Staff concerns should be high on a group’s agenda

It is rather apt that two of our contributors this week have focused on management issues within design, both placing staff high on the agenda as one of the greatest assets a group can have. Times are a bit tough for creative businesses, and when competition for work gets fierce, it’s the quality of the team – and so the work – that will show through.

On the one hand, Simon Rhind-Tutt talks about the need to reward staff at all levels of the business, not just with pay, but in other ways. On the other, Tim Rich urges consultancy bosses to put more value on their younger design staff, giving them more space to show their creative ideas rather than treating them just as ‘Mac monkeys’.

Between them, Rhind-Tutt and Rich raise a number of points that read like common sense, but which too many design groups overlook. Most of the best maintain they treat staff well, in their own terms, with the annual awayday as a given, and Friday drinks down the pub. But how far does this go towards building individual relationships and loyalties?

Rhind-Tutt stresses the importance of giving praise where it’s due – and he’s right. But how about also giving credit publicly? Why not, for example, name the whole team involved in a project in the brochure, website, awards entry or press release? It doesn’t cost the consultancy anything.

Rich, meanwhile, highlights the plight of younger designers, often excluded from the ‘thinking’ side of the work. These also tend to be the people who are expected to do the ‘all-nighters’ famed in the late 20th century, when design was more studio-based and design groups run on a more ad hoc basis.

The old guard think back wistfully to the days of grafting round the clock to get the creative juices flowing. What they forget is that the grafting was more often about crafting, laying down the Letraset and wielding the airbrush. Digital technologies have speeded up that process without, in skilled hands, necessarily compromising creative quality. So why work all night?

We constantly bemoan a dumbing down of design standards over recent years. Maybe the work isn’t as good as it was – possibly because the volume has been greater. But the main failing is a shortage of fresh ideas that translate wittily into visual language. To get ideas, you need the inspiration – and this rarely comes from spending long hours in the studio in front of the Mac.

These are just a few pointers to getting the best deal for your staff – and hanging on to them. Think about it. After all, you never know when you’ll need a job in later life, when your team have risen to greater things.

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