Are you the manager of a creative team that’s short staffed? You’re not alone. “The Great Resignation” is well underway and workers across a wide range of industries are quitting their jobs in large numbers for better opportunities. Creative and marketing firms and in-house agencies aren’t immune from facing these retention issues. In fact, according to Cella’s 2021 Talent Report for Creative, Marketing and Digital Professionals, 41% of respondents said they are considering leaving their current employers. 

In addition to turnover, there are other factors that can contribute to staffing woes. From a sudden influx of high-priority projects (particularly those requiring specialized skills that don’t exist internally) to core employees going on leave to your group being downsized to cyclical workload spikes, there are any number of reasons you may find yourself short staffed.

So, what can you do if you’re under-resourced or suddenly lacking a key area of niche expertise? How and where can you find the right help—and fast? 

Here are some options to consider:


You can’t do more with less forever. But you might be able to get by with fewer resources for a set period of time. If despite your best efforts you simply can’t get the budget to bring extra talent onboard right now, try to work with your leadership team and clients to reset expectations and possibly negotiate some deadlines. The goal is to triage the work so you ensure the highest priority initiatives are completed on time. For example, you will likely need to establish a well-defined escalation process with key project stakeholders for these assignments. In general, this approach will not only require strategic thinking on your part, but also persuasiveness and strong coordination abilities.  


A far easier approach is to bring in reinforcements by partnering with a staffing firm, particularly one focused exclusively in the marketing and creative space. They have both the knowledge and resources to quickly identify the right professionals for your creative team’s unique needs. A well-established staffing agency can leverage deep pools of highly qualified talent that’s been cultivated over many years. Some agencies such as Cella even prequalify candidates’ functional skills using proprietary assessments, which allows them to speedily zero in on available and vetted talent—whether that’s one temporary professional with specialized expertise or an entire “surge staffing” team. 

In addition to recruiters saving you precious time by managing the recruiting process, the temporary professionals working for you will be employed by the staffing agency. That means you can focus solely on overseeing the creative work at hand because you don’t have to deal with pay, benefits or other time-intensive HR issues. Staffing firms can also aid in quickly onboarding new staff by understanding your company’s hiring requirements and partnering closely with HR to ensure talent have undergone needed background checks well in advance of their start date.
And beyond enabling you to address pressing staffing gaps through temporary help, full-service staffing agencies can help you with longer-term solutions. Cella, for instance, is well-versed in recruiting for temp-to-hire and full-time roles. Our customizable workforce solutions also include consulting services, embedded teams and fully managed in-house agencies.    

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Another critical part of managing a creative team that’s short staffed is openly communicating with your employees early and often. Clearly explain any process changes as well as how long you anticipate the workload surge to last. Highlight the strategic value the team adds to the organization and how their extra effort will benefit the company and its customers. 
Whether you’re working with the executive team to reprioritize projects and adjust deadlines or you’re partnering with a staffing firm to bring in extra help, keep your team apprised of the steps you’re taking to alleviate the current situation. You want your employees to know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and that you are “in this with them.”

In addition, when you’re in an all-hands-on-deck situation it’s important to show that you’re willing to dive into the nitty-gritty work with them, while also going out of your way to acknowledge their efforts and hard work. Bonuses are great but even smaller gestures such as gift cards and handwritten thank-you notes can be extremely helpful in keeping people’s spirits up. Make it known that you will are available to listen to their concerns and ideas.

The bottom is this: When your creative team is short staffed, employee burnout should be top of mind. The last thing you can afford when you have a lean team is to lose more employees. Offering a clear plan, regular updates, and generous amounts of gratitude can go a long way to maintaining morale during stressful stretches. 

In-house creative teams are being asked to do more with less in an extremely competitive talent market. The onus is on you to proactively develop plans and relationships that will position your team for success even during workload spikes. By defining a triage process, establishing relationships with staffing firms and taking good care of your teams, you will have taken significant steps to managing your resourcing challenges.