HR · 26 August 2015

Lack of leadership and financial management skills prevalent among creative micro businesses

Micro businesses within fashion, film, TV and other creative industries have notable skills gaps according to Creative Skillset
Micro businesses within fashion, film, TV and other creative industries have notable skills gaps according to Creative Skillset

A new report from Creative Skillset and Ashridge Business School has revealed the skills needs of leaders and managers across the creative industries. Small and micro businesses in particular feel they have gaps when it comes to leadership, strategy, financial management, innovation and people management.

The research focused on the UK’s creative economy, covering sectors including TV, advertising and marketing, fashion, publishing and games. It suggested that while employment across this sector has grown four times the rate of the wider UK economy since 1997, the creative industries collectively spend 33 per cent less than average on training per employee. Additionally, only 27 per cent of firms across these industries provide management training for their employees.

Good leadership and management can have a significant impact on organisation performance, as well as improving levels of employee engagement.

The research indicated the creative industry was highly fragmented – 97 per cent of organisations employed less than 50 people and power is perceived to be in the hands of a few large organisations. Not only does this present a skewed power balance, but it also makes career development more challenging for those working freelance or involved in micro businesses.

While advances in technology have been credited with improving processes in a range of sectors for businesses of all size, the report found creative professionals are juggling rapid change, increased commercial demands and advances in technology – all of which have combined to put downward pressures on budgets and project time frames.

The top five development needs in the sector were leadership (65 per cent said this was the most pressing need), strategy at 59 per cent, financial management at 47 per cent, innovation at 46 per cent with 43 per cent citing people management. The most significant barriers to professional development were lack of time, job pressures and financial constraints.

As 45 per cent of the survey sample were either CEOs or business founders, it was notable that they felt under-equipped when it came to both leadership and financial management.

Combining a literature review, online survey with over 100 Creative Skillset and Ashridge contacts and interviews with industry professionals, the research sought to explore the business skills gaps prevalent within the UK’s creative industries and what development interventions might help close them.

The report found that training needs to be informal and practical to help bridge the gap from “successful creative” to “successful entrepreneur”. Many micro businesses in the sector may be headed up by an owner or founder and this move presents difficulties, notably around managing commercial growth.

The study said bigger organisations often have dual leadership, where there is an artistic leader fostering creativity and a managerial leader taking on the commercial demands, but in smaller businesses often one individual has to take on both roles and can run into trouble.

Dr Kion Ahadi, head of research and evaluation at Creative Skillset said the recommendations made in the report “will feed into a leadership and management strategy Creative Skillset will be developing for the industries later this year” and it would work with leaders, managers and business owners on the strategy to “ensure the UK maintains its competitive edge”.

Some of the recommendations included developing an online networking community as there was particularly positive feeling towards the concept of mentoring among respondents, while encouraging reverse mentoring could enable younger entrants to share their new ideas and skills too.

As skills gaps can suddenly become apparent, the report also advocated scheduled development interventions along with “just-in-time” learning.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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