Creativity in the workplace has always been highly prized, especially in sectors like PR, advertising and marketing. However, some agencies are starting to wonder whether the creative ambitions of a new generation of workers could be a cause for concern, with more and more employees now showing a commercial interest in projects outside of work.
Innovative and technically advanced millennials often have skills that are complementary to the creative industries, such as video production, graphic design and animation. Many of these savvy employees aren’t content with using these skills solely in the workplace, however; instead, they are creating their own social media based brands, some of which are attracting revenue directly.
While this may be an exciting prospect for the individual involved, some agencies are concerned that this kind of activity could pose a commercial threat to the business. In response, some companies are putting policies in place to stamp out the option of having ‘two jobs’ rather than one. BuzzFeed, for example, has been the subject of many social media discussions following a number of its employees resigning after restrictions were enforced on pursuing these outside interests.
It’s easy to see the potential for conflict here, but the solution may not be so black-and-white. Many employees are understandably excited by these opportunities, yet still want to maintain full-time, permanent jobs in creative agencies for added security.
For employers, the question therefore becomes: if an employee is performing well and delivering quality work, does it matter if he or she wants to pursue other creative projects on the side? More importantly, it is possible for business leaders to protect their business while still allowing individuals to explore their creative passions outside of work?
Can Both Sides Win?
For some, the initial reaction within the creative sector has been to introduce, or begin enforcing, exclusivity clauses into contracts for new starters, in part due to commercial concerns. The fear here is that these self-promotional activities may begin to attract too much new business, and thus pose a threat to their employer.
To address this issue, these agreements immediately halt the promotion of any private businesses, as well as the ability to accept payment for work done outside of the organisation. This is a forceful and effective response, but how will this affect the attractiveness of an agency and the talent within it?
Some individuals may not even accept a job offer that requires them to abandon any other work, particularly where the role does not directly give them the opportunity to use these skills. As a result, not only will this deter some of the best talent, it will also damage the reputation of the company in the eyes of others who may have considered a move to the firm.
By contrast, supporting employees’ efforts in this area could create an opportunity for agencies to use these skills and expand the product and services they offer to their clients. Some businesses may bristle at the thought of this model, but this approach could actually result in a commercial boost for the company, and also discourage ambitious employees from taking their talents elsewhere.
Finally, if there really is no way to incorporate a staff member’s outside interests into their full-time role, the agency will need to assess whether the idea of having a ‘side-by-side’ business with an employee will really pose a commercial threat to the business. Even if the thought of an employee having a ‘second job’ may be unpalatable, the truth is that these outside activities will often have little or no effect on the business at all, yet leave the employee satisfied and fulfilled.
In most cases, the rise of the two-job millennials is something that agencies should embrace. Encouraging these outside interests will not only help an employee to achieve a healthier work-life balance, but will also encourage them to be open and honest about their outside activities, which they are likely to be proud of.
However, this kind of set-up will need to be closely observed. If employers can see that an employee’s ambition to pursue their creative endeavours as a side business is impacting their time and focus at work, they’ll need to discuss the situation and agree a way forward that will satisfy both sides.
Side-line businesses can be an exciting opportunity for people to pursue their passions by creating a name for themselves in the early stages of their working lives and increase their commercial awareness. By capturing this enthusiasm and passion and channelling it into the workplace, agencies will benefit from a more productive and potentially lucrative business, and will be able to build an environment where creativity is nurtured and prized.