Whether your business specialises in creative marketing, web design, UX, PR or the latest tech craze, running a successful agency can be a complicated job. One of your biggest costs as an agency will likely be salaries, but your workforce is also your biggest asset. It’s vital to get the best out of your team, keep them happy and continually improve their productivity to maximise your billable rate.
In this article, we share some simple strategies to help you improve the way you manage your creative talent.
‘Creatives’ are not all the same
Your creative team are the lifeblood of your business, without them your business simply would not operate. However, managing creative individuals can sometimes be challenging. Matching their desire to reach creative perfection with your goal to meet client deadlines and maximise their billable hours can often result in conflict.
So many people make sweeping generalisations about creatives being non-commercially aware or IT specialists being difficult to communicate with. The truth is, everyone is different. So, there is no one size fits all solution to managing creative employees.
Regular one to one’s help avoid problems before they arise
Depending on the size and structure of your team, your creatives could have a range of different roles, from managing projects to producing creative work or even liaising directly with clients. Some will thrive on these extra responsibilities while other will want nothing more than to focus on creative work day in day out because that is where they excel.
It’s important to communicate with your team regularly to find out what they are working on, what they enjoy, what they find difficult and what they dislike. By reviewing their current roles and identifying areas they require support you can put in place development strategies or allocate roles to others that are more suited.
For example, if your creatives are responsible for project management as well as delivery, it’s important to review their processes to ensure they are efficient and effective for the business. Remember to act carefully. It’s natural for anyone to be protective over their processes and be nervous of interference. So delicately work with them to identify any potential blockages or areas for improvement. They may be relieved for the support and welcome solutions that help them spend more time on the work they enjoy.
Time sheets are a great way to understand your team’s capacity
Agencies have a reputation for long hours so keeping a keen eye on workload is a must, you don’t want to risk burning out your biggest assets. A timesheet is a great tool to help you understand where your team are under most pressure. By regularly conducting timesheet exercises you can find out which clients are taking up your team’s time, where there are capacity issues or where there are underutilised team members. This information can help influence your overall team management or form an aspect of your business development strategy.
Be careful to communicate the reason you are requiring time sheets, however, it is to understand processes and capacity issues so you can help your team and build the business, not check up on them.
Plan effectively to reduce resource issues
Forward planning is vital to understand your team’s capacity and reduce the risk of too much or too little work. On a regular basis, you should be reviewing your team’s holidays, meeting schedules, workload and business pipeline so you can understand impacts on your team. Client demands will always change last minute but by carefully planning, you should be able to manage workloads so that both clients and employees can be kept happy without overworking them. This information will help you be able to manage the needs of your team and plan recruitment around business growth.
Keep creatives producing
Don’t forget that your creatives are working for you for one reason. To be CREATIVE. So, help them do so by reducing the amount of non-creative work you throw at them. It is commonplace in the agency sector for employees to be quite transient, moving between agencies to keep work interesting and keep their creative juices flowing. To stop this from happening it’s important to retain your best talent through keeping them happy, engaged, creatively fulfilled and bought into your company’s culture. In times when work is slow, encourage professional skills development, competitions, skills shares or put them to work refreshing your own brand assets.
Always be recruiting
With the best will in the world, there will always be some staff turnover and as work comes in there will also be a need for new recruits. Successful agencies are always in the process of finding and interviewing candidates so that when work comes in, they are in an immediate place to deliver it.
Always be on the lookout for top talent and keep in touch with those that fit your requirements and company culture. Having a database full of potential candidates ready to go when you win your contract or need to replace an employee, stops panic recruiting, helps you recruit the right people and reduces expensive recruitment costs. However, you should never recruit team members until you have won the work. Recruiting, without work in place to pay for it is a recipe for disaster.
Managing an agency is both exciting and challenging. As contracts are won and teams are built, many agency owners must quickly change from creatives to managers in an instant. To retain and grow your team and continue to achieve your agencies targets you need to know how to nurture and manage your greatest asset, your workforce.