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Hiring Creatives II: Retaining Talent

Posted 4 years ago by Naomi Francis
Hiring Creatives II: Retaining Talent

So, you’ve found the right designer for the job. It wasn’t easy but you got there through some rigorous role analysis with the team, excellent job marketing techniques and creating a fool-proof interview process, which drew out all the information you needed. Trusting that your designer has accepted the role - it’s now time to assess what happens after you hire. How do you retain talent?

"Companies should exist to serve the creative capacity of the individuals they hire."

“How designers want to be managed is an incredibly important topic that’s not getting much attention. I believe that companies should exist to serve the creative capacity of the individuals they hire. To try to flip the traditional hierarchical model on its head and look at it from an individual contributor’s point of view: what sort of environment is going to help them excel and thrive as a creative professional?” - Bob Baxley, Design Executive in Silicon Valley and has worked for companies like Apple, Yahoo and Pinterest.

Before looking at managing designers let’s consider an aspect that too often gets overlooked in the hiring process. Cultural fit. “The result of poor culture fit due to turnover can cost an organisation up to 60% of the person’s annual salary”, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. So it’s clear to see that failing to observe and manage one’s company culture is both costly and ineffective.

Company culture is defined as the “behavior of humans within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviors.” Which William Craig claims is generally made up of the following factors: vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits.

Surprisingly, few companies define their culture, but it’s something that should be carefully considered and outlined before going into the hiring process. Once you’ve done that and interviewed a bunch of talented designers, you will know that their values are aligned with the business and will more than likely result in a long term, happy, employee.

"Nowadays ‘cultural fit’ can also be a euphemism for justifying cultural bias."

Although, Joshua Spears raises the argument that nowadays ‘cultural fit’ can also be a euphemism for justifying cultural bias. Wharton Management Professor, Katherine Klein says, “It’s usually this sense that this person doesn’t seem ‘like us,’ like she or he won’t party well or play well. There are all sorts of biases that can — and do — creep in.” Lauren Rivera, an Associate Professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management says that, “fit should be based on data-driven analysis of what types of values, traits and behaviours actually predict on-the-job success.”

‘Fit’ does not mean the ‘same as us’. Diversity is incredibly crucial to businesses success. “Teams that are unlike each other introduce more new ideas and even  help the team members process information more carefully. Diversity may create a little tension, but that’s a good thing. The mere presence of socially distinct newcomers and the social concerns their presence stimulates among old-timers motivates behavior that can convert affective pains into cognitive gains” — or, in other words, better group problem solving.”

"People are complex and there is no right in treating two people the same."

Whilst your culture should enclose systems, beliefs and habits, it’s no mystery that every person is unique. From personality, skills, goals and aspirations - people are complex and there is no right in treating two people the same.

There is an interesting study from Daniel Pink which explores what inspires motivation. His findings present an overarching thesis for each individuals wants and needs. Pink says that everyone craves autonomy, purpose and mastery in their careers, and when they do achieve each of these not only are they happier individuals but also more productive and successful.

But is there some sort of secret sauce for creatives?

“Suppressed creativity is a malign organizational tumour” says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in his research into retaining employees. “Although every organization claims to care about innovation, very few are willing to do what it takes to keep their creative people happy, or at least, productive.” His seven key ways to retain creatives, listed below, translate into other findings in this space:

  1. Let them fail: Give them the room and support to be creative.
  2. Surround them with less creative people: This relates to managing productivity. Surrounding creatives with creatives might mean endless competing, brainstorming or simply not speaking to each other.
  3. Involve them in meaningful work: Inspiration is fueled by meaning.
  4. Don’t pressure them: Creativity is usually enhanced by giving people more freedom and flexibility at work.
  5. Don’t overpay them: When tasks are meaningful, external rewards diminish engagement.
  6. Surprise them: Creativity is linked to higher tolerance of ambiguity.
  7. Make them feel important: If you fail to recognize your employees’ creative potential, they will no doubt go somewhere where they feel more valued.

“Suppressed creativity is a malign organizational tumour.”

In summary of Tomas’ research, retaining creatives revolves around understanding the flexibility and support they need to do their job well and help craft that into their day to day. Spending a little time to show you care about your employees goes a long way. Jonathan Lovatt-Young, Head of Service and Experience Design at Tribal Worldwide, who’s team last year had zero per cent churn, found that one of the main reasons for this was that he dedicated time to giving them true mentorship and guidance.

As always, communication is key. With good communication amongst teams, team leaders and the wider company you can achieve an unparalleled understanding of each individual. What they’re good at doing. What they want to do. Where they want to be in a few years. Some designers may not want to go on to manage a team. Some may work better in flexi time. Others might need micromanagement. Who knows?! You never will - until you speak to them.

When doing some reading through these managerial articles of how to retain employees, all of the pointers really just come down to common sense. If you treat someone like a human being rather than an asset, you’re bound to build a better working relationship, which not only makes for a happier workplace but also helps them achieve their true potential.

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