Creatives working inside corporations face the ongoing challenge of constantly updating their skill sets to meet the increasing demand for new and innovative communication vehicles. It is important for each individual to clearly see how they fit into the overall plan and communications needs of the corporation. As the in-house creative leader, you must have a solid and unbiased understanding of the full scope of needs as well as the skills available to you, both in-house and freelance labor, to meet project needs. You are paid to ensure that your group's skills "add value," meet the current demands of the corporation and are of real value to your customers.

My personal experience has proven that if your team consistently keeps their skills current they add significant value to your in-house customers and will benefit the corporation. I have found, the more value you create, the more your in-house customers will be willing to "pay" for your services, and the more they will continue to buy services from your creative team.

How do you find out where your team can create value for your company? This is where a skills assessment is useful. It helps you identify the ways in which you create value for your customers and then think through how to maximize this value: whether through outstanding products and services or cost-effective solutions.

Conduct an Honest Skills Assessment (The "What" You Need)

To initiate a realistic and honest assessment of your team's current capabilities, first ascertain:

  • What skill sets do you have now?
    • Are they a match to the assignments that currently come to your department?
    • What skills are not represented in your department?

Perhaps you are currently using freelance labor on projects requiring skills outside of your team's capabilities. However, you might want to bring them in house in the future. You will need to identify the additional expertise that would be needed if these projects were to be handled in house. Of those additional capabilities:


  • Assess which ones could be developed through extra training for existing employees and which ones would require new hires. Realize that not all skills are easily transferable and can cost large sums of money for training and ramp up time.
    • Then think about the best way to approach the internal "politics" involved in making changes. Meaning both among your team members and convincing senior management of the value these changes will bring to the corporation.
    • Realize the costs to the corporation for training and/or adding additional staff.
    • Finally, evaluate these changes in terms of trade-offs between quality and cost.

Once you have answered these questions, you will have a reliable skills assessment upon which to base decisions about the immediate future needs of your organization as they relate to the corporation and your internal customers.


With your skills assessment in hand, ask yourself these four questions:

  • What (if any) creative skills have your customers requested recently that you are not able to provide with your in-house team?
  • Is there enough potential demand for these skills to make adding them cost effective?
  • Would it be more cost effective to train an existing staff member?
  • Would it be more cost effective to outsource these skills as needed?

  • Revisit your in-house skill sets periodically as project requirements and company needs evolve. In addition, keep your freelance list current and always have a deep bench for each function. This will provide you with options for rates, availability and best fit for project requirements.

    Identify the Simple Demand Level of Each Skill (The "How Much" You Need)

    • Make a list of your department's recurring project types.
    • To the right of the list, add several columns--one for each core skill set needed to complete the projects successfully.
    • Then check off which skills are used on which projects.
    • Use this completed matrix as a guide to your optimal staff mix.

    • This simple matrix will indicate the skill sets that are needed most frequently should be staff positions to give you greater control, faster turnaround and lower costs. Other skills that are needed only occasionally should be purchased from freelancers or outside firms. Re-evaluate your matrix periodically and update it as necessary. For outside services, make sure that your list of contacts is up-to-date. Always have more than one source in each category so that you have options for price, availability and the best match to project needs.

      Engage Your Staff in the Process

      Involving your staff in the skills assessment process will help reduce the fear and anxiety that comes with the knowledge that a skills assessment is taking place. Staff involvement may help you:

      • Locate hidden strengths or underutilized skills that could be developed
      • Determine which skills and resources could contribute to new and evolving strategies, and in what way
      • Empower creative team members by giving them a role in designing and implementing the strategies

      Some Guiding Principles
      • The department's vision statement should guide the skills assessment. The vision points you toward the information you need in order to take action; the clearer your vision statement, the more focused and useful your assessment will be. Refer to your vision statement as you make choices about what information to look for and how to interpret what you learn.
      • An assessment should focus on specific topics. Don't try to address all topics at once or you may be overwhelmed by the process and lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish.
      • Assessment is an ongoing process. Continuing your review of the department's skills and company's/customer's needs over time will help you fine-tune your activities.
      • An accurate assessment views the department from multiple perspectives. Information from staff members produces a more complete picture of the department. People's views vary regarding the relationships between staff and clients. People may also have different views on the issues the assessment should address.
      • An effective assessment takes an in-depth look at diversity within a department. There may be different points of view among new and long term employees or between staff and management.
      • An information coordinator can facilitate information gathering by many participants. This role is often filled by a staff member. The coordinator should have first-hand knowledge of your client base and a thorough understanding of your department's vision.