Cella’s Industry Report — Insights for Staying Creative & Keeping Top-Tier Talent: Part 3

September 14, 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 third in a three-part recap of the webinar. You can see part one here and part two here. If you want to watch the entire webinar on demand, click here.


Nick Scholz: Obviously, you can only do so much and there’s no guarantee of the things that you do, that you’ll always be able to keep the very best people around. But, there are things that you can do to encourage the best people to stay.

One of those is huge and we already touched on it earlier, is doing everything you can to encourage work-life balance.


Download our Work-Life Imbalance Report to find out where employees feel work is intruding on their personal lives.


Some of the quick ideas and tips are things like centralizing. Get more efficient tools. Everything that makes their life just the teeniest bit more miserable is the type of thing that makes them think, "Maybe it’s about time to move on."

Create a better process; process is killer for these creative team members. If you’ve got a bad process, they’re the ones that have to take the brunt of the pain that comes with it.

Consider assessing any processes that seem overly painful, that seem like they could be causing people to not feel like there’s a balance in the energy that they’re putting into their work and their life.

Visibility; if you can find a way to balance workloads better, I don’t know that I’ve met very many creative teams that feel like they’re really, really well balanced in terms of the resources scheduling.

It’s because it’s so difficult. There are so many different kinds of projects running through constantly.

Balance those workloads with a tool of some kind, whatever you have to do, to make sure that people feel like they’re really balanced and you’re not just burning out the very best producers on your team and feeling like other people are undervalued or under loaded.

We talked a little bit earlier about remote work options and flexible schedules; they’re huge. If you’re part of that group that doesn’t offer them, see if there’s a way that you can offer that because it makes a big difference in the quality of life that these creative team members are going through.

Anything to add, Jackie?

Jackie Schaffer: You know, I just got something in my inbox today, and I printed it out because I thought of this slide when it came in. It’s about the fact that folks are leaving, the quit rate is up; it was pulling in the data that we’ve been talking about.

And what it drove back to was a tip for retaining your best people. A recent report found that only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued at work. So this idea of genuinely appreciating and recognizing folks’ contributions needs to be a bigger part of a leader’s job.

Nick Scholz: I totally agree with you.

Jackie Schaffer: I didn’t even think about the segue that would create for this slide.

Nick Scholz: Right?

Jackie Schaffer: Two things folks want to do, and it’s huge in the creative industry. Our worlds are changing so fast with the advent of technology.

The creative team that we run at Merck has been doing virtual reality. It’s amazing, but we could not have done virtual reality as a service if we didn’t have an established training budget and use it. Because that was a large learning curve, as you might expect.

So, this question here on the left, "Does your team have an established training budget?"

The good news is while only 35 percent of people said straight out "yes," 17 percent more said "yes, though I’m not privy to the amount," which that’s an interesting world to live in. Then another 18 percent are saying "no, but most requests get approved."

So the good news is 70 percent are probably in a good spot. A quarter, down there at the bottom, 26 percent; "no, funding for training is limited and approved individually." That’s really sad.

You can’t always give people the raises you want, but sometimes if you can invest in their professional development, it’s more meaningful; being able to send them to a conference.

Nick Scholz: They feel appreciated.

Jackie Schaffer: Yes, you feel appreciated; you feel like someone’s investing in your future, not just your today.

And then on the right, and gosh, we’re all in this bucket; I get this. Sixty-four plus eight is 72 percent of us that don’t have enough time or no time at all to be coaching and developing the people below us.

That’s disappointing. I think any of us that checked that box were disappointed that that’s the box we checked. We know it’s our reality, but what are we doing to change our reality?

Because if you’re not developing them, and you guys know what the next statement I’m going to make is; they’re not going to be ready to take your job, and you’re not going to be ready for your next step. So, you’ve really got to put the time into those folks.

I recently watched a TED Talk, and it was short but the key takeaway was what is a priority in your life is what you make a priority.

