As a contingent workforce professional within in the creative space, I have watched as the demand for top talent has increased to new heights. Now, more than ever, it is important for creative leaders, and even more so the entire creative team, to proactively build benches of potential talent to bring on board when needed. Of course, most creative departments have access to their corporate human resources, recruiting or talent acquisition team, and these departments can be incredibly helpful to procuring quality talent. But building a future talent pool is not typically a priority of these teams, nor do these team members have the same networks as the creative team.

Building your talent bench can be accomplished through three primary paths:

  • Partnering with a staffing firm
  • Finding a trusted design agency
  • Networking

  • In full transparency, I work for Cella, a creative niche staffing firm providing freelance, temporary-to-hire and direct placement services to primarily corporate creative departments. But not because they employ me but because I truly believe in the model, I recommend engaging with a niche provider, like Cella. This will ensure your department has access to best-in-class talent to support the critical work that you do not already have staff on board to handle or resources to recruit. Think of it this way: if you were a graphic designer (or any other creative), would you prefer to associate with a niche provider who understands your skill set and your market value or a firm that commoditizes talent? The best talent will be with the staffing agencies that best support that talent. Therefore it's important to build a relationship with your account manager at your preferred niche provider.

    Sometimes a design agency is best suited to support your needs--maybe you don't have space to bring in contractors; maybe you need ad-hoc, unplanned support across the year. Finding a dedicated partner to take on overflow work or specific categories of work can be extremely helpful.

    Another best practice that best-in-class creative departments master is to personally build 'benches' of talent for potential hiring needs. Most creatives are involved on a regular basis in a traditional networking community, continuing education program, or, at a minimum, are active within social networking communities. These are all fantastic opportunities for creatives to be on the lookout for other creatives they would like to work with and to have solid conversations about just that!

    Setting an example as a creative leader by demonstrating your personal involvement in speaking with prospective quality talent for upcoming hiring needs is a great first step, but encouraging your team to do so directly is also very important. The lowest hanging fruit is always by working your social networking channels very visibly. Using a medium such as LinkedIn to both showcase amazing work the team has done and post directly about potential talent needed, while encouraging your team to do the same, will drive talent interest. Using a Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram or YouTube Channel to showcase great work, fun department events and really highlight the personality of the team will also create buzz about the department. And, if at all possible, creating a web page specifically highlighting the creative team's work and highlights, like awards won, is also beneficial. These are all assets to help potential talent see for themselves what the team is all about and help them envision how they could fit in.

    Traditional networking events, continuing education classes, and other industry events, are great for you to talk up the work you and your department does and opportunities within your department. You never know when you may have a project or a full-time opening that would be perfect for someone in your personal professional network; and if you have proactively laid the groundwork, you may be able to onboard them quickly!

    Equally as important to simply starting the conversation is being prepared to speak about why working within your department and for your company is special. Every department has unique reasons as to why working there is fulfilling, rewarding and hopefully fun! The tricky part is that many times employees take these things for granted and are not quite prepared to 'talk up' the benefits. For example, things like low turnover rates, flexible schedules, a casual work environment, a very strong leader, progressive technology access, and ongoing training are all fantastic benefits. There are probably larger scale benefits of interest to external candidates that are more company based like enhanced traditional benefits, education assistance, and subsidized lunch programs, and these are equally important to be able to talk about to potential talent.

    A great place to start to define what those particular 'selling points' to working in your department and for your company is with your experience! Why do you love working for your company, for your department? Then, ask the same of your top employees. And finally, don't forget about folks who are new to the team or work on a temporary/contract basis, as they will have a different perspective.

    From there, get to work promoting your team to other creatives! Talk up your department, be prepared with the special benefits to working for your company or within your department and include social media to showcase great work and the personality of your team to draw buzz around the department. By working with your human resources or talent acquisition team, outsourcing appropriate work to agencies, working with a niche creative staffing vendor AND ensuring you and your team are always working to build a bench of prospective talent, you will set up your team to win the talent war!