3 Steps for Embracing Flexible Working Models
The Great Resignation, which began in earnest in mid-2021 following the onset of year two of the pandemic, is continuing to send shock waves throughout the U.S. economy and its workforce. According to a recent study by human resources consultancy Korn Ferry, if this crisis is left unchecked, the United States could miss out on $1.748 trillion in revenue by 2030 due to labor shortages, approximately 6 percent of the American economy. While no industry has been spared, the marketing and advertising industry in particular has been hit hard by what can only be called a talent crunch, with resignations and countless openings impacting agencies of all shapes and sizes.
Simply put, the nonstop, do-more, hustle culture doesn’t work as well for people across the board anymore, given a collective shift in priorities. Yes, offices and workplaces are returning, but they're no longer the same — just as people aren't the same as they were pre-pandemic, either. Neither are their expectations of their employers and the companies they choose to do business with.
So while agencies everywhere look toward virtual ways to create “water cooler” culture in the form of virtual happy hours and team-building events designed to facilitate interactions, that’s not enough. It’s necessary work, of course, but it’s not going to fix the crisis as it stands. “Intentional flexibility” is the answer. It’s up to us to change how our organizations work.
Those companies that (a) recognize that digital transformation is rapidly accelerating, (b) realize that talent in our industry can’t keep pace, and (c) adapt accordingly will be the ones emerging as the big winners.
So how can brands and agencies not only create this flexibility, but go about doing it in a way which will work for all involved, including clients?
- Embrace flexibility with intention. Asynchronous work schedules, flexible working, contractor resource, hybrid and remote work are all proven methods at this point. Plus, there’s much to be said for the freelancer economy and the inherent flexibility it gives agencies and brands to scale up and down, as well as to the talent themselves who are able to set their hours and their expectations to create a flow which works well for them. Whether you choose all of the above or a mix (as we’ve done at Croud) is up to you and your team.
- Prepare yourself for impact (or lack thereof). When we mentioned that a flexible workforce gives you the ability to scale up or down as client demands ebb and flow, we weren’t kidding. Having a balance of full-time, part-time, hybrid and freelance workers allows you to ride the inevitable waves of project work which shift with economic turns and world events. The best way to ride that wave is to build out a workforce that’s not only diverse, but dynamic.
- Action, action, action. Last but not least, your ability to retain talent and make them feel an essential part of your company is highly dependent on how you affirm and communicate your company values — not just through words, but through your actions, too. This is especially true for millennials and Gen Z, who highly value your commitment to the environment, diversity and inclusion, and social causes. They expect you to put a stake in the ground and get out in front of social issues with stances and statements related to everything from BLM and Pride to carbon footprints.
They want to “buy into” their employer and their employer’s way of doing business — as though their employer stands for similar ideals and ideas as they do. Money matters, of course, but a 401(k) match isn’t enough if they can’t get a sense of where your business values lay. Which is to say that you need to communicate your values consistently and take care to demonstrate them through actions — from your hiring practices to your corporate mission — so that they're seen, heard and felt.
Kris Tait is managing director at Croud, a global digital marketing agency powered by the best talent, custom-built tech, and the world's first crowdsourced network of digital experts.
Related story: Retailers Must Bring Brand to the (Third) Party