It talked about personal and work, but if we all took an hour on our calendar and blocked it every day, or two half hours at a different time, to say, "what am I doing to develop my people during this time," we would do it more often than we do today.

Nick Scholz: I think it’s easy to forget how big of a difference it makes when you feel like your leader is actually taking that kind of time, but it really makes a huge difference.

Jackie Schaffer: There’s just not a parallel to it.

Nick Scholz: You actually talked on what’s our last tip: basically making sure that people are recognized.

It’s important to showcase work, accomplishments, and make sure you’re rewarding that high performance to keep and attract the top talent that you need.

In a bunch of studies that Workfront has conducted with some of our partners, we see that just simple recognition and making sure you have the ability to truly recognize helps reduce attrition rates, it keeps your team members engaged in work, and it encourages creativity and high performance.

So, having a single source of truth where completed work is stored, tracked, distributed; it really does help to see who did what and how well that stuff is being utilized so that you can better recognize—and even use metrics that you can use to recognize—what your creative team is contributing.

So, a few more findings; one we wanted to talk about is the expanding role of the ops manager. The question was, "Is there a dedicated operational role?"

And this is someone who’s dedicated to focusing on the department’s processes, systems, technology, vendor management, financial management, reporting. It’s those pieces that are critical but aren’t traditionally what we would call part of the creative services team.

But as you can see here, in all teams it’s almost 50/50 that they actually have someone who is an ops manager; it’s becoming more and more common.

But in teams of more than 30, that’s where you can really see; it’s 83 percent of departments or teams with more than 30 members have a role like this. So, it’s growing year-over-year and they’re really obviously seeing the value, especially at larger volume and larger team sizes.

Jackie Schaffer: That’s another key takeaway from this report for me; that cut of the data. If you’re a team greater than 30 and there isn’t someone focused on ops; so if your head of creative is focused on ops, great.

But, if they’re also the creative director, they’re not focused on ops. That role puts out that the head of creative can either be a creative director or can be an operational director. When your team gets to 30, and even 20, those two responsibilities need to be broken out. 

So, if you are a team of 30 or more and that is not broken out that someone is responsible for operations separate from creative direction, that’s an opportunity for improvement in your business of creative.

Nick Scholz: At team sizes like that, you can’t just be the one-man stop anymore; you really do need help with those kinds of things.

Jackie Schaffer: Something is not firing on all… I can’t get it out today.

Nick Scholz: All cylinders?

Jackie Schaffer: You are not being successful on all cylinders, thank you; that’s why we’re a team.

This is also a brand new question this year: "What is the proportion of team hours spent on digital projects versus print projects?" It was a really interesting one to analyze and cut the data and learn what’s going on out there. I found two key takeaways.

The main one, if you’re looking at this graph, it’s like 40/60, 50/50 almost. We talked about hours, not number of projects of course, but folks are spending almost half their time on digital versus print. We’ve come a long way as far as where digital was 10 or 15 years ago.

What I found really interesting is what you see in that callout there; that 80 percent of creative teams are spending at least 30 percent of their time on digital. So, eight out of 10 creative teams, digital is a core component; it’s not something being done off the side of someone’s desk.

Nick Scholz: We always talk about work intake and everything related to the types of work that people are doing, whether it’s actual physical or digital. And what we see here generally is good news. Eighty-five percent of the in-house creative teams are using some sort of creative brief.

But, there are two catches to this.

The first one I’ll go into is if you’re in the 15 percent that isn’t using a creative brief at all, you really need to make a goal this year to institute some sort of a briefing process for new projects with clear, documented expectations on what will be produced, to meet which kind of goals, when it will be delivered.

You and your team have of course a handy reference throughout the process, but you also have an extra layer of protection that you can use to defend what was produced.

The second point I think Jackie wants to speak to.

Jackie Schaffer: I’m almost as worried about the folks who say, "I have no creative brief" as the 27 percent who say, "yes, and we do it for every project." 

There’s a stigma around working with the in-house agency, the internal creative team, that we make a lot of rules to work with us, we’re very black and white around how we must have things.

