Talent Retention and Growth (with Josie Diamond of John Lewis)

Josie Diamond

Josie Diamond
Studio Production and Planning Manager

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Podcast Episode 71


It's not an uncommon idea that the tenure of a creative team member in an e-commerce studio tends to be short. 2-3 years typically. It’s easy to understand how this idea persists because creative production for e-commerce can be quite repetitive, and changing teams, studios, brands can help keep things interesting for a career product photographer or other creative role. What if we in the studio challenged this idea? What if we create policies and culture that encourages retention and rewards it? Easier said than done, but Josie Diamond and Daniel have a bit to say about it.

Key Takeaways

  • Often we think of the lifecycle of the creative in a studio as a full time employee to be only 2-3 years. We accept that and in some cases don't really seem interested in changing it
    • I believe we should be actively working with our teams to get them ready for their next career move, whether in-house or elsewhere
  • What are some reasons that a studio SHOULD consider making an effort to retain employees beyond what is generally accepted?
    • High retention is desirable, especially when recruiting new employees. It's an attractive pull, and even more so in such a competitive market.
    • Social media is also a strong tool these days, with a high likelihood of good and bad practices being shared - you won't attract great talent unless you prioritize keeping the great talent you already have
    • Knowledge stays within the team/business, and true progress can be realized in longer term projects, process changes or business-wide strategy
    • Some studies have shown that it can take individuals up to 18 months to fully settle, build confidence and learn the ropes inside & out of a new business - if this is true, we're losing all positive momentum just as it starts with every resignation
  • Have you experienced any programs or policies that you felt helped retention for creatives?
    • Allowing use of equipment and space out of hours for testing & personal shoots
    • Including (& protecting) time for R&D in the job description - this applies to every role, whether its sample management, pre & all the way through to post production
    • COST days (Creative Off Set Time) - I've not experienced this myself, though have heard it mentioned enough times - it’s a great initiative, and relatively low cost if it's planned in effectively
  • What types of policies (official or unofficial) tend to hurt retention in the studio?
    • All starts and ends with budget - if there is no budget assigned to learning and development, you will risk your team departing
    • In today's world - flexibility in terms of location, hours etc. Provide some flexibility for real life scenarios we all deal with.
    • Return to work plans for those on parental leave - I think this is a major area where development is required, especially for those roles that are based on site.
    • Removing any limiting policies in the employment contract that allow you to work elsewhere at the same time - cliché but the world today is a different place, and deterring anyone from benefiting outside of your organization isn't fitting anymore - if it's not a direct competitor and little risk to your operation, just remove it from the contract - your team will be happier
    • Image rights for personal work in employment contract - I once worked somewhere where the wording in the contract was so vague, that it stated any image created by the employee would be owned by the business - read your contracts! That business owns a lot of my pet portraits.
  • For a studio that is serious about retaining talent, where should they start? (use this to talk about the interview and onboarding processes, in addition to everything else)
    • An honest interview process - don't gear people up for a perfect workplace, you'll risk losing your talent far sooner than the 2-3 years!
    • Proper onboarding - shadowing of all areas of the team and stakeholder teams in the wider business. Allow ample time for building relationships. I think we've all been guilty of letting people come in and get on with it. It's been a recent reminder for me to create an onboarding plan, not just for your full time team but also your freelancers! Super important, with the increase of hybrid teams.
    • Have no expectations of new hires for the first few weeks.
  • How can you prioritize expanding the skill stack of your team
    • Do you have a sample support colleague who has a keen interest in production (for example), and can you make them some time to learn this from your existing team, and even support in future
    • If your workload peaks and troughs through the year, can colleagues flex in to different projects or areas to support in busy moments - providing alternative work experience for a future career?
    • In-house support, dedicated to coaching talent - recent job we saw (I think it was Farfetch?)
    • Actively discussing the issues of the world, and how you can implement change in the workplace to address them; whether that be DE&I, Sustainability or work life balance
    • Bring in revered external talent to run training sessions, or for teams to shadow whilst they work (agree this with them up front though!)
    • I can't stress it enough to create flexibility wherever you can. If that means
  • Can good retention help you attract talent?
    • ABSOLUTELY! We all know and have heard of great employers in the market, and I'll bet they prioritize the development of their talent, so much so, that they want to stick with them longer term.

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