Digital Design: Competing for Talent in the Creative Field

By Paul Flaharty on March 22, 2022 at 4:45pm

By Paul Flaharty, Executive Director, Marketing and Creative Practice Group, Robert Half

In a competitive labor market, the talent you most urgently need often seems the furthest from your reach. Marketing and creative leaders know this feeling well.

Research from Robert Half finds that nearly seven in 10 (69%) marketing managers plan to expand their teams in 2022, while 40% say they expect the implementation of new digital marketing strategies to increase their budgets. The top areas of digital design they intend to hire for include information architecture, user interface design, web and mobile design and user experience.

The catch? A full 94% of these leaders say it’s challenging to find skilled marketing and creative professionals, particularly those specializing in digital design and production. (See the infographic at the end of this post for more survey findings.)

Even though the Great Reshuffle and shifting priorities within the workforce have shaken up the hiring landscape, the talent you need is out there. But before I offer you tips on how to find them, let’s look at why digital design is so hot right now.

Living in a digital world

The pandemic changed the way we shop and interact with brands, possibly permanently. Online retail gained ground across all demographics as companies invested heavily in digital advertising campaigns to drive traffic to their e-commerce platforms.

Global ad market trends clearly reflect this pivot to digital. According to Zenith Media’s Advertising Expenditure Forecasts report, worldwide ad spending will grow 9.1% in 2022 as brands look to use social media, online video, advanced TV and e-commerce channels. Furthermore, digital advertising will exceed 60% of global ad spend for the first time ever in 2022, hitting 61% of total expenditure.

Given these trends, many brands will be looking to invest heavily in digital design over the next few years. But a compelling digital strategy is only as good as the people you hire or promote to execute it.

Need help hiring digital design professionals? Get in touch with the recruiting specialists at Robert Half.

America’s got talent (if you know where to find it)

Top candidates can be found literally anywhere if you have the right hiring strategy and mindset. Your next great hire could be in another state or country — or just down the hall. They might have all the skills they need from day one — or be so hungry to learn that you can train them on the job. They might stay with you for years — or add tremendous value during a six-month contract.

In short, keep an open mind as you explore the following options:

Refresh your sourcing and outreach channels

Talented digital designers may not always be on LinkedIn. These days you’re more likely to find them — and examples of their work — on graphics-heavy sites like Behance and Dribbble.

Also, consider where creatives socialize and network online, and calibrate your outreach strategy accordingly. A designer may have Facebook and Twitter profiles, but they’re more likely to be influenced by what they see on TikTok, the video-sharing platform that some forward-thinking agencies are using as a recruiting tool.

At the same time, don’t neglect traditional sourcing methods such as employee referrals. No one knows your brand and organizational culture like your existing workers, who can recommend people who would likely perform well at your firm.

Explore new talent pools

To give yourself an edge, widen your search for candidates beyond the borders of your city, state, or even time zone. Creatives don’t just live in big cities, and a few years of the pandemic has shown us remote workers can thrive, especially designers. There’s no doubt people want options for working off-site, be it full-time or a couple of days a week, and the perk can be a big draw for talented creatives.

Another talent pool to consider is former employees. Create an alumni mailing list and ask former workers to stay in touch, leaving the door ajar for boomerang hiring.

Encourage internal mobility

In your rush to hire the people you need, are you sure you’re maximizing the potential of the people you have? Promoting talent from within is more cost-effective than hiring externally. And because current employees are known quantities, it’s less risky, too.

Not everyone has the confidence to ask their boss for more responsibilities or a promotion, but that shouldn’t count against them. Be proactive about nurturing talent in your ranks by speaking regularly to employees about their career development and giving stretch assignments to people who have demonstrated growth potential.

Try hiring for potential

There’s a reason perfect candidates are called unicorns or purple squirrels: They don’t exist.

In the real world, where everyone is chasing the same talent, you need to be prepared to take a chance on imperfect candidates who have the tenacity and potential ceiling to become MVPs.

Start by reviewing your job descriptions and taking a red pen to any nice-to-have skills that aren’t necessary for the role. List too many extras, and you risk driving away talent that hasn’t yet had access to certain experiences or educational opportunities.

Finally, remember that hiring for potential is a long-term commitment. Digital design is a challenging field, and without a thoughtful and comprehensive upskilling program, you could be setting up your recruits to fail.

Marketing and creative firms need many resources to thrive in a digital-first world, including experienced and inspired digital designers. With a flexible, risk-tolerant approach to talent acquisition, you can snag great talent from your competitors.

Follow Paul Flaharty on LinkedIn.

DESIGNING YOUR DIGITAL CREATIVE TEAM

56% of marketing and creative managers plan to improve user experience for website or applications in 2022.

40% anticipate larger budgets to implement digital marketing strategies.

Top areas of digital design employers expect to hire:

1. Information architecture
2. User interface and interaction design
3. Web/mobile design
4. User experience

But finding digital creative talent isn’t always easy.

40% said skilled professionals in the digital design and production field are the most challenging to find.

Looking for a new career opportunity? Our specialized recruiters are ready to help. Visit roberthalf.com.

Source: Robert Half survey of more than 230 managers in marketing and creative in the U.S.

© 2022 Robert Half. An Equal Opportunity Employer. M/F/Disability/Veterans.

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