Sometimes it’s important to pause and think about why we do the things that we do. It’s true for 100-year-old companies who are attracting creative talent as well as ourselves.
In order for a company to keep doing what they’re doing, and inspire others to do what they do – people need a reason behind it. It’s one of the key things entrepreneurs need to identify before starting their business, as serial Chicago entrepreneur, Katy Lynch advised.
And it’s also true for Fortune 500 brands who have been around for more than 100 years like Hallmark.
In the age of freelancing and entrepreneurship, Windy City Cosmo sat down with the creative talent development team from Hallmark to learn about how they foster creative development to keep growing this 100 plus year business.
In this article we’re going to explore:
- Hallmark’s brand
- The talent they want on their team
- How a diversified creative company grows creativity and their business in the age of freelancing and digital media
- How Hallmark is working with other brands like Starbucks through a talent swap
What is your why? Your why is your culture. It’s your values. It’s who you are and it’s a blueprint for how you operate as a company.
With a staff of 800 creatives, Hallmark is one of the largest creative companies.
Hallmark’s mission is about enriching lives. Hallmark’s creatives have many roles and relationships and the context and content from those helps translate into our products.
So what are some key ingredients to a creative community?
In 2015, a team of leaders from across Hallmark’s creative community came together to define their “sense of purpose.”
“Our sense of purpose is our why. We know what we do, and how we do it, but we really wanted to get at the heart of our WHY. It’s about why we do what we do. It’s our culture. It’s our values. The statements that came together as a result are meaningful,” Kristi Heeney-Janiak, Creative Resources and Talent Development Manager shared. “But it is the actions you put in place that get people to believe in it.”
One component of the creative sense of purpose is originality. The Hallmark creative community feels that in order for their teams to grow, they need time to step away from their trade and gain new skills or perspectives. Hallmark gives creative employees five days a year to do that through its #my5days program.
The first path is self-exploration. A Hallmark creative employee can choose a new skill they want to learn or expand their creativity by gaining difference perspectives.
The second path is workshops. A Hallmark team leads workshops such as embroidery or wood sculpting, wreath decorating and cake decorating is most popular one.
In just two years of launching this initiative, Hallmark has more than 2,500 examples of #my5days experiences on Instagram.
How Greetings are Still Relevant in the Digital Age:
Another component of a great company surviving disruptive technologies is looking at what they are good at. Then, looking further to compare their talents and strengths to how trends are changing and also how they are staying the same.
Hallmark, while it has many brands, at its heart is a global greeting card company.
In their interview, the creative talent development team shared that as other areas in business fluctuate, greeting card sales remain steady even among millennials in the social media age.
In terms of card spending, millennials are the fastest growing group because when they buy cards, they spend more money on them, according to Lindsey Roy, Hallmark’s chief marketing officer, in a recent CBS News interview.
“We’ve seen that millennials are really growing into that magic life stage for card sending,” Roy said. “Maybe you’re setting up households or having kids or doing the kinds of things that really just expand your relationships.”
Hallmark’s Creative Team:
How do you get involved in the creative process? Well, it actually sounds entrepreneurial.
At Hallmark, there’s a package that each employee brings to the table. Talent all come in knowing digital and design skills. Specifically, Hallmark looks for a portfolio that demonstrates a voice or problem-solving point of view.
“We might do more specific training in lettering and manipulating font,” shared Erin Roebuck, creative talent development specialist.
Beyond software skills, Hallmark employees also are expected to evolve. There are two aspects that Hallmark focuses on to grow skillset. The first is the “what” which is the creative skill set of design knowledge. The second is the “how” which is leadership and how they think through things.
Hallmark’s creative leaders have four main traits: they take initiative, pitch and come up with new ideas, solve problems, and are able to lead and inspire people.
Attracting and Keeping Creative Talent with an Entrepreneurial Workforce:
Hallmark attracts some of the best creative in the world and has a high tenure of about 16 years.
In the age of being your own boss, Hallmark pitches a steady paycheck but one of the most valuable aspects of working for a company like Hallmark is in the collaboration.
Talent Exchange: Hallmark Swaps Talent:
Hallmark is always working with their creatives to inspire them beyond their work and to introduce them to new ideas and thinking. One way they’ve been doing this is through an annual symposium, the Creative Leadership Symposium.
And they’ve taken it a step further this year by actually exchanging creative talent with other companies, such as Starbucks. Hallmark recently hosted three Starbucks creatives, and the following week, Hallmark sent three creatives to Starbucks for a designated time.
“The outcome of the talent exchange is to immerse high potential creative talent in best practices of creative studios and provide inspiration and creative connections. We gain new ideas and thinking by bringing together two creative communities that are at the heart of their respective organizations,” shared Heeney-Janiak.
How does someone develop creative talent?
In one word – mentorship. This is something that the Future of Work expert, Cheryl Cran mentioned in a Kansas City leadership conference. “One of the opportunities for millennials is that you can research the heck out of anything,” Cran shared, “If a millennial is looking for opportunities, and doesn’t want to intern, they need to find a mentor which goes beyond their research.”
“A creative talent may start to cultivate their skills in school, but it continues to evolve when they join Hallmark,” Roebuck shared. “We are a very open and sharing community. New hires get a chance to work alongside tenured and talented individuals who have become masters of their craft. After a couple of years, many creatives say that working at Hallmark feels like getting their MFA.”
One thing that Hallmark recognizes is that they need to learn from a millennial just as much we can share.
Hallmark has moved away from a structured mentorship to a collaborative environment where people can seek out help and mentorship rather than be assigned.
Research is important and so is innate talent, but both the Future of Work consultant and Hallmark agree that mentorship and collaboration are important to growing talent and developing skills.
How do you structure creative projects at Hallmark?
One of the cool aspects of Hallmark is that it is a company made up of creatives, but ones that are both creative and business focused. At Hallmark, one of the key traits is to constantly think and develop new ideas, but they also think about how this idea can be profitable and how they would pitch it.
While Hallmark’s business partners offer key initiatives that drive ideas, they are not independent of what creatives can bring to the table.
“We moved from being a service organization to a strategic enabler, ”Heeney-Janiak shared. “This means that we’re positioned differently in the business to lead new concepts and ideas that are directly aligned with business strategies.”
Conclusion: How to Stay Competitive
The workforce is changing and jobs are not about doing what you’re told but are more focused on bringing ideas to the table and taking the initiative to develop your own talents. Larger corporations like Hallmark are still attractive to millennials because they have a built-in network and mentorship opportunities that can help a creative grow their talent.
The competitive edge seems to be:
- Finding a community that can help grow your talents. This could the people sitting next to you at work, a Facebook group or a professional group.
- Finding a mentor, which is someone experienced in your field who can show you what research alone can’t.
- Investing in your skill sets and keeping up to date with software in your industry.
Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.