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InsightJun 17, 2024

How to attract and retain top talent for In-house creative teams

Illustration from FreePik

Theresa shares insights from a recent RGD webinar with Deborah Peterson, Director, Head of Agency at Deloitte CanadaSimon Clancy, Executive Creative Director for T3 (Canadian Tire) and Jess Willis, Executive Creative Director at Saje Natural Wellness with their unique perspective on strategies for companies to attract and retain top creative talent for their in-house teams. 

Here are some of the key takeaways and trends from the discussion they have identified, supported through countless conversations with companies and creatives in a variety of industries.

Why organizations are bringing more creative talent in-house?

Creative teams are more foundational for business than ever, with the importance of things like ecommerce, social media, community building and one-on-one communications. 

“These are things that can’t necessarily be outsourced,” shared Simon, who also added that “there’s a place for outside agencies, but there’s a need to build that muscle and foundation in-house.” Other panelists agreed, citing the speed with which business moves and the requirement for agility but with a deep understanding of business foundations.

“Sometimes brands use agencies that can't move at the necessary pace, so it's important to have those skills in-house and have designers who are able to wrap their arms around the whole brand.” Jess explained. 

Budgets, of course, are another reason for companies to bring talent in-house. “Having the talent in-house can be a 30 to 50% cost reduction,” said Deborah. The value of bringing talent in-house and being able to create something incredible is no longer seen solely as an agency-based outcome. 

It's important not to bring talent in-house just to save money. Companies need to be prepared to invest in fostering an excellent environment that attracts great creative talent. Some organizations do well with in-house creative talent: some struggle because of this necessity.

Working for an in-house agency requires a strong leader and buy-in from the organization at the highest level. You need a great recruitment partner to support leadership teams, company vision and to implement projects and manage fluctuations that occur with the ebbs and flows of business needs. 

Why a recruitment partner? They create professional bridges for top creative talent to consider moving from agency to in-house.

How do external agencies add value with in-house agencies? 

Having an in-house creative team to work with an external agency can sometimes create a perfect mix to meet organizational needs. Creative agencies can bring additional and unique creative ideation and strategy to complement the depth of brand knowledge, focus and speed that an in-house team provides.

“There are times and places where people need to be pulled in,” Jess said. “If we don’t have a specialist that we need, we will pull that in from an agency. Agencies are phenomenal and the right types of agencies that are modern in the way they work with clients can be a beautiful partnership.”

Working with external agencies can also provide the value of a different perspective. “A lot of times, it’s strategy for us and getting us to see things differently or helping with processes,” Deborah said of accessing talent externally, while Simon indicated that agencies can assist by bringing in specialists to provide some disruptive thinking, to augment existing staff and to bring an expertise that doesn’t exist on the in-house team. “They can scale around specialisms and you can use specialists in unique and interesting ways because they serve different clients… so it provides access to different thoughts and methodologies.” explained Simon.

Companies can benefit from recognizing what they deliver well and what they need help with. For some organizations, this means outsourcing aspects to an agency partner, or working with a recruitment agency to find a specialized resource in Creative Niche’s experience with brands and organizations of different sizes and scope, leveraging contractors on a per-project basis, no matter how big or small, can help ensure profitability stays high and that organizations don’t over-hire.

The right recruitment agency can provide an organization with creative talent which can act as a different type of "external" resource that doesn't require working with an entire agency.

How companies can engage – and retain – top talent?

Bringing creative talent in-house creates the need to not only attract top industry talent, but it requires engaging and retaining that talent for the long-term, which can be tricky. From communicating with hundreds of creative talent each month, Creative Niche recognizes that candidates look for companies that offer people development, coaching and career advancement, which is something that often excels brand-side versus many agencies. 

Embracing creative leadership is one of the key ways that organizations can ensure that creativity and inspiration is brought into the office with creative outings or inspirational sessions, as well as incorporating creative ways of working to help talent stay interested and growing in-house. But first, you have to attract the talent and bring them to your team. It helps that in-house is becoming something that holds more weight and offers more interesting work. Creatives are looking for work-life balance and total compensation that includes benefits, bonuses and RRSP contributions. But they’re also looking for interesting, challenging work with companies that achieve big things and produce award-winning material. 

One of creatives’ top concerns when considering going in-house is what impact this change will have on their creative ranking and/or the quality of their portfolio. It’s important for companies to invest in entering for awards and to strive to produce strong creative work to enhance portfolios and creative ranking.

Beyond strong creative work, good compensation and a good work environment, other ways companies can retain creative talent is to have opportunities available to improve and showcase creative capabilities. Simon explained that “opportunity is as much of a currency as money for most creatives, so what they’re looking for is new things and interesting challenges.” 

Key attributes for in-house creative talent

What a company looks for in creative talent to bring in-house depends on what the organization wants to build, however there are some commonalities, such as desire, curiosity, business mindset and leadership. 

Deborah said she “looks for individuals who are going to push us in the right way.” Jess agreed, indicating that she likes to “hire creatives who are hungry but humble and still want to practice creativity, and ones who are curious and have an entrepreneurial mindset.” Panelists agreed that an ideal candidate is interested in touching all aspects of the brand and that candidates can often create in-house opportunities that they wouldn’t have in an agency setting. 

Additionally, companies are looking for creative candidates who are patient, adaptable and flexible and who have the right skill set or expertise for the role. Many organizations look for creatives who bring some disruptive thinking and curiosity to offer new, fresh perspectives. 

The right fit also extends beyond the candidate to the company – there’s an onus on the organization to set accurate expectations during the interview and onboarding processes to help creatives understand the working model and navigate any change from agency to in-house. 

More insight about successfully bringing creative talent in-house

For additional tips and tricks about creating solid in-house creative talent suites, check out the full webinar, or set up a time to chat with the team.


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