Building a Better In-House Creative Team

If you oversee an in-house creative team, you may find that your employees' greatest strengths are also your biggest management challenges. The desire to innovate and develop original concepts is an essential quality in design and marketing professionals across a wide array of creative jobs. But this trait also may make it harder to keep your top performers engaged when they're promoting one brand instead of several, as within an agency setting.

As a manager, it takes a little creativity on your part, as well as strong leadership skills, to keep your talent inspired and producing their best work. Here are some tips:

Remember the work is the bottom line

While fair pay is important to creatives, the ability to develop compelling images and ideas - and receive recognition for them - matters just as much. Praise your staff for a job well done and communicate their successes to senior management. Enter employee projects in industry shows and competitions, and give members a range of assignments that will keep them motivated and fresh.

Continue the learning curve

Creatives are interested in getting to know new software programs and keeping up with current trends. Training your print designer on the Web is not only motivating and educational - it helps diversify the talent level of your staff. Sending team members to seminars where they can learn the latest trends and techniques can also revitalize them.

Create varied career paths

Not all designers aspire to management - or are cut out for it. Yet, within many organizations, transitioning into an art director or creative director is the only way to move up. Try to develop alternative options that enable team members to advance their careers without supervising others. When you promote employees to management roles, make sure they're given the resources to succeed, such as a leadership seminar or mentor who they can turn to for advice.

Keep them connected

In-house creatives are sometimes the last to learn of company challenges, strategies and bottom-line results. This can stem from communication lapses or the design team may not show an active interest in this type of information. Whatever the reason, knowing as much as possible about the business as a whole is essential to producing the strongest work and feeling part of the team. Regularly share company news with your staff. When assigning a project, put it into context: Why is this piece necessary? What does the business hope to achieve? Who will be using a particular item, and how? If you're promoting a new product, show your staff samples of it and explain how the new item will be used; if it's a service, have them test it out.

Create a comfortable work environment

Design and marketing professionals are typically accustomed to putting in long hours, although not always in the 8-to-5 fashion. Flexible work schedules are a strong incentive - and enable team members to work when they're at their best. Those who have migrated from agency environments also may be used to casual dress codes and colorful decor, so try to accommodate them where possible. An inviting atmosphere, including a casual "brainstorming" room can be beneficial.

For more tips on building a strong in-house creative team, check out our free guide, How Does Your Creative Talent Grow?.