Digital Design: Competing for Creative Talent


By Paul Flaharty, Executive Director, Marketing and Creative Practice Group, Robert Half

In a competitive job market, the talent you need most often seems furthest from your reach. Marketing and creative leaders know this sentiment well.

Research from Robert Half reveals that nearly seven in 10 (69%) marketers plan to grow their teams in 2022, while 40% say they expect implementing new digital marketing strategies to increase their budgets. The main areas of digital design they intend to hire for include information architecture, user interface design, web and mobile design, and user experience.

The problem? 94% of these leaders say it is difficult to find qualified marketing and creative professionals, especially those who specialize in digital design and production. (See the infographic at the end of this article for more survey results.)

Although the Great Shake-up and shifting priorities within the workforce have changed the hiring landscape, the talent you need is there. But before we offer you tips on how to find them, let’s take a look at why digital design is so hot right now.

Living in a digital world

The pandemic has changed the way we shop and interact with brands, perhaps permanently. Online retail has gained traction across all demographics, with businesses investing heavily in digital advertising campaigns to drive traffic to their e-commerce platforms.

Trends in the global advertising market clearly reflect this pivot to digital. According to Zenith Media’s Ad Spend Forecast report, global ad spend will grow 9.1% in 2022 as brands look to utilize social media, online video, advanced TV and e-commerce channels. Additionally, digital advertising will exceed 60% of global ad spend for the first time in 2022, reaching 61% of total spend.

Given these trends, many brands will be looking to invest heavily in digital design over the next few years. But a compelling digital strategy is only as good as the people you hire or promote to execute it.

Need help hiring digital design professionals? Get in touch with the recruitment specialists at Robert Half.

America’s got talent (if you know where to find it)

The best candidates can be found literally anywhere if you have the right hiring strategy and the right mindset. Your next big hire could be in another state or country – or just down the hall. They can have all the skills they need from day one – or be so eager to learn that you can train them on the job. They can stay with you for years – or add tremendous value over a six-month contract.

In short, keep an open mind as you explore the following options:

Refresh your sourcing and outreach channels

Talented digital designers aren’t always on LinkedIn. These days, you’re more likely to find them – and examples of their work – on graphics-rich sites like Behance and Dribbble.

Also consider where creatives socialize and network online, and calibrate your outreach strategy accordingly. A designer may have Facebook and Twitter profiles, but they’re more likely to be swayed by what they see on TikTok, the video-sharing platform some forward-thinking agencies use as a recruiting tool.

At the same time, don’t overlook traditional sourcing methods such as employee referrals. No one knows your brand and organizational culture like your current employees, who can recommend people who are likely to perform well at your company.

Explore new talent pools

To give yourself an edge, broaden your search for candidates beyond the borders of your city, state, or even time zone. Creatives don’t just live in big cities, and a few years of the pandemic have shown us that remote workers can thrive, especially designers. There’s no doubt that people want options to work offsite, whether full-time or a few days a week, and the perk can be a big draw for talented creatives.

Another talent pool to consider is former employees. Create an alumni mailing list and ask ex-workers to stay in touch, leaving the door ajar for boomerang hiring.

Encourage internal mobility

In your rush to hire the people you need, are you sure you are maximizing the potential of the people you have? Promoting talent internally is more cost effective than hiring externally. And because current employees are known quantities, it’s also less risky.

Not everyone has the confidence to ask their boss for more responsibility or a promotion, but that shouldn’t work against them. Be proactive in developing talent within your ranks by regularly talking to employees about their career development and giving stretch assignments to people who have demonstrated growth potential.

Try to hire for potential

There’s a reason the perfect candidates are called unicorns or purple squirrels: they don’t exist.

In the real world, where everyone is chasing the same talent, you have to be prepared to take a chance on imperfect candidates who have the tenacity and potential ceiling to become an MVP.

Start by reviewing your job descriptions and grab a red pen for any nice skills that aren’t needed for the job. List too many extras and you risk alienating talent who has not yet had access to certain experiences or educational opportunities.

Finally, remember that hiring potentials is a long-term commitment. Digital design is a tough field, and without a thoughtful and comprehensive development program, you could be failing your recruits.

Marketing and creative businesses need many resources to thrive in a digitally driven world, including experienced and inspired digital designers. With a flexible, risk-tolerant approach to talent acquisition, you can snatch great talent from your competition.

Follow Paul Flaharty on LinkedIn.


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