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Get Serious About Professional Development

In the midst of putting out daily fires, managing client expectations and keeping up with corporate compliance policies, it can be daunting to find the time and energy to put any focus on your and your team’s professional development. Yet this practice is one of the most critical activities you should be engaging in, especially as the leader of a creative team whose very success depends on its ability to adapt to an ever-changing business environment and adopt ever-evolving creative technologies and methodologies.

The benefits of committing to a development program are many and varied. Most obviously, it empowers your team over time to more efficiently execute on a wider range of assignments at a higher level of quality. The resulting improved morale, loyalty and good will generated by this commitment to your team reduces attrition and improves productivity. Innovation, creativity and a positive work ethic increase with training and ongoing education while people management challenges decline.

There are a number of ways you can make developmental opportunities available to your team. Budget, content and your team’s preferred learning style and ability to commit time to these opportunities should be your key considerations when putting together a plan. Whatever your choices, it’s critical that you craft an ongoing year-long program and stick with it. Approaching this as an ad hoc exercise by squeezing opportunities in as time and money permits sends an even worse message to your team than not doing it at all. So be prepared to create and commit to a comprehensive approach.

Another important point to keep in mind when creating development plans is the need to support your team with both their hard and soft skills—particularly if they’re working in a corporate environment. Most creative professionals don’t get significant training in school in written and verbal communication skills, collaborative and interpersonal best practices, or corporate etiquette, so addressing these needs with educational opportunities is as, or even more critical than, keeping your group schooled up in the apps they use. You should also make sure not to neglect functional (basic design and copywriting) training in an attempt to solely keep your creatives up to date on their technical expertise.

Finally, development is not a one-size-fits-all practice. Working with your team individually to determine opportunities for improved performance and growth will allow them to take full advantage of any training that’s offered. If you conduct performance reviews and goals are included as part of that process, you can create a training plan then.

Below are various formats and suggestions on ways to deliver powerful training to your team. I will go into more detail on these options in a follow-up post.

  •  Lunch & Learns
  • Conferences
  • University adult education classes
  • Industry speakers (partner with other companies)
  • Field trips
  • Mentoring programs
  • Online training
  • Industry events/lectures
  • Workshops
  • Online media (video and text)
  • Book group
  • Professional training courses
  • Digests of training materials

Andy Epstein

Andy Epstein is an industry thought leader in the field of in-house creative. He currently serves as the Director of Studio Operations for Cella Solutions where he has oversight of the managed in-house agencies run by Cella. Andy has written and spoken extensively on in-house issues and published “The Corporate Creative,” a book on in-house design in the spring of 2010. He is a co-founder of InSource, the former Programming Director for the InHOWse Managers Conference, and a key member of Cella’s professional development team. Andy is focused on empowering in-house teams to raise their stature in the design and business communities.

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