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Why should creative businesses have HR and L&D on their radar?

6 May 2022
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Sue Braid

Q&A with HR & L&D expert, Sue Baird

We caught up with Sue Baird of Saboc International ahead of our upcoming HR & People Leadership Duo Workshops for Design Owners/Managers to know a little bit more about what to expect in the workshops; why HR and L&D should be on creative businesses’ radar and why it would benefit their businesses to upskill their management teams in those areas.


  1. Extra Public Holiday, Right to Sick Pay, Right to Remote Working, 4 Day Week – there have been a lot of changes to employment legislation discussed in the media lately. What are the key ones that will affect the owners and managers of creative businesses?

    Yes, we’ve already experienced a bonus Public Holiday this year at St Patrick’s weekend. From 2023, the first Monday in February will become a permanent Public Holiday, making this 10 Public Holidays per annum on top of annual leave and other entitlements.

    Statutory Sick Pay comes into effect in September 2022 and the entitlement will grow from 3 days initially up to 10 days in 2026. 70% of the cost will be borne by the Employer, or a limit of €110 per day, initially.

    Remote Working is very much in the media and we expect the details to be finalised this week.

    There are also a lot of discussions around introducing a 4 day week, something that has been voluntarily piloted by a number of organisations. This will most likely result in further discussion.

    In a post-Covid environment, we expect remote working and practices that enhance well-being and work/life balance to be an enhanced part of our employment culture going forward. A lot of the upcoming and recent changes that are in play are reflective of improved well-being initiatives and are intended to create a more beneficial work/life balance for employees in principle this is good and most Owners/Managers recognise the importance of taking good care of their teams. Ireland’s employee protective and welfare legislative entitlements are one of the strongest in Europe.

    However, that is only one dimension of the legislation – Business Owners/Managers also must consider the other impacts these new regulations will have on their organisation. This can be more challenging for smaller organisations such as many creative businesses. Increased absence from work will impact project delivery as many smaller organisations have limited employee numbers and do not necessarily have ‘additional cover’ to draw on. Equally, the cost of some of these benefits will rest with the employer, which again, creates greater challenges for smaller organisations.

  2. What will these mean for me as an employer or manager? Are they all mandatory? Will I need to update my employee’s contracts?

    The new sick pay scheme and additional public holiday are mandatory and come into effect from September 2022 and January 2023 respectively – in both cases, payment for these absences rests with the employer (albeit on a reduced % for sick absence for the first year initially, we don’t know what cost implications are from 2024).

    The additional 5 days leave for parents/carers to look after children up to 12 years of age will be unpaid (and at no financial cost to the Employer or Department of Social Protection). This falls under the ‘well-being’ umbrella and is on top of the current parental leave entitlements. Any such absence will impact business operations as additional cover for any absences will need to be found in order to ensure continuous workflow.

    Employers will be required to update their contracts of employment and Employee Handbooks and Policies to reflect the changes in regulations and have in place specific policies around Remote Working and Well-Being. In addition, there is an express requirement that employees are communicated with and informed of their entitlements.


  3. Very often leaders/managers have no prior training as a team manager or leader – what HR/L&D skills do they need the most and should upskill?


    Owners/Managers of smaller organisations wear many hats, whereas larger organisations have the benefit of departments who take responsibility for HR, Finance, Marketing etc.

    Irish employment law places no distinction between the size of organisations – the legal requirement is that you know the law and you abide by the law, regardless of how big or small your organisation is.

    Owners/Managers must ensure that not only do they understand the employment law requirements and entitlements in place, but they also must be able to address and resolve employee issues that arise within their teams e.g. grievances, performance issues, conduct issues etc.

    Enhancing their knowledge of their legal obligations as an Owner/Manager is key, as is enhancing their people leadership skills around developing a cohesive team, building good relationships, communication, problem resolution, corrective conversations etc.


  4. How do the changes in the work culture – such as more remote and part-time working, right to disconnect, life and work balance – affect small creative businesses?

    It’s important that organisations engage with their employees so that practical, realistic and balanced processes are devised and incorporated into policies, particularly within smaller organisations who are operationally more stretched. Both parties recognise the benefits these new regulations bring, however, due consideration has to be given to both the employer’s operations and business needs as well as the employees’. I would encourage organisations to involve employees in these discussions when developing the policies so that there is enhanced understanding by all parties.


