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The In-House Employment Advantage

At our current CreativeExecs Roundtable series we have been discussing the topic "Managing Creatives.” But before you can manage creatives, you have to hire them—not that many creative leaders have had the luxury of filling more than a handful of positions across the past few years (though we did see an increase in hiring in 2012). We asked Roundtable attendees “what’s our in-house advantage; why do designers/writers/account managers want to work for us instead of agencies?” But the reality is, few creative leaders feel as though they compete with external agencies for talent. It is likely candidates are making the decision to go internal versus external before they even meet us. In addition, the job market may be making that decision for them. A representative of the The BOSS Group estimated 70% of the positions they fill are for in-house creative roles.

That said, we are likely competing against each other for the very best talent in our markets. Why work for one company over another? For some candidates the decision will come down to the most basic of comparisons: compensation and benefits; neither of which we have too much control over. For other candidates, they will want to compare less tangible aspects of the roles. Below is a list of some of those items for you to consider when you have moved beyond the evaluative stage of the interview to the selling stage.

  • The Brand: If your company’s brand is well known, the prestige of being associated with that brand can be very attractive to creatives. Or, if your department serves a house brands (e.g., YUM! Brands’ creative team supports the YUM! brand, as well as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC), that can be a great selling point as the creatives are not limited to two fonts, three colors and one brand voice.
  • The Company Mission: Many creative professionals are driven by serving a greater good—when a company or organization’s mission includes or centers around bettering society, that is often something that will entice candidates. Even if your organization’s mission does not include those aspects, its culture may. Selling the company’s devotion to service will also sway some candidates; for example, my former employer allowed employees up to one week paid to participate in service activities.
  • Work–Life Balance: Some companies have a 35-hour workweek, others have generous leave programs or telework options, and others practice lenient flex and comp time policies. Most, if not all, companies have some level of work-life balance goals. It’s just a matter of identifying and sharing them.
  • The Culture: You may not have a slide in the middle of your creative studio; you may not even have true creative studio. But hopefully there is something about your culture that distinguishes you from your hiring competitors. Consider the physical environment, team events, team dynamic, dress code, hours, creative collaboration practices and any other elements that may lead to an enjoyable, and even fun, place to work.
  • The Work: Does your team do great work? Is there a decent amount of Tier 1 projects? Has the team won awards? Is the “good” work opened up for the full team to work on? Will more junior folks get opportunities with your team that they may not other places? Not every in-house creative team can sell opportunities in their department based on the work, but if you can it will certainly attract the best candidates.

Sometimes we’re too close to this conversation to identify compelling reasons to work in our departments. If that’s the case for you, ask your team to help you with this list. They should have a vested interest in helping you hire the best talent possible. As the New Year approaches, and hopefully new budget that includes a new hire or two, put aside some time to document your employment value proposition.

Less than 9 business days remain to register for PartnerPulse—contact us at l.berry@cellaconsulting.com to get more information.


In her role as Cella General Manager, Jackie Schaffer has consulted for Fortune 500 clients with more than 400 in-house team members and for teams at mid-sized businesses, government entities, and educational institutions with teams as small as four designers. Jackie’s management competencies lie in operations assessments, financial management, and talent management, and she has a deep passion for balancing the creative and business needs of in-house shops while providing fulfilling opportunities for the team. Prior to joining Cella, she directed an international team of 80 creatives. During her tenure, she spearheaded the launch and development of the group’s India-based team, built an interactive media division, and executed against a new visual identity.

Jackie Schaffer

In her role as Cella VP & General Manager, Jackie Schaffer has consulted for Fortune 500 clients with more than 400 in-house team members and for teams at mid-sized businesses, government entities and educational institutions with teams as small as four designers. Her management competencies lie in operations assessments, financial management and talent management. Prior to joining Cella, she led an international "mega-sized" creative team through an evolution of production studio to strategic partner.

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