Cella’s Industry Report — Insights for Staying Creative & Keeping Top-Tier Talent: Part 2

September 13, 2017 Marcus Varner

In a recent webinar, Jackie Schaffer, vice-president and general manager at Cella, and Nick Scholz, solutions marketing manager at Workfront, shared some points of interest from Cella's 2017 In-House Creative Industry Report and tips for retaining talent. What follows is the second in a three-part recap of the webinar. You can see part one here. If you want to watch the entire webinar on demand, click here.


Jackie Schaffer: There’s a little change this year with how many people can utilize freelancers, and it’s rounded to say 8 out of 10 this year. Last year it said 9 out of 10; in reality, it’s a little bit less than that in the difference.

But the good news is, most people can readily access freelancers, whether they have a pot of money waiting or they have to ask and they usually get a yes. That’s a good piece of news, there.


Download our executive brief, "How Agencies Can Solve The 3 Biggest Challenges of Working With Freelancers," to learn how you can more effectively include freelancers on your team.


The other piece of good news is 98 percent of teams are predicted to stay the same size or grow. We’re not seeing the reduction in the in-house creative teams. In fact, the sizes of teams are growing again this year.

We’re seeing groups move from the number of small—and this isn’t on the slide; I’m just giving you a little more information here. But there are some people moving from a small team, so less than 10, into mid-sized teams is where we saw a change this year. Mid-size is defined as 11 to 30.

Nick Scholz: This is totally editorial, so you just tell me if you don’t have the data to be able to answer.

But do you think there’s any connection between the reduction in the amount of teams that can utilize freelancers and what we saw on the last slide: a slight increase in the types of people that can have some sort of remote work or a flex-time opportunity?

Jackie Schaffer: It’s a great question. I haven’t cut the data that way, but just anecdotally. And maybe I’m not answering your question, but I’m going to give you an interesting or different answer.

The more flexible your work environment is around hours and specifically location, the better your ability to use freelancers, especially those with specialized skills.

Wouldn’t it be great to open yourself up to a market of individuals who are working in the San Francisco Bay Area if you need to do something in the digital space, and specifically in the app development space; versus being stuck—I’m here in the DC area—to the radius of someone who could drive here and is willing to deal with this traffic?

So if you can have remote access, it will make a more robust freelancer opportunity for you.

Nick Scholz: Definitely, and that diversity of skill sets mitigates some of the problems we’ve faced over the last decade or so, as more and more people have realized that there is a real global talent market that they can pull from.

Jackie Schaffer: It’s true.

This is one I’m kind of passionate about, and the reason I’m passionate about it is because how many hours do your folks work; folks are saying—and it’s kind of a weird display of the data to be honest, but if you look at the left-hand side on the bottom, almost a quarter, 27 percent, say that their team on average works 40 hours or less, on average, a week.

The question mark in all of our heads is: "How do you work less?" That could be the folks that have the 37.5 hour workweek; what a wonderful place.

But 27 percent of folks are doing that. Fifty-two percent are working 41 to 45, and the change here this year is we saw that less people are working more than 45 hours.

There used to be a higher number there. And I just wonder if we’re starting to normalize that 41-45 hours a week, because it’s real easy to get there.

I also wonder if, with the growing flexibility in hours and remote work, which are positive things, if as managers we’re not always cognizant of how much someone is working because we don’t see them.

So my takeaway for everyone is if you have folks you don’t see on a regular basis, that’s not a bad thing. 

But really ask the question you may not know the answer to to understand their work-life balance, because I think it’s easy to check a box if people work 40 hours or less, or 41-45 and it may not always be the truth because we’re not privy to the truth.

Nick Scholz: That’s totally fair, and obviously Workfront is always thinking about and studying the effects that burnout can have. So when I look at this, it immediately made my stomach tighten just a little bit.

Because if you’re going over that 46 hours, whether it’s just that they’re being more honest in their reporting or whatever else it might be, if you’re consistently going over that 46 hours a week, you may be at risk of burnout.

Burnout is a huge problem for creative teams, as most of our listeners here know.

So you may want to examine processes and assess tools. Pay special attention to tools for things like visual resource management, streamlined intake, and approval processes; those can eat up a wild amount of hours.

I think that would probably be something to assess if you’re in that category.

There’s only so much you can do, certainly, with some of the workloads that people have but I think that’s definitely worth looking at because burnout is not where you want to be.

Connected to that, we just talked obviously about what kind of hours are worked but I think it’s interesting to look at it through the lens of the amount of projects completed.

Just for quick reference, in this graph we broke the teams out according to the following numbers: a small team is less than 10; mid-size 11 to 30, large 31 to 50, and a mega team is greater than 50. It’s really a huge team.

As Jackie pointed out, there’s a possibility we’ve got a lot of churn and burn kind of projects, but one thing that surprised me was that we still have some of these mid-sized people reporting they’re doing over 8,000 projects a year.

They may be quick or small things, but having to change gears between small projects, that takes a long time. It’s the same kind of effect of jumping in and out of your email; it takes 12 minutes to be able to refocus yourself. That can have its own kind of toll and effect as well.

So with that in mind, we want to talk a little bit about the insights and data that came from the report about the talent market.

While we’re seeing an impressive amount of people who have been committed to the same employer for over 10 years, that was surprising to me; 44 percent at ten-plus years. We also have a little less than that amount, 35 percent, who expect to have moved on in the next two.

I know these two data points, as far as I understand, Jackie, weren’t directly segmented. But I think that’s a very interesting possible connection there. That really affects the kind of talent you run the risk of losing and the kind of talent you could need to hire in the coming year.