And sometimes one of those things is how much information we require at intake of a project; how much effort we require our internal partners to undergo in order to start something with us.

So, 10 years ago I would have said for a tier three project, you should have an intake form. For a tier two project, you should have a project brief. And for a tier one, you should have a creative brief.

Those same things exist, except of course 10 years ago it was a form—literally—that you emailed maybe in a PDF or a Word document or you printed it and handed it to somebody.

Today, a lot of the tools—and Workfront is really strong at this—use a dynamic intake form.

It has your basic questions on, let’s call it page one or screen one, and depending on what you answer, your project either can be submitted or you’re going to be asked more questions based on the responses.

So it’s really important to be asking for the appropriate level of effort of your clients to work for you. If it takes me 10 minutes to request a project that’s like five edits to an existing work, that’s ridiculous. I just want to be able to get it in and out.

Nick Scholz: With word processors on the mind, you can’t have a conversation with Workfront about in-house creative teams without getting a little bit under the hood and talking tools. The report doesn’t come up short in this area either, and we get some interesting insights from that.

Jackie Schaffer: I’m really kind of surprised that DM has not grown. If you look at DM year-over-year, it really remains kind of steady. I thought by now, that would be a bigger conversation topic and more people would be adopting DM.

So I’m really hoping and looking at ways that Cella can support pushing that as the next step. Because conversely, project management systems, the adoption of those has grown dramatically in the past seven years since we’ve done this report.

I think early on, I think 50 percent of the team had something. And what they had seven years ago was very different than what they’re checking they have today.

As you can see on the right, I’m sure the Workfront team is really excited to see this; the delta between the number-one position which is Workfront, and it was last year as well; but the number-two position is 9 percent. That’s 17 percentage points difference.

That was not as big a difference last year, and qualitatively I am seeing this in the marketplace when I talk to folks. A lot of folks are moving to Workfront.

What is crazy to me is that number two and number three are Microsoft SharePoint and BaseCamp.

Sharepoint, I’m sorry for the 9 percent of you; I know why you’re using it. Your company has an enterprise license and they’ve basically forced you into it. I have yet to meet the person who’s totally psyched about having their tool through SharePoint.

And I really question whether the cost savings is there. I understand taking an enterprise license and really making full use of it, but the amount of effort and cost that goes into manipulating SharePoint to do what you want it to do is really high.

I would argue you could pay the same for an external tool like Workfront and have far more benefit from that spend than in just manipulating SharePoint.

BaseCamp, again, I hate that we even list that as a selection of a project management system because it’s not a full system.

There’s workflow to it but you’re not getting the metrics, you’re not getting the reporting, you’re not getting all the advantages that Workfront and other ones lower on this list provide in-house creative teams.

What I am thrilled about is that the custom application numbers, you see at 4 percent down at the bottom, FileMaker Pro; those numbers have dropped dramatically.

I don't think we’re any more in this conversation that we were seven years ago—and I use that number because that’s where my data starts from—"do I build or do I buy?"

Because a lot of us built. I built a custom FileMaker Pro application 15 years ago. But now, it’s clear; you buy.

Nick Scholz: As happy as I am about the Workfront number there, and how could you not be; almost all the conversations I’ve had with someone in an in-house creative team who’s using SharePoint that goes right along the lines that you’re talking about, and they usually also have something about how in order to get SharePoint to do what they want it to do, they had to have a full developer.

There was a full development cost just to get it to go the direction they wanted it to. That means that it probably wasn’t built for what you’re trying to do.

Jackie Schaffer: Exactly.

Nick Scholz: Or if we talk about project management systems and DAMs, but with proofing systems, "does your team use soft proofing software to collaborate with clients, collect/track feedback;" there’s a decently high amount that say "no," but there’s quite a few who are saying "yes; at the very least we’re using some sort." 

It’s almost two-thirds are using some sort of proofing software with the most commonly used one being ProofHQ, followed by Workfront which bundles in ProofHQ. I’m glad to see that many using it.

