Creative Leaders: Hiring Trends and Challenges You Should Know for 2019

Sixty percent of creative managers plan on expanding their teams in the first half of 2019, according to The Creative Group’s latest State of Creative Hiring research. But while many design and marketing agencies and departments may be in growth mode, that doesn’t mean adding staff is easy.

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With the unemployment rate at near-historic lows, employers are struggling on the hiring front—particularly when it comes to creative and marketing professionals. In fact, 92% of the advertising and marketing managers we surveyed say it’s challenging to find skilled creative talent in the current job market. To overcome this hurdle, it’s key to understand the latest trends in hiring and compensation.

To start, you should know that digital is in demand. Web and mobile design, development, and production are the top areas that employers plan to hire for from January to June 2019. Unfortunately, talented digital specialists are also among the hardest positions to fill. Managers also report a need for professionals with a solid background in user experience (UX), creative development, and visual design. Competition for these candidates is especially fierce right now.

Knowing which positions are in demand is critical, but it’s equally important that employers move faster when hiring. The primary barrier for companies in securing top candidates is a slow hiring process, according to survey respondents. Talented creative professionals are typically entertaining multiple job offers, and employers must be ready to act quickly to land the creative specialists they seek. Another survey from Robert Half, parent company to The Creative Group, found that 69% of workers lose interest in a position if they don’t hear back within 2 weeks after an interview.

In addition to avoiding hiring delays, employers would be wise to relax job requirements. In response to the talent shortage, some employers are putting more emphasis on previous experience and digital portfolios than education level. Seventy-four percent of employers surveyed said they are more willing to hire creative professionals with relevant certifications but no college degree than they were a year ago. The result is a larger candidate pool without sacrificing quality. And with the softening of expectations for technical skills, there is also a rise in importance for soft skills and aptitude for learning.

Finding qualified candidates is certainly one issue, but closing the deal with a preferred professional is another. If you’re having difficulty with the latter, it may be time to take a second look at your compensation package. Use online salary resources to make sure the starting wages you offer are competitive enough to lure top talent in your city. The more specialized and in-demand candidates’ skills are, the higher on the salary range you may need to pay to land them.

Taking advantage of freelance talent is another key trend we’re seeing for 2019. At the same time companies are adding more full-time positions, 56% of the managers surveyed say they plan to increase the number of contractors, consultants, and project specialists on their team. This blended staffing strategy allows managers to quickly fill skill gaps without a long-term commitment. In addition, using temporary staff is an excellent way to assess a creative specialist as a potential full-time hire.

And, however your creative staff is composed—full-time hires, contractors, project specialists—you shouldn’t forget about employee retention. Creative specialists with digital expertise know jobs are plentiful for candidates with their skill set, and 78% of managers surveyed cited concern about losing staff members to other job opportunities in the next 12 months. And they should be concerned. Another recent survey indicates that 60% of professionals surveyed anticipate making a job change in the next year. That’s why you may need to step up your efforts to keep employees happy in their current role.

One way to do so is to focus on organizational culture. Employees who are satisfied with their company and engaged with their work are likely to be more productive and innovative. Research shows that the top drivers of happiness for creative and marketing professionals are doing worthwhile work, feeling appreciated, and taking interest in their work. Focus on these for your team, and you’re sure to create an organizational culture where creative employees thrive and want to stay.

The current job market may highly favor the candidate, but there’s still much you can do to fill vacancies and grow your team. With a hiring strategy that allows for a blended staff, competitive salaries, cool perks, and speedy offers, you greatly improve your chances of landing the creative and marketing professionals you seek.

Diane Domeyer is executive director of The Creative Group (TCG), a specialized staffing service placing creative, digital, marketing, advertising, and public relations professionals. When she’s not managing operations for TCG’s locations across North America or speaking and tweeting about career and workplace trends, you can find her on a bike or spending time with her husband, five kids, and grandchildren.