  5. There can sometimes be an approach of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, in both small and larger businesses. Why is that?


    Organisations are busy places….smaller organisations where Owners/Managers are required to wear many hats will naturally focus on areas around clients, revenue generation etc. If the area is not familiar to them (and HR, employment law is a highly specialised area) it would not be unusual for SMEs to place less emphasis on this, especially if no issues are on the horizon. It is usually when an issue does arise that attention is focused on compliance and risks associated with regulatory breaches.


  6. Why is it still essential for creative agencies to invest in HR and L&D (training, coaching process for their teams)? What about the risk of people leaving after you have invested in them?


    Organisations have a commitment to develop and grow their people – Factually, this has been a key motivator for people in employment. Investing in enhancing the skills and knowledge of your teams reaps real rewards – they are stimulated, interested and committed to your organisation and this impacts positively on their well-being, their motivation and their performance.

    Research is telling us that Millennials, Generation X, Y and Z, will change, not just their jobs but their careers at least twice if not 3 times in their lifetime….people joining a company for life is the exception, not the norm…..Organisations must recognise that most employees will remain on board with them for a max. of 2 years and, within that time, they expect to be developed and grow. Understanding this expectation and having a realistic approach to employment longevity will be key in attracting good people because good people will gravitate towards organisations that can help them fulfil their career ambitions.


  7. How can a creative business onboard new employees while they’re scaling at hyperspeed?


    Onboarding is a crucial part of settling in a new starter to your organisation – Onboarding has two parts:

    1. Time spent emphasising the organisation’s culture, processes, expectations etc. This is the initial introduction to your organisation and sets the tone for all future behaviours, performance and attitudes; and
    2. Time spent training new starters in your particular work practices, systems and standards, which is often over a period of time 2-3 weeks depending on the individual’s level of knowledge, experience and intellect.

    This is a valuable educational time which defines the standards required and teaches new starters the manner in which you operate. It is proven that employees who receive a structured onboarding experience, hit the standards and maintain them a lot quicker than those who don’t and this ultimately means that the person delivers for the company much more quickly and with fewer mistakes.


  8. Would this workshop be relevant for a studio or agency that mainly employs contractors/freelancers?


    Albeit contractors/freelancers are ‘self-employed’ and as such are responsible for their own employee entitlements, they are engaged to produce work on behalf of an organisation and as such, the onus is on the organisation to ensure that they communicate their project specifications clearly and take corrective action where standards are not being met.

    The second module revolves around people management skills and this element of the overall workshop would be of benefit to studios/agencies that engage external service providers.


  9. What benefits will owners/managers of design practices gain from attending the 2 workshops?


    The workshops are designed to provide Owners/Managers with insights into the core employment regulations that impact their contracts of employment and what needs to be included within those contracts, along with key policies and procedures that are mandatory requirements.

    The second module revolves around people management skills – essential skills that enable leaders to communicate, influence and manage behaviours and performance more effectively.

    The two workshops work hand in hand. Very often managers and owners of small businesses know less about their employees’ rights than their employees themselves. While the first workshop keeps them up to date with the latest policies, it also helps them anticipate any challenges or attitude changes in the workforce. Attendees of the first workshop will be better equipped to resolve or prevent any challenges that may arise from upcoming changes or challenges with contextual and legal knowledge and understanding of the work landscape.


  10. What will the optional coaching session entail?


    The optional coaching session provides individual support to an Owner/Manager, assisting them in improving a particular element of their personal leadership toolkit that they wish to move forward with.


  11. I am a small creative business. How can I compete with larger corporates for talent?


    Attracting good people is about the overall employment package – not purely salary. It takes into consideration the type of workplace environment that the creative business has created, consideration for personal well-being and supporting a balanced work/life commitment as well as competitive salaries and a suite of benefits that are attractive to that candidate.

    Where smaller organisations may not be in a position to provide pension schemes, or health care packages – I would question whether these are relevant and attractive benefits to a younger demographic, college graduates and/or person with only a few years of experience in the industry – whereas financial contribution to further education, training and development, gym/sports club membership etc. might be a stronger magnet for this demographic.



Come to the workshops to find out more!

Book your ticket for our HR & People Leadership Duo Workshops for Design Owners/Managers Thursday 12th May and Wednesday 15th June


Find out how Design Skillnet can help you become more creative, human-centred, and impactful within your organisation.