We’ve all seen the #GreatResignation news – people are leaving their jobs by the millions in search of work with more meaning, more time with loved ones, and sure – more money.
This is on top of the decade-long trend of top-tier creatives and marketers leaving their traditional ad agency jobs in favor of freelance or in-house positions. Right now is a ~wild~ time to be hiring in general, and this month, we’re diving into a staffing strategy that’s being adopted by the most forward-thinking brands out there – that’s right, we’re talkin’ Elastic Teams!
Before we double-click into the what, why, and how of Elastic Teams, it helps to first think about the traditional models of work that most of the advertising and marketing industry is familiar with:
In-house marketing teams are led by a department leader who hires full-time employees (FTEs) based on broad skill requirements. Most in-house teams end up being supported by freelancers or agency partners (depending on time, needs, and budgets) because hiring FTEs for every skillset a marketing team needs can be…. $$$$, to say the least.
Marketing or Advertising agencies are typically filled with people who’ve honed specialized skillsets (think Motion Graphics editors or Media Planners), whose time is then divvied up across several client accounts. Brands benefit from working with fractional support when they need it, but typical agency markups (and infamously long hours) make #agencylife unsustainable in the long-term for both parties.
While both models have served the marketing industry for decades, anyone who’s been on LinkedIn lately knows that a wave of change is upon us. Talent is sitting squarely in the driver’s seat, and brands and agencies are taking a fresh look at how they build and retain their teams for success.
So, what’s an Elastic Team?
An Elastic Team is a group of pre-vetted, contract-based talent that are able to tap in and out as project needs ebb and flow.
Elastic Teams open up the door to a new way of working: Imagine a world where you can work with the best-of-the-best, only when you need them, and know that they actually give a s**t about your brand’s success – even when they’re not actively working on a project. This world is possible right now, thanks to two key factors:
- Droves of high-caliber creative and marketing experts have chosen to become “free agents” in the past few years. Top-tier talent not only knows the value of their time, but they also know the conditions they work best in – oftentimes, it’s *not* pulling 10-hour days in a bleak office. Champions want to play on teams that win rings, and sometimes that only takes a season to achieve.
- Remote work is now, finally, A Thing. Remember when everyone thought “magic happens in the hallways”? Turns out, magical people don’t thrive… in a hallway. Most importantly, working with remote teams means you really can hire the best brain for the job – not just the best one within driving distance of a special strip of office carpet.
For hiring managers, Elastic Teams provide an opportunity to work with better-quality talent at a lower overall cost to the business.
For free -agent talent, working as part of an Elastic Team means that you’re able to work on brands and projects you’re passionate about, but with added flexibility to control your availability and rate along the way. And we all know we get the very best out of freelance talent when they like what they’re doing!
Why are Elastic Teams the ~future of work~?
Beyond *cost savings*, the value of Elastic Teams comes from the fact that they are inherently aligned with the attributes that create better work overall: Flexibility, Happiness, and Innovation.
As we all navigate #TheGreatReshuffle, these are critical attributes for both brands and talent to find their perfect match.
The term “flexibility” alone covers a lot of ground – whether we’re talking about seasonal projects, day-to-day schedules, or simply having options to choose from, flexibility empowers effective teams. Team members are able to work when their energy and engagement are at their peak, and businesses benefit from a nimble workforce that’s not set in rigid ways.
Happiness comes from working with people we vibe with, on projects that we find interesting, and where we feel valued for our contributions. Plus, according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, when you like what you’re doing, it’s easier to get “in the zone”. Happy workers = better productivity = better results.
As we wrote about a few months ago, innovation comes from diverse perspectives and backgrounds. More eyes = more ideas (and fewer blind spots), which means that the right Elastic Team can help push your business forward faster. According to a Princeton study, solo thinkers often aren’t the best source of wisdom, but a small group of contributors is the real sweet spot for problem-solving. Good ideas can easily get drowned out in a crowd when there’s a higher reliance on consensus. When the crowd is smaller and it’s easier to get everyone’s POV, the best idea is easier to point out in a lineup.
How Elastic Teams work
We’ve covered why Elastic Teams provide the right atmosphere for free agents to do their best work, and now we can dig into how to build an effective Elastic Team.
As a hiring manager, you probably have a general sense of which roles you need to fill throughout the course of any given year. Some roles – like Project Managers – make sense to have on full-time, since there are always projects to manage. Others, like many creative roles, are only needed in sprints to develop that next campaign or design a new website. In those instances, having a shortlist (we call them “Talent Benches”) of talent options to pull from makes the process move much quicker.
Once you’ve established your shortlist, it’s simply a matter of reaching out to talent, negotiating project-based contracts, and onboarding into the team.
For small businesses, with a little elbow grease, this process can be managed mostly in spreadsheets. For larger-scale brands and projects, a successful DIY effort would call for a recruiter, an HR manager, and a legal team to help manage state-by-state work contracts. Our platform is designed to answer all of those needs in a single place, all with a focus on building effective, engaged teams that are aligned with your specific project needs, your company culture, and your business goals.
Beyond the tactical fit of skill/time/cost, we can’t lose sight of the importance of team diversity. Elastic Teams provide ongoing opportunities to add to your existing company culture. Each of us – including our clients – have our own unique set of values and interests – and matching talent with brands who share those values and interests creates a space where they can feel safe, supported, and aligned to the overall mission.
Only a few years ago, all of this may have sounded like a pipe dream – hiring managers used to need to fill specific roles with locally available talent – but the pandemic has accelerated our predictions into reality. Fueled by a flood of free agent talent and the widespread adoption of remote work, the concept of Elastic Teams is increasingly relevant (and perhaps even necessary) for brands to stay ahead of the hiring curve. For brands and talent alike, Elastic Teams offer a path to redefine the structure of work, with flexibility, happiness, and innovation woven into its core.