I personally in a time long past, before I worked at Workfront, I worked at a company that had no proofing solution in the marketing department there and it vastly makes my life simpler and easier.

I can only imagine what our in-house creative team feels when they don’t have to go through all the conflicting feedback. So, I’m glad to see so many using it and I'd encourage the others to look into it.

And then last, there are administrators. When you have tools, you have administration.

Since these tools are the ones that are driving work forward for a lot of these in-house creative teams, many of them now have an assigned administrator to show that they’re invested in the success of these tools.

Between the two questions, "do you have a dedicated resource managing your DAM system," and then "do you have a dedicated resource managing the project management tool;" there is a pretty large amount, 68 percent, that has at least a shared resource.

Sometimes this may end up being an ops manager like we talked about earlier; sometimes it can be a completely different resource but at least there’s a shared resource doing that. There are very few saying "not really," comparatively to everybody else, which is a good thing.

Any insights to add from when you were looking into the data, Jackie?

Jackie Schaffer: Not into the data, but I will tell you qualitatively from our consulting engagements that the number of teams that invested in a DAM and/or a project management system and haven’t invested in an owner of that system, not the IT owner who’s like "it’s not working right" and needs to figure it out; but a person who’s responsible for ensuring a system is being used as it was intended and that updates are occurring, and you’re taking advantage of those updates, that sort of thing; it’s crazy high.

Those folks who are in there, in the 25-30 percent, depending on which side of the page you’re looking at, their tools are failing.

It’s a very easy equation of why their tools are failing; no one is taking care of it.

Nick Scholz: This is an investment. You invest in something like that to be able to drive you forward, and when you don’t have someone who can actually take care of this, yes, you say, "this has been a failure for me and this doesn’t work for me."

Or, you guys are failing at this big investment that we’ve made. But an administrator, someone who is committed to it, can make all the difference.

Jackie Schaffer: Exactly.

If anyone is not familiar with Cella, I really encourage you and would love for you to learn more about us.

High level, we do consulting, we do professional development, and we run in-house agencies for folks who, for one reason or another, are not able to staff a team on their company payroll. 

The In-House Creative Industry Report, there’s a link to it available to you all; we’d love you to download it and pour through it. It is 60 pages. Luckily, the digital version is nicely bookmarked and hyperlinked so you can get to where you need to get quickly.

We have a couple of events coming up in the near future. You can see Creative Manager Boot Camp within just two weeks in Dallas, and that’s still available.

That’s for your folks who are new to management or have never really gotten an understanding of what it means to be a manager on an in-house creative team. For me, that means learning what it means to manage people and understanding that you’re just not managing the process.

For some people, that’s like the sexy piece; managing the process, trying to make changes in the department. That’s good and that’s necessary, and you need to take care of the people and manage the business.

And so we get into what it means to manage the business of creative, and to manage the people in creative.

And then in Atlanta in the fall, we’ll be doing Beyond the Creative again. We’re not the only ones to publish this survey; we publish it in partnership with our sister company, The BOSS Group who is in many different metropolitan areas, as you can see here, and has a national presence as well.

So if there’s anything they can do to help you with your creative staffing needs, please do reach out. I’m happy to connect you to the right person. We love working with new and current customers on both sides of our business.

Nick Scholz: Jackie has encouraged you, I’ve encouraged you but please do download the full report out on Cella’s website. There are a lot more insights in there than what we’re able to cover in one one-hour webinar.

Things like criteria for prioritizing work, who’s actually tracking time, how they’re doing it. Greatest challenges for leaders, how other teams like you are handling chargebacks; there’s a lot of data on that for those who are handling chargebacks out there.

Different kind of movement inside and outside the creative group but inside the company; where people have come from, where they have gone.

There’s a whole lot more, so really we encourage you to go out there, download the full report, and get all these great insights. It’s absolutely worth the time. And with that, I think that’s what we have today so thank you for joining us.


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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