I am CTO at a small-medium software development company with a few ages history. I carry RRHH selection, teaching, and internal promotion. Until yesterday we just had developers and design was driven by third parties. Now, things are going well and we plan to take control of the design resources so we are hiring designers.
By the time of writing, I have chosen a guy who I really liked because he is very skilled and polyvalent despite being very young, also he’s very autodidact. He can take responsibilities on graphic design, UI design, UX management, HTML layout, illustration, project documentation and he does all of it very well.
What I am worried about is, I have worked with several more experienced designers in the past and I know the different levels of quality in their work. The quality of our employee’s graphics designs is yet at our 5/10 goal. We have no hurry and we can invest resources in his training. But I realized I have no knowledge on how to improve his skills, I only know about improving our software developers’ professional abilities.
If we want their designs to look more crafted, impressive, expressive, customer-heart-breaker… which actions should we take? How should we drive our new hire’s learning process?
Clarifications about doubts that people are expressing:
- I don’t think I know nothing about the design field, but I recognise I don’t have knowledge about the learning processes in that field so I don’t want to manage things whose result I can’t assure, nor waste the career of that guy.
- The designer has been chosen not only because I see a skilled person on him but also because I see a good level of trust and psychological connection with the managers and the team. All our hirings have been based on that criteria. Things are going very well, we are building a very happy workplace and I hope that will last for years. Professional opinions assuring this won’t work have nothing bad and I welcome them.
- I see some people understanding I like the guy but he’s a bit underskilled, and that’s not true, I suppose I don’t explained clearly enough. The guy is skilled enough for the work experience he has. I have two goals here: first, I just want to get sure that the next months and years are really productive in his training and that he will grow professionally accordingly so we will be happy with his performance at all his career steps; and second, and as I write it I am realising that this is the more important thing for me right now: the way that guy’s brain works, if we leave his education unattended he will put strong efforts on experimenting with variations to its techniques and learning even more different abilities, but for his professional career with us we are far more interested in him increasing the quality of his graphic design abilities, and then when they reach a higher quality standard, we would be happy of him maybe leading the design I+D process? It’s important to note that this isn’t about constraining its potential, but to try that that learning side doesn’t remain unimproved, and it’s also about transmitting the employee which abilities is the enterprise interested in him improving so he gains value in the enterprise.
- About resources: I maybe chose some bad words in the sentence about resources. The company resides in a country and region which has suffered a lot from the economic crisis, so companies use to be very stingy around. When I say we are ready to spend resources on its education I mean we don’t expect workers to support their own education – companies around do so – but at least currently, we are far from being able to perform an aditional hire to carry its education – but I think it’s a very interesting idea if this works and in a middle time we have around three designers, yeah!
- Cultural tip: where the company resides, people rarely switch work in their life. In other words, they change companies only when necessary (when the previous company crashes or they get fired). It has no reasonable explanation, just a cultural thing. This can help answerers to understand why we put so much focus on a single employee’s education.
- Related tip: we prefer hiring juniors simply in order to grow a family relationship with them from the early steps in their professional careers. Do we need seniors? Yes, but we want to “build” them.
So it seems to me like you’ve spotted someone who has great potential, but that potential is not currently fitting your needs completely and you need to partly delegate his training. I can understand the wish to keep this person if they can do all you claim they can, they are a rare find!
You say there is no rush and you can invest in resources. That’s great because I see way too many companies hiring a junior when they really need a senior, just to save a few bucks.
I see a few options here:
- Hire a consultant or part-time trainer who has the potential you are
looking for to train your current employee
- You mention your employee is fairly autodidact. You could potentially
set some goals together and free his schedule a bit to let him fulfill these
- You could encourage him to develop his abilities by sponsoring his education and having him enrolled in a relevant program
In terms of specific activities to help your employee get to designs that “look more crafted, impressive, expressive, customer-heart-breaker… which actions should we take? How should we drive our new hire’s learning process?” A lot of this is going on in the eye of the beholder (client) so I would suggest that your employee needs to be able to deepen his knowledge of your audience.
- Provide past works to him which worked well for your audience and ask him to try and emulate a similar look for new pieces (be mindful not to plagiarize though) then build from that.
- Provide focus group/marketing information to your designer to keep him in the loop and aware of your audience’s interests
- Provide works from competitors that accomplish similar goals just as well or better than what you would want.
- Look into your designer’s portfolio to see if he has any ability or style that would fit well with your current audience’s interests and nurture that/provide appropriate tools.
Broad suggestions, though it’s a bit difficult to give more pointed advice without seeing the gap between your designer’s portfolio and what you are aiming for. Best of luck!
the way that guy’s brain works, if we leave his education unattended
he will put strong efforts on experimenting with variations to its
techniques and learning even more different abilities, but for his
professional career with us we are far more interested in him
increasing the quality of his graphic design abilities
Be wary not to confine this person too much in their development that they end up losing their enthusiasm/drive (i.e. one of the main reasons you trust that person). I would have a discussion with him to try to deconstruct the set of skills you would like him to acquire and give him some freedom to choose what to tackle first at least. Also ensure the employee still has time to further his own goals.
If I can contribute a bit of my own experience: in one of my latest agency contracts, I had negotiated to have about 20% of my work time freed up for taking on new skills, this was written on the contract and really increased my respect for this employer. Sometimes I pursued my own stuff but if the company had some specific challenge in mind (producing an ebook, improving workflow, etc.) I was happy to take it on. I think that lends some support to your idea of communicating to your employee the kind of skills your company is interested in. My main caveat about this is I was already a senior at that moment and my objectives were more precise (and easier to self-learn I would add) than improving my work to “wow” the customer (which is why I would more strongly suggest some kind of mentoring should take place).