19 May 2021

How creativeXpeople built their team to build a better team for you

| Karyn Starmer
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Synergy Group’s creativeXpeople encourages collaboration across age groups. Photo: Supplied.

Ask any successful manager or business owner what the key to their success is and the answer, invariably, is people.

Given this, it is surprising to learn that the recruitment, retention and organisation of people is fragmented across departments in most businesses. Synergy Group partners David Schmidtchen and Sally Dorsett say this is not an ideal model.

David and Sally view people and organisational development as so integral to success in business that they built an entire department around it at Synergy Group – creativeXpeople.

It’s a mix of behavioural change managers, communication experts and human resource managers together with an in-house ad agency.

David and Sally joined the Canberra consultancy firm Synergy in 2018. Both from different backgrounds at ‘big four’ firms, their brief for their work in the people space at Synergy was to start a department from scratch.

“We were hired as co-leaders, that was something different in itself, and from our previous work, we knew we could do something a bit different in the workplace strategy space,” Sally said.

READ MORE The year that everything changed

David and Sally say the strength of creativeXpeople lies in a diversity of skills and backgrounds that includes economists, organisational psychologists, graphic designers, communications and ad creatives.

“We have a huge diversity of skills and experience in the team, from school leavers with no experience to people with 35-plus years’ experience, all of whom bring different thoughts to a project or a problem and everyone has a voice. These different elements combine to form one solid team, all looking at problems through a behavioural change lens,” Sally said.

creativeXpeople has now grown to a department of 37 people with a distinct and purposefully flat hierarchy where each employee’s voice is welcomed. Collaboration across age groups is embraced and the value of the voices of younger employees is recognised.

“I have worked in many teams but I have to say ours is exceptional. Culture is what we specialise in. Our team is unique – it is the best team I have ever worked in,” Sally said.

David Schmidtchen and Sally Dorsett

Synergy Group partners David Schmidtchen and Sally Dorsett co-lead creativeXpeople. Photo: Supplied.

The work of creativeXpeople usually involves looking at an organisation from a people and behaviour perspective. The team is often tasked with implementing change in client organisations.

“But,” says Sally, “rather than simply looking at the immediate problem in front of us, we like to swim upstream a bit and look at the behavioural change that we need to affect to bring about the results we are looking for,” Sally said.

David says being successful at implementing change, for an effect and impact, means bringing people along with you.

“If you are leading change in a department, such as a physical move or restructure, that will mean a new way of working. It really is best to take a big picture look at how to implement that change and how to bring everyone along with the changes,” David said.

“Are you structured to deliver, is your remote work strategy working for you? These are the types of issues that are best looked at through a behavioural change lens,” Sally says.

David says most consultants can help with change and organisational design but are not there to lead the implementation.

“It is one thing to identify a skill shortage but getting the right people is more than five dot points on an online job ad,” he said.

“You will need to get the attention of the people you want and they may not be looking for work. In a hot market like IT, for example, you may be competing with big organisations like banks for talent,” Sally explained.

“That is when our team’s creatives really bring it all home. Together with our in-house ad agency and communications team, they can design a campaign to attract the attention of the people our clients want to hire. We put the ad and the people together.”

“Our diversity of skills and experience and the combinations within our team really are our difference. And we try to have fun doing it.”

For more information, visit Synergy Group.


The strength of creativeXpeople lies in a diversity of skills and background. Photo: Supplied.

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