspired and energized to enable them to produce this high-quality work.
To ensure your team is achieving your company's expected standards of excellence, you must:
1. Be able to communicate to your clients and upper management that high-quality products will have a positive impact on the company's bottom line
2. Recruit talent that aligns with and advances your company's current and future business objectives
3. Continue to nurture and provide training to your existing staff
4. Create a high-quality work environment
Communicate the Impact of High Quality
Many creative leaders are challenged with discussing quality in "business speak" to clients and executives as quality is not always measurable or easily defined. In communicating the value of the high-quality services you provide, here are some obstacles to be aware of:
- In-house creative services organizations are often viewed as non-essential since they are not a company's "core competency."
- Clients and executives need to know that they are getting a good value for their investment. You should do a rate comparison study of your internal billing rates and how they compare with those of external agencies and design firms. Generally you will find agency billing rates more than 30% higher than internal rates.
- Upper management and clients will often question whether the in-house team you've built can rival the expertise and quality offered by outside agencies. Consider entering your team's work in industry award competitions. The receipt of third-party recognition will improve the reputation of your in-house organization among senior executives at the same time it bolsters the morale of your in-house creative staff.
- In most companies all strategic work is outsourced to agencies because in-house resources are viewed as mediocre and sub-par to outside agencies and designated to producing work of a non-strategic, order-taker nature. You can change this perception by showcasing bios of your team members, posting case studies and success stories of projects you have done along with client testimonials on your department's website or company portal.
However, in some companies in-house creative resources manage the entire creative enterprise including oversight of external agencies and the corporate brand. This requires a management expertise at a higher level. Your in-house creative operation can reach this level of ownership and respect only with continuous and meaningful communication as to the impact of your high-quality services.
Recruit the Right Talent
To further advance your reputation as a high-quality in-house communications team, you have to ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Is your current staff a match for the type of assignments you currently get?
- Do they represent the skills and expertise needed to handle future strategic projects?
In order to recruit the right talent, you must:
Offer competitive compensation. High-quality creative talent is the key for the growth and longevity of an in-house department. You will need to secure budgets that will allow for competitive wages when you are competing for resources with agencies and design studios. Refer to the annual AIGA Survey of Design Salaries for up-to-date compensation information for your region.
Use your professional network. Networking through industry and professional organizations you belong to is a good way to locate good talent. Word-of-mouth is one way to attract high-quality talent. In addition, many creative leaders rely on creative staffing agencies to source talent.
Look for creative professionals with a proven track record. You will need to recruit talent who understands how to effectively add a marketing flair and direction to their writing and design assignments.
Look for a good fit between what you need and the candidate's interests. Remember: high-quality, high-performing right-brained professionals thrive on interesting and challenging assignments. You will need to provide them with career opportunities, professional fulfillment and a climate that will enable their talents to actively contribute to your company's mission and business objectives.
Train Your Existing Staff
Providing existing staff with regular training opportunities will raise the quality of their work, as well as increase productivity, minimize turnover and improve work ethic. Creative leaders can prioritize training in the following ways:
Advocate internal training. On-the-job training will be of little or no cost to you. Creative professionals are interested in learning the latest software programs and keeping up with the current trends. Cross-training a print designer to do web work is both educational and motivating, but also helps diversify the talent of your team. Also use internal design reviews as an opportunity to coach and mentor your team to push the quality envelope.
Budget for outside seminars. If you have the budget, send team members to industry conferences, workshops and seminars (HOW, AIGA and DMI for designers and IABC and EEI for writers), where they can learn the latest techniques and innovations will keep them engaged and motivated. Require staff members to share the information they learn with their team members upon their return.
Sponsor field trips. Take your team to an ad agency or design firm. You may be able to have an on-site visit to your corporate ad agency. Or, through your network of professional organizations, arrange to visit a local design studio.
Provide management training. When you are considering promoting a staff member into a management position, make sure he or she has the necessary management and business skills training to succeed. Consider leadership classes offered through your HR department or outside seminars and mentorship programs to prepare him or her to assume new responsibilities.
Create a Quality Work Environment
Simply stated, a high-quality work environment will attract and retain high-performing people. As a creative leader, you must create an in-house environment that will inspire innovative creative ideas and help ensure high quality and excellence among creative team members. Here are some ideas of how you can create a high-quality work environment:
- Create an atmosphere that is dynamic, not bureaucratic, where decision-making takes into account all facets of an issue.
- Build a structure that is rewarding, not routine, an environment where high-quality ideas are fostered and put to use.
- Provide an environment where ideas are applauded, commitment valued and efforts recognized and where everyone is encouraged to think outside the box.
- Enable a workplace that fosters a cohesive tight-knit team where the staff will rally behind the corporation's mission and business objectives.
Consistently producing on-demand high-quality/high-value work is no small task. By hiring the right talent, providing the right training and creating the right environment you will ensure that your in-house staff consistently produces high-quality work. And then it's your job to communicate the value of the high-quality work your team produces. The end result will add to your company's bottom line and upper management will recognize your professional credibility as a strategic business partner.
For information about how Cella can add value to your business through consulting, coaching, and training, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*** Spring 2011 dates and details have been announced for Cella's "Beyond the Creative: Business Operations for Creative Leaders" training. Learn more, including what last year's attendees had to say, at http://www.cellaconsulting.com/beyond_the_creative. ***
Cella Consultant Ceil Wloczewski is a 30-year communications veteran in the IT services industry. Managing annual budgets averaging $12-million and local and virtual teams of 100+, Ceil's primary focus is marketing collateral, branding, Web/interactive and publications work. Since 1990, Ceil has actively contributed to companies' growth and success. She transformed an in-house communications department into an industry-lauded, key strategic partner in sales and new business development, customer retention, staff recruitment and training.