Onboarding for the Unspoken Aspects of Creative Roles
Onboarding new employees to a creative team is an essential step in ensuring a smooth and successful transition for both the new employee and the team as a whole. The onboarding process includes several standard steps that ensure that new employees understand the company's culture, values, and processes and can effectively contribute to the team's projects.
However, on a creative team, there are often unspoken expectations that are critical to the organization's creative process. These "below board" expectations may not be explicitly stated, but they are essential for the team's success.
Let's cover the basic "above board" steps of onboarding new employees to a creative team and then address the more nuanced steps required for the unspoken rules. We will explore ways to effectively communicate these expectations to new employees and provide exercises that help them practice and integrate these skills into their work. By doing so, we can ensure that new employees feel comfortable and confident in their new role and can effectively contribute to the success of the creative team.
The first step to making new employees feel comfortable is to give them a warm welcome. This can be as simple as greeting them at the entrance, introducing them to their team, and showing them around the office. A welcoming environment sets a positive tone for the onboarding process.
It's important for new employees to understand the company's culture and values, and how they relate to the design team. Presentations, company handbooks, or one-on-one meetings with senior leaders can provide a clear overview of the company's expectations and values.
Assigning a mentor or buddy can help new employees navigate the onboarding process and feel more comfortable in their new role. The mentor or buddy should be someone who is familiar with the company's culture and processes, and who can answer any questions the new employee may have.
Training and orientation sessions are critical for new employees to learn about the unique processes and tools used by the design team. Hands-on learning opportunities, such as mock projects with specific directions, can help new employees understand how to take direction effectively.
Open communication is essential for new employees to feel comfortable in their new role and to provide valuable insights into the onboarding process. Encourage new employees to ask questions and share their thoughts and ideas.
In addition to these general onboarding steps, it's important to communicate the unwritten rules â€” the kind that exist in any company or field of practice â€” which may govern the experience of working on the creative team and which new employees may have trouble identifying and following quickly.
We'll choose three aspects of working on creative teams that can be hard to navigate for newbies and use them to explore solutions that can be applied generally. Every team is going to be different, and these are not universal aspects of creative work but they are also not uncommon; we'll use them to see how unspoken expectations can be best communicated through a combination of experience, explicit instruction and exercises.
Example 1. Taking direction Taking direction is a critical aspect of working on a creative team, and it's important that new employees understand how to do so effectively. One way to communicate this expectation is to provide examples of successful projects where team members worked collaboratively and took direction from project leads. Seeing what comes down to a team from its creative leads and then seeing what was produced and delivered in the following iterations, and what feedback was given throughout that process from above allows new employees to calibrate both their input and output. Identifying the moments for collaboration and the moments for taking direction and producing work is the goal.
Example 2. Showing dedication through effort Showing dedication through effort is often an unspoken expectation on creative teams, as projects can be demanding and require a significant amount of work. This expectation can be introduced by providing examples of successful projects where team members demonstrated a high level of dedication and effort. Creating a space and moment for peers to share personal anecdotes and to be candid about how frequently deadlines and production timelines conflict can quickly orient a new employee to the communal expectations.
Example 3. Knowing the priority of various creative goals On a creative team, it's important that team members understand the priority of various creative goals, such as meeting deadlines, maintaining high-quality standards, or staying within budget. This expectation can be communicated through explicit instruction, such as providing a project brief that outlines the goals and priorities for each project but with hands-on learners such as designers it is vital to go beyond simply stating values â€“ they need to see it in practice. Dropping an employee into the fire, so to speak, of an actual project may be expedient but certainly disorienting to the fresh hire and possibly disruptive to the team. Exercises, such as internal projects or hypothetical design briefs, for a competition or call for entries for instance, help new employees align with the team's value hierarchy first hand and with a bit of perspective afforded by lower stakes. Walking a new team member through a complete process : the creation and winnowing of ideas, the focus of effort and production, and the heat of the end-game is how you translate those inspirational poster slogans into ingrained knowledge.
In summary, onboarding exists along a spectrum, moving from general to specific, from explicit to implicit. Communicating unspoken expectations on a creative team requires a multifaceted approach that includes examples of successful projects, exercises that help new employees practice key skills, as well as the explicit instruction that outlines project goals and priorities. By using a combination of these approaches, new employees can quickly adapt to the culture, values, and processes of the organization and become valuable contributors to the creative team.
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Photo credits: Markus Winkler, Tim King, Clark Tibbs .