Part Two: How Does Creative Workforce Planning Help? 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 Two of this two-part interview, we learn who Workforce Planning is for and how it works. For more background, check out Part One: What is Creative Workforce Planning?

What type of companies is this geared towards?

C: Workforce Planning is all about building a team, not just finding a person. It could be a small-to-medium company or a corporate department. They have to be big enough to have a marketing function, to already have at least one marketing person, or be ready to build a marketing team.

K: We’ve found that different-sized companies have different needs. For corporate departments, it could be analyzing the team they have and how they can re-skill some of their people as company requirements shift. We can help the department reconfigure, retrain, and work with the team they already have to get to where they need to be. With a small-to-medium company, it’s helping them build their team strategically over time. With budget limitations, they have to be thoughtful about which position they add next; and then in six months when they can afford someone else, who should that be? We’re helping them stage out how they should build their team. It’s both of these audiences, but different solutions that each of them needs.

How does Workforce Planning help larger companies and their teams?

C: The speed of change is a factor, especially for larger companies that have always done things a certain way. With planning they can get people the proper training or development, while also adding in new or temporary people with the skills needed today. Since we started Portfolio Creative we have seen such a revolution in job description changes...I can only imagine what it is going to be like in the next ten years!

K: This may sound like it could be unkind, like we’re saying someone on the team doesn’t fit the company’s future, but really we want people to be thinking ahead about their team. If we see that a current team member doesn’t fit the future needs, then we can figure out how to work with them and help them get there. As opposed to the company getting to that future state without addressing it, and having that person be totally left behind.For a more established department with a bunch of legacy people, going through this process could be very kind. It gives people the opportunity to grow to where the company needs them to be.

C: It is easy to get complacent, we saw that a lot in 2008. We saw people at leadership levels that had not developed any computer skills, they could only direct others but not do any of the work themselves. How could they be in that position? How could their company allow that to happen? We want to help companies avoid this type of situation.

Why is the creative industry ready for Workforce Planning?

C: This work has always existed on some sort of level, but it is not something that has been strong in the creative industry. General consulting companies may do planning work, but not specifically for this niche. I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people where they are saying they don’t know if they need to be on Facebook or Snapchat, or what. They need someone to sit down and help figure out what they really need.

K: Workforce Planning is a known service that companies provide, but not on a very specialized level. Clients ask us to do this work because of the reputation we’ve built. After thirteen years of hiring creatives and building creative teams, it makes sense that we would know the type of roles a company would need, what the new skills are, and what’s coming next.

What type of job titles or roles do you typically see reach out for assistance in workforce planning?

K: For a small-to-medium company it’s typically someone at the Owner or President level. For larger companies and corporate departments, it’s whoever leads the creative or marketing team; it may be a Creative Director, Marketing Director, Marketing VP. Regardless of the title, we need to be working with the team leader and decision maker.

Would you say the best course of action is to start with Workforce Planning, then continue with staffing or recruiting following that?

C: Ideally yes!

K: The short answer is yes, although the answer is also “it depends.” We do have clients who have a good enough strategic understanding that they already know what they need so we can jump straight to helping them find it. However, a lot of companies don’t, and sometimes they think they need X, but we start talking to them and realize that is not what they need at all. Maybe they need two different people, or they need someone to do X just as a short-term project, but Y is actually a full-time position they need. Ideally any company would start with some form of planning first before they jump in and hire.

What is your ultimate goal in implementing this new service?

C: The ultimate goal is that everybody uses this service before they hire anyone. We want every client saying “I think I want this, can you help me write the job description?” We want to train our clients to think things through before they hire somebody. Granted, there are clients that know exactly what they need, maybe it is a replacement for someone who left, but maybe it is not that easy. Maybe someone left and they want to “up the ante” on that role, so what do they need now? What is cutting edge that we might want to look for? It would be great if people were really thoughtful every time they tried to hire someone.

K: Yes, we would love it if everyone did this work to some extent before they hired anyone, because when companies have an opening often they just turn around and look for another of the same. This is the perfect opportunity to pause and think about what you really need, or what you’re going to need. When you have someone already sitting in that seat it’s really hard to decide to make a change. Once the seat is empty that’s when you figure out the next step, next level, next person you need. Do you elevate the role? Do you need slightly different skills than you had before? It’s such a good opportunity and I don’t think people take advantage of it. They just pull out the old job description for the person that left and ask for another one of those. Which sometimes is what they need, but not always.