Part One: What is Creative Workforce Planning? Interview with Catherine Lang-Cline and Kristen Harris

We recently sat down with the founders of Portfolio Creative to talk about their Workforce Planning service. We had questions, they had answers.

In Part One of this two-part interview, we learn what Workforce Planning is and why it’s important for companies and businesses as they grow.

What is Workforce Planning?

K: Simply put, it’s helping a company figure out their creative team. Identifying the roles and skills they’re going to need, not just now but in the future. Understanding where they’re trying to go and their strategy, defining the team they’re going to need to get there, comparing that to the team or resources they already have, and putting a plan in place to get from A to B.

C: What a company thinks they need may not always be what they really need. This process is about dissecting what the company actually needs.

K: It is really a version of problem-solving. The company has a problem of “I need marketing and I don’t know who I need to make it happen” or “I’m trying to grow my team, I have some people, but I don’t know if they have the skills the company needs.” Portfolio Creative can help solve those problems.

How is this different from what Portfolio Creative has done in the past?

C: It really isn’t different from what we have done in the past. We have always been consultative and helped our clients in this way. We help them identify the roles and talent they need, from one person to an entire team.

How is Workforce Planning related to recruiting and staffing?

K: This is the step that needs to be addressed before you hire. Often companies and hiring managers come to us wanting to hire for a certain role, but they haven’t really thought about the bigger picture–how that person fits into the team they already have, or what they’re going to need a couple of years from now. They’re just replacing someone who left instead of thinking in a bigger picture way about where their company is going, what they need to accomplish, and then hiring for that.

C: It is also understanding where the industry is going. The hiring manager is often only looking at the next day by replacing the person who left. We want them to think about how the person who left could have been even better? What did they not have that you thought they needed? Are there things you wished they knew? We sit down and talk through all of this with the client because they may not be planning for tomorrow, they are just solving their problem for today.

Why do you think Workforce Planning is important for companies?

C: It will save time, money, and frustration in the long run. In fact, the biggest payoff may be in saving frustration. You can hire people and get some work done, but if you are not hiring for the right skill set or aligned with the direction things are going, it gets really frustrating. Having everything thought out before you bring someone in will save a lot of time.

K: We are really addressing the difference between hiring what you need right now and what you will need in the future. We look at the client’s 3-5 year strategic plan because that’s what they should be hiring towards. Companies tend to hire who they need today. We’re helping them avoid making short-term decisions. We want our clients to be sure they’re hiring people who can do what they need today, but also people who can grow with the company. We know there is a lot of value here.

C: It is reducing the stress and pressure of a company trying to figure this out on their own. We have been in “the field” so we know how a creative team functions. If someone asked me to set up an accounting department I would know some general titles, but I would not be confident. We help alleviate this vagueness and knowledge gap by applying our expertise with creative roles and teams.

K: The companies we’ve worked with have found a lot of value in the foresight. They want to hire marketing people to execute a business plan, but don’t always understand what kind of marketing people they need to execute their plan. Which brings us back to saving time, money, and frustration.

C: Especially now that creative, social, online, retail and marketing has become so complex–people don’t even know what they need. It is important for someone to sit down and talk through it, to really figure out what they need. Because of the complexity and fast change that is going on right now, it is just going to keep getting more complex.

What are some common hiring mistakes Workforce Planning can help avoid?

C: Knowing what you need and for how long is important. If you know who is needed on your team consistently, then you can bring in additional people with certain skills or specializations for one-off or multiple projects. For example, if you update your website once a year, you probably don’t need a full-time Web Developer.

K: By planning ahead you’ll know if there is more work that person can take on or morph into. If it’s really just a short-term need, you can bring someone in to do that project and not add an employee to your team.

C: Another issue we see is job descriptions where the role is a mash-up of several different skill sets and needs. By identifying how much each of those skills is needed you can figure out who you should be part of your internal team, and hire the rest as-needed for projects. It is figuring out what the company needs day-to-day as opposed to trying to find a jack-of-all-trades and relieving the frustration of trying to find this hybrid person that does not exist.

K: We also see companies who are using a lot of outside resources. As they grow they often want to start doing more of their marketing and execution work internally, perhaps reserving outside firms or consultants for strategy or larger projects. But they’re not experts in creative hiring and don’t know which roles or skills they need for an internal team.

What makes Portfolio Creative an expert on Workforce Planning?

K: Why us? This really ties back to all our years of experience. We’ve been helping people fill creative roles and build creative teams for 13+ years now. This is just another way to utilize all of the experience we have. We have a respected level of expertise in the creative space that other companies don’t have, and we can bring that to people.


C: Back to what we said before...we have always done this work with our clients. We have always been more than a firm that just puts a person in a seat. We want to have a discussion about it, get the right person in there, and make sure it is someone who is going to be helpful to you in the future too, not just today.