Guide #017: How to scale an internal creative team

Apply empathy for the people whose problems you're trying to solve - from positioning your request for a new employee all the way to onboarding.

Anchor the growth of your team in the increased demand from the partners you service

Frame your request for additional resources through the lens of helping the partners you serve achieve their goals. Start with fact-finding discussions with the leaders of the teams you serve to learn about their growth projections or future goals. For example, if you’re servicing a Sales team, do they plan to increase sales goals or add new salespeople to their team? These goals have a direct impact on the demands on the creative team. Bridge the connection between the growth of the partners you serve and the additional output needed from your team.

Present scenarios for how adding new roles will increase your team's output capacity

Categorize the types of output the team produces. Using historical data, quantity how much output the team can produce with the current work hours per person. Using this as a baseline, produce scenarios of how adding different roles would increase the team's output capacity. For example, if you add one full time senior designer, how would that change your team’s output capacity? What if you added a junior designer and a project manager? How would that change your team’s output capacity? Present these scenarios the way you would pitch a new client—put your best foot forward to provide a problem statement and a risk analysis of how acting on your proposal will enable the company to achieve its goals.

Determine your philosophy for creative to project manager team ratio

Beyond four or five individual contributors, a project manager or operations role should be added to your team—possibly sooner, if it’s clear that the team will only continue to grow over the long term. Determine the ratio that is right for your team. Set up infrastructure and someone to manage it, so that communication with partners, managing schedules and due dates, and maintaining a ticketing or project management tool does not take away from team output.

Avoid misalignment between candidate goals and the opportunities of an open role

Beyond a 30 or 90 day plan, is there a written career track for all the roles on your team? Some specialist roles like illustrators, videographers, etc. may not have a long-term advancement track; however, this should be made clear to anyone being hired into the role. Consider making specialist roles contractor versus full time. Not everyone wants to grow into a managerial position, nor should this be forced on an individual. Strive for open communication between managers and employees to promote clarity around an individual’s career goals, the opportunities of the role and the broader team growth.

Create balance within your team across roles and individual goals

Depending on the type of output your team produces you may need both full-time and contract employees, generalists like brand designers, and specialists like illustrators and videographers. Also, consider a mix of both growth-oriented employees and stability-oriented employees. While growth-oriented employees help the team expand by taking on managerial roles, recognize that stability-oriented employees oftentimes are culture builders and team historians that provide consistency within your group. Both growth and stability types are necessary for a healthy team.

Create a culture where teammates can express themselves

Combat imposter syndrome and isolation caused by remote work by creating activities that lead to laughter and fun. For example, within physical workspaces, provide equipment and space for craft making. Within remote work or virtual collaboration, use digital tools to host drawing challenges or showcase early career work to help break down the perception that everyone should be perfect. Organize volunteer activities to encourage community involvement or host quirky team-building activities like a virtual chocolate-making class. With teams spread across geographies and time zones, encourage smaller, local activities but share the outputs or experiences broadly.

Be more diligent when onboarding employees remotely

Recognize that new employees are bombarded with links and resources spread across different tools and platforms. Create a thorough onboarding document that should serve as their source of truth for where to access information and who to ask for help. Check in on your new employee frequently to reinforce the feeling of working on a new team despite still being at home. When setting them up with 1:1s to meet other team members, provide background on what each person does and a few questions to ask so as to spark conversation and meaningful sharing.


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