Do You Unleash All the Talent in Your Agency?

Nurture Staffers' Hobbies and Outside Projects to the Benefit of the Entire Team

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As long as I've been in this business, what remains attractive and fun is coming to work every day with people who are really smart and have remarkable talents beyond those for which you hired them. The question for an agency owner is : Do you nurture and encourage the talents that don't seem to directly benefit your agency or clients? Because if you do, your business will benefit in the end.

According to Lynda Keffer, VP-professional services at Lee Hecht Harrison , "... the key to an organization's success is its ability to identify transferable skills among its employees. Once identified, these skills can be nurtured and redeployed, improving several aspects of the business, including transfers and promotions, job postings, special projects and employee retention."

The multi-talented folks are not exclusively in the creative department, as you might expect. At our company you'll find such gifted individuals in the strategy group, account management, public relations and production. For example, there's Mark, a 30-plus -year veteran of the business who runs our production department. We all knew Mark could doodle, and he would occasionally draw some hilarious cartoon sketches of his colleagues. But one day, Mark asked if anyone wanted to see the new children's book he was working on. People in our shop rallied around Mark's brilliant, self-published project: we secured publicity; helped him build a site, and developed a marketing plan. This whole process has re-energized him, and his work at our agency is at the highest levels I can remember.

Then there's Jeff , who works in our strategy group and paints gallery-worthy pictures at night. Jeff is well aware that his creativity is admired in our office, and I have seen him motivated to contribute in more innovative ways, including developing the best-looking power point presentations in the shop -- a creative task he was not hired to do.

Or Stefano, a senior developer in our digital group who writes code by day and manages a well-regarded hockey site at night. The site attracts thousands on a daily basis. Turns out, Stefano is a wonderful writer and this site gives him the chance to express his talents in words, while creating a community of hockey faithful. How does this benefit our shop? He is much more integrated into our agency -- walking the halls, sharing ideas with his colleagues and occasionally writing some copy and joining brainstorming sessions -- rather than just sitting in a dark office writing code like so many coders. Integrated teams create better work.

Steve, a senior manager in our PR group, just wrote and published his first novel. Our clients love talking to him about the book, and that level of respect helps build better agency-client relationships.

There's also Kenny, who with his wife, created an online, mobile photo art gallery in 2009, long before anyone had ever heard of Instagram. The gallery is no longer live, but it kept him on the bleeding edge of modern communications, which spilled over into his work. For example, being the co-founder of the gallery site meant overseeing a team that curated and promoted the work, helping him develop leadership and management skills. And he was a regular resource to the media and invited to present at events, developing his knowledge of the emerging photo digital space, and his public-speaking skills in the process.

These folks don't merely have hobbies; they have talents that could easily warrant full-time jobs. Sometimes you have to exercise those other skills and passions that you have in the shop, so that they do not become dormant. And we believe encouraging such talents makes our team even better.

Do you know what gifts the people in your shop have that you didn't hire them for?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marc Brownstein is president and CEO of The Brownstein Group, Philadelphia.
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