The Road to Employee Engagement for In-House Creative Teams

Image of Yari Ising
Yari Ising

There is a lot of buzz these days around employee engagement, but it is often confused with levels of satisfaction or happiness. The true meaning centers more around an employee’s level of psychological investment in their organization – how connected do they feel to their company – the mission and for many ‘in-house agencies’ what may dominate even more is the actual projects and work and how much it might feed your workers ‘creative spirit’ or passions. Studies show that 64% of employees in North America are disengaged from their jobs and it’s not about the money, as only 12% leave for higher-paying jobs. 75% of the employees who voluntarily leave their jobs are leaving their bosses not their jobs. The cost of keeping these unhappy, disengaged employees runs a whopping $450-550 billion a year for US companies. If 90% of executives think an employee engagement strategy is so important then why do only 25% of them have an actual plan?

Studies show that companies who invest in employee engagement, experience increased productivity, improved staff retention and increased client satisfaction. Studies show that highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their company and those companies experience 2.5X more revenues as well as 2X more in net income. Why wait any longer when the pay-off can be so rewarding?

There are many ways to improve employee engagement, but when working specifically with In-House Creative Teams, here are a few important things I’ve learned along the way in partnering with my clients at TeamPeople.


Untapped Opportunity

Disengaged employees offer the greatest untapped opportunity for businesses to improve their profitability.

The cost of losing a disengaged employee and having to recruit, hire and train a new employee to replace the position costs you 1/3 of the employee’s salary. If you look at your current turnover and calculate the average costs that could be a fairly substantial number. For the creative industry, it can be costly and time-consuming to even find the right person with the appropriate technical background, never mind the onboarding and training associated with the new hire. Another data point to consider is that higher productivity turns to higher profit margins. Simply looking at a 22% increase in profitability might start to get some heads turning. Senior leaders within my clients have responded to the data, so in order to create an initiative around employee engagement, you’ll need to start cranking out those numbers!


Content vs. Brand: Who's the Real King?

The Brand is King.

So often you hear “content is king” and it is, but for employee engagement, a surprising number of studies point out that the brand is essential!  In this case, brands are not only valuable in driving revenue or the reputation of a company, but now as equally as important in developing Employee Value Proposition (“EVP”). EVP measures a company’s ability to articulate and deliver on the promises to employees.  It is what many are now calling the “stickiness factor”. When you are creating brands, content you are looking for that “stickiness” that will drive your consumers, but now employers are adopting the same approach to driving retention. Building a brand that can deliver on its promises to consumers is key, but now even more importantly you must deliver to your employee base as well. Perhaps partnering with your HR departments to explore how your in-house agency could advance the EVP for your own organization might be worth exploring.


An Individual-Based Approach

Improving employee engagement will be different for each department and every person.

There are certain departments like sales or recruiting where an elevated level of competition can bring out the best in people. However, In-House Creative teams are a different animal. For the most part, In-House teams are the highest performing when they are working together and not against each other. When there is a free flow of ideas, creativity, and innovation, everyone wins. The “team” mentality we live by at TeamPeople starts with each individual. Understanding and magnifying each person’s unique strengths means that we place them in roles that will enable them to use those strengths on a regular basis. When employees can do this, they are far more productive and passionate about their projects. For others though mixing it up will be key, therefore we have also adopted rotational programs or shadowing so that the work does not get stagnate and offers an ability to learn or try something new and perhaps uncapping unknown new strength areas.


Your Role in Engagement

Create the right environment- then get out of the way.

Creative people by nature are passionate about what they do, many times motivation is not a problem. Your job as a manager and leader of a creative in-house team is to create and protect their creative environment for them. In my experience at both TeamPeople and NBC Universal, managing creative teams translated into creating a safe place for failure, preaching the company’s core mission and values to create alignment, driving innovation, and getting out of the way. If you allow creative people to self-direct and own their own processes and ideas, you pave the way for them to be driven by a larger purpose and meaning. By creating an innovation incubator within your team, so that ideas can be expressed and if then adopted enable those who initiated them a chance to implement and own them, it creates a stronger sense of ownership across the team as well as an ability to see they also can be part of driving change.



Non-financial motivators can be just as effective as monetary ones.

One of the biggest frustrations I’ve heard from creatives is that they are expected to keep up with the emerging trends and software advances, but don’t get the appropriate training from their own companies or funding to seek it elsewhere. There are many ways companies can help support their creative and technical employees through seminars, local workshops or self-paced online alternatives. At TeamPeople we support contractors with our own training benefits as well as continuing education especially for some technical roles where key certifications are mandatory. Alongside training, getting employees engaged with volunteer opportunities can also go a long way. In fact, a study by PWC discovered that 88% of Millennials gravitated toward companies with prominent Corporate Social Responsibility programs, and 86% would consider leaving if their employer’s CSR no longer met their expectations. Another important way to keep them engaged is through feedback loops. The best part of this strategy is it is FREE and requires only time. Studies show that 48% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week. Maintaining open lines of communication and transparency around equity and opportunities for growth in your dept. are key to maintaining a highly focused team.


One Size Does NOT Fit All

Most importantly, make this experience your own. Employee engagement is not a one-size-fits-all initiative. The way you go about enhancing employee engagement should reflect your In-House team’s goals and objectives as well as your leadership style.

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