If you provide a great career opportunity and pathway for your team members, you promote a more stable workforce, a higher performing department, lower personnel costs, and a happier culture. These all improve your ability to attract better talent and better work opportunities over time. Enough said...we'll need another post to quantify all of that! With all these benefits in mind though, here are a few points you'll want to review while (re)defining roles and the organizational structure for your interactive team.
Understand what is motivating to the person in the role
The process of developing interactive media focused deliverables lends easily to executives trying to clump as many responsibilities into as few positions as they can. These roles are often advertised as a "great opportunity" to get your hands into a lot of things. This is true on a minimal level. A talented copywriter would certainly love to get their hands in social media marketing. But, this person may not want to be so heavily involved in social media at the cost of leading a focused and developing writing career. The reality is that the field generally pays more to "specialists" who have remained laser focused on a specific discipline within the interactive field, and your personnel may want to default in that direction as well. Wouldn't you?
If you have only one spot for somebody who needs to handle visual design, interaction design, and front-end coding, take an inventory of those job requirements and identify which of those requirements can be more heavily loaded into the position than the others. This gives you a great roadmap as you decide on a candidate who is fully motivated to develop in the area where the job is most heavily weighted. If the role calls for visual design related tasks more than other tasks, be sure to find a designer who is aspiring to be an Art Director. If it's front end coding you need, find somebody who would like to advance as a Sr. Developer. This approach will help you to keep people in positions that are in line with their long-term career goals.
Understand the multiple career paths available to interactive media professionals
The biggest difference I see between managing a career in print, compared to a career in interactive media, is the number of possible career paths one can aspire to take from any given position. It is not uncommon to find a visual designer who wants to enter the UX field, a coder who wants to take on project management, or a media planner who aspires to tackle social media. These alternative career paths were not so readily available before the days of the web, and can present a lot of problems to the executive who is trying to develop stable, fluid career paths for a workforce. As you map out your org chart, be aware of these alternative pathways for each of your team members, and identify the aspirations of each of them accordingly.
Understand how easily your described role can be filled
It is very important that you do the best you can to design interactive positions that require talent who are readily available in the marketplace. I often see positions that require nothing less than the top 100 percentile in the market. "We only hire the best" is a common saying among executives who want to achieve greatness with their in-house creative departments. I do readily admit that sometimes, and I emphasize SOMETIMES, the role simply requires the best talent out there. If you're a Creative Director brought in to manage an in-house re-design of a Fortune 1000 e-commerce company, well yes, you need to be the best. But in most cases, the top 5 or 10% of the talent pool will do just fine if managed and trained well.
Another problematic trend, as already noted above, is the clumping of too many disciplines into one role description. There is a broader range of tasks associated with digital production and marketing, as compared to print and other media. The end result is that departments need to cover all the additional tasks, with the same number of people as they would in the print department, so executives often clump several areas of expertise into one role. Aside from the problem areas I mentioned in a previous point, combining disciplines creates a role that is very difficult to back-fill. It is not common for talent in the general marketplace to develop their careers with more than one "sweet spot" in their arsenal.
The end result of a role description that is not in line with the available talent market is a position that is too difficult to fill with internal or external candidates. Internally, these roles create roadblocks because they consume many of the tasks that other team members could take on, but can't because the tasks are pre-packaged into the wrong role description. These positions also have the potential of creating resentment among your workforce if they're simply too advanced for your lower level employees to advance into. Externally, these are the roles that create a recruiting nightmare for everyone involved in the hiring process. There are tremendous direct and indirect costs to an organization when positions go unfilled.
A great way to research the talent inventory in your market is to poll the local staffing firms (like The BOSS Group). Ask them who they think the most readily available talent are. You can also use them to validate a role description that you're developing. Firms like these are always going to be very happy to provide this information, and rightfully so as they have the best real-time pulse on where the talent market stands at any given time. Another idea is to schedule networking lunches with other creative executives, or internal recruiters from non-competing companies.
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