Growing Your Most Creative Talent via Unorthodox Outlets

At their joint session on stage at Advertising Week Europe 2016, Marie-Claire Barker and Grant Tudor explored ways companies can think differently about talent development and give employees the time, space and support to develop professionally and personally.


In the session, ‘Growing Your Most Creative Talent via Unorthodox Outlets’, presented by Marie-Claire Barker, MEC’s Chief Global Talent Officer, Grant Tudor, the founder of global marketing nonprofit Populist, shared what he has learned about developing creative talent and managing passion projects around the world – from working with a violence prevention nonprofit in Kenya to providing marketing support for a menstrual pad manufacturer in Rwanda.

Here are some of his tips for agencies wanting to unlock creative talent:

Offer support and a hands off approach, not dictatorship:

Tudor noted that many companies make the mistake of adopting a purely a dictatorial approach to creative talent development, offering motivational ‘perks’, such as corporate services days and workshops with the aim of forcing employees to be their best selves and “reminding them to be creative”.

He pointed out that unless agencies and companies are investing in creating a supportive environment for talent to pursue their passions, they won’t achieve their potential.  “There needs to be more emphasis on support than other mechanisms,” Tudor said.

Personal growth is professional growth

Agencies that “back off” and adopt a more a “hands off” approach give people the space and time to develop professionally and personally, and reap rewards, Tudor advised.

He noted that personal growth doesn’t get talked about enough. “Personal growth is professional growth. The notion of separating personal growth from professional growth is ridiculous,” said Tudor.

Exhibit behavior that can be copied and allocate budget

Tudor highlighted two key factors that help people flourish creatively. The first being ‘social proof’, which refers to our tendency to conform and copy other behaviors when we see them. He noted that when he first founded Populist, alongside his role as Senior Strategist at Ogilvy & Mather, he was surrounded by peers at his agency that exhibited likeminded behaviour.

Tudor had support from Ogilvy to launch Populist, which started out as a side project, and this gave other people at the agency permission to mimic that behaviour. “The more we create good behaviour that ought to be copied…the better,” he said.

Another important factor in talent development is financial investment. Agencies should dedicate 10 per cent of their budget to wacky or alternative projects outside day-to-day client work, Tudor advised. Budget “isn’t just about writing cheques”, he said; it also translates to donating billable hours.

In a Q&A session after his talk, MEC’s Marie-Claire Barker asked Tudor to explain how companies can attract millennials looking for a purpose to buy into. Tudor was keen to stress that this all comes down to giving employees permission and support from the top down to explore their creative development.

Happy employees are productive employees

The short-term results from giving people the time and space to explore their passion projects are hard to quantify, Tudor said. But, he argued, there is a strong, scientifically proven, correlation between people being more productive when they are happy and fulfilled.

Additionally, when people work on nonprofit projects in parts of the world where resources are limited, their skills are tested in a profound way. This means when they resume their roles within the agency they are more resourceful and find working under constraints easier. This inspires and positively influences not only their team, but the wider industry.