Jackie Schaffer: This is very specific. It’s important to keep in mind that these are the folks who took our survey, so we’re talking about those art directors and above, up to the senior leaders of creative, how long they’ve been places.

I don’t think it’s unusual for us to take a look at the folks who are creative directors and running creative departments and see folks who have been there six or more years.

But what I think is interesting is talking about correlating the data here.

If I look at folks who have been in their roles for two years or less, 50 percent of them plan to leave within the next two years. So they’re looking at short tenures in their organizations, or at least what historically would be termed a short tenure; maybe that’s changing.

If you look at the next bucket of three to five, people who have been there three to five years, most of those folks, over three quarters, plan to stay where they are for up to five years. So, most folks are not looking to leave right away; they’re sticking around.

Nick Scholz: That’s more what I would imagine.

Jackie Schaffer: I didn’t correlate this between the question of "what’s your next move," and one of the answers is "retirement," later in the survey.

But of the folks who have been somewhere six or more years, so the majority of these respondents, 30 percent are planning an exit strategy in the next two years.

I think what’s interesting is if you look at the graph on the right, 35 percent of folks in total are looking at an exit strategy, which is pretty big. Thirty-five percent, we’re talking potentially about more than 100 jobs that are going to turnover in the next two years in senior levels.

People who are thinking about changing, they’re probably excited to hear that number.

Nick Scholz: Yeah, that’s the truth. In some ways because of the possible transitory outlook that we see in that other data, once again less than two years before they quit, the 35 percent; the majority of teams at least believe that they can find the talent they’re looking for this year.

As good as that seems, something about the data points seems strange. And as we were preparing for this and talking this through, we talked to Jackie about that.

I think what it really comes down to, and Jackie is going to dive into that a little bit more in a second, is that people always tend to have a rosier view of the possibilities that they aren’t completely familiar with.

In other words, what we believe and what we actually see in the market I think are two different things.

Jackie Schaffer: Nick, you said it really nicely. I might have been more blunt. My response is you’re wrong if you believe there’s enough available talent out there right now.

It’s a very strong statement and I’m sure I’m going to get a Q&A that says, "I just hired three people really easily." Potentially you have an amazing compensation or benefits package, or you live in an area where it’s better than most of the country.

But the truth is, and specific to the creative industry, it’s tight right now and I really hope folks hear that and genuinely understand that.

If you’ve only had to hire one or two people, you might not feel the pain of the people who are hiring five or six or seven people this year.

So, this graph here, it’s a little bit difficult to internalize. Because what it’s telling us is that historically, prior to January 2015, you see that green line on top; there’s been more hires than openings. And you’ve got to ask yourself, "How can you make a hire if there’s not an opening?"

A lot of it, like every statistic, is how the data is collected.

An internal promotion is considered a hire, or a temp is considered a hire but if there was never a formal opening for a promotion that you went to market with, if that temp was a direct source from somewhere, it’s not a formal opening and it doesn’t get counted in the same way.

But the important thing is not necessarily to take away the full meaning of this graph.

The key takeaway of what you see, it has happened in the last two years, is that these have flip-flopped.

They’re converging right now, so we’ll see where it goes, but there are more openings than hires. What that means is employers cannot find enough quality candidates to fill their openings.

The other thing that’s a really great sign of a healthy employment market is people are quitting. I know that’s scary, especially those of you who are heads of creative. People are quitting; it’s the last thing we want. But it shows confidence in the job market. People are valuable right now. 

I’ve done my scare tactic of "it’s a bad market," but what you need to realize is if you’re not looking for people and having trouble, what might be happening—just be aware of this—is that your people might be getting phone calls from recruiters.

They probably are, at least some of them, trying to poach them because there aren’t enough people in the open market so they’re begging people to quit, to come take a different offer.

We all see this in the news all the time; the unemployment rate is low at 4.5 percent.

The one click deeper on this data is if you look at the data and segment it by level of education obtained, of a bachelor’s degree or higher, the unemployment rate is 2.5 percent. So, the majority of us are probably hiring folks with four-year degrees.

I know there are certainly good exceptions out there. But even unemployment for folks who didn’t finish high school, it’s at 8.5 percent, which is really strong. That’s a good number for folks who haven’t finished high school.

And of course there are numbers in between for different levels of education obtained.

Nick Scholz: That said, obviously even if the respondents are being optimistic on what they can find out there, the data still does give us lots of insight on the types of services that are anticipated to be really increasing in the future.

As you can see here, more than half of the respondents said video production is something that will be greatly increasing.

So when you’re thinking about protecting your best people and possible open headcount that you’re going to be putting into your teams, you might want to think about it in terms of the lens that this kind of data gives you.

Skill sets that tackle these services will be in really high demand. You’ll be playing a really tough game of chess. You’re trying hard to keep your talent, and simultaneously trying to draw from the limited pool headcount.

Just like Jackie was talking about; you’ve got to keep your people protected from headhunters, and then you’ve also got to make sure that you’re the one who is pulling in good talent, too.


To watch the entire "Cella's 2017 In-House Creative Industry Report" webinar on demand, click here.

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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Cella’s Industry Report — Insights for Staying Creative & Keeping Top-Tier Talent: Part 1
Cella’s Industry Report — Insights for Staying Creative & Keeping Top-Tier Talent: Part 1

by Marcus Varner - Jackie Schaffer and Nick Scholz share some points of interest from Cella's 2017 In-House...

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