Creativity in the workplace has always been highly prized. Industries such as advertising, the arts and marketing in particular have attracted individuals boasting these skills for years. However, some agencies are starting to wonder whether the creative ambitions of the new generation entering the workforce could be a cause for concern.

Innovative and technically advanced millennials are increasingly obtaining a barrage of impressive skills that are complementary to the creative industries, such as coding, digital photography, 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, which are attracting new business directly.

Whilst this may be an exciting prospect for the individual concerned, 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 enjoying ‘two jobs’ – but is this really the best way forward, or just a short-sighted solution?

The brave new world

Social media platforms offer an easy way to market an individual’s creative talents. These digital marketing tools are not foreign concepts to millennials who are growing up in a world surrounded by online data and e-sharing. As a result, whether they are sharing their personalised greeting card creations on Pinterest, promoting mobile app development on Twitter, marketing blogs on WordPress or selling beautiful photography prints on Instagram, millennials are using these tools to promote their products – and themselves.

Many people are understandably excited by these opportunities, yet often maintain full time, permanent jobs in creative agencies for added security. For some, this full-time role may involve similar projects and skills, whilst for others it may be something slightly different.

In any case, the common thread is that their own self-promotional activities are starting to attract business and profit. It is this success which poses a commercial threat to their full-time employer, who may be losing business as a result.

Opportunity or threat?

The initial reaction within the creative sector has been to introduce exclusivity clauses into contracts for new starters. 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?

For some, accepting a job offer that requires them to abandon any other work could be a deal breaker, 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.

Some businesses may decide to roll out this exclusivity policy amongst existing employees, which in turn has its own risks. Removing this outlet could stamp out their creativity, which was probably a big part of the reason they were hired in the first place. Instead, agencies should be nurturing this creative flair and supporting their staff in these personal endeavours.

Supporting their employees’ efforts in this area could also create an opportunity for agencies to use these skills and expand the product and services they offer to their clients. Many businesses may find it difficult to adapt this model, but this approach could 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 creative hobby 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.

Balancing ambitions

The rise of the two job millennials is something that, by and large, should be embraced. Managers should be trained to appreciate the importance of a work life balance and encourage their staff to find an appropriate mix of the two.

However, it must be closely observed. Should there be indications that the ambition to pursue their hobbies as a side business is impacting their time and focus at work, an honest and open conversation will be necessary.

Side-line businesses can be an exciting opportunity for people to enhance their hobbies 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 thrives.

Aliya Vigor-Robertson

Aliya Vigor-Robertson


Co-founder, JourneyHR