Posted by: bluesyemre | May 29, 2021

The Future of Work

The Future of Work: How to Balance In-Housing and Outsourcing

Around the world, people have been working in ways they would not have imagined 13 months prior. Beyond the “comfy casual” work from home attire we’ve embraced, radical changes about how we collaborate are taking place. Creative collaboration will look different for every company post-pandemic, but one thing is universal: the future of work is more distributed and a lot more specialized than before. Part of creating a successful team for the digital era is knowing the best card to play now, to innovate for the future.

Do you stack an in-house creative team to get things done, or do you contract an agency or freelancer? Will you transition back into office collaboration or embrace a hybrid model? It’s hard to know, but companies that find the right balance set themselves up for long term success.

This is The Future of Work. Made in partnership with MarketerHire, it’s a multipart series exploring how the pandemic has changed the way brands, agencies, and individuals are working, and how you should be rethinking everything over the next 12-24 months. Below we explored how utilizing both in-house and external collaborators benefited two brands: Anheuser-Busch and Zendesk, and spoke with the two 2021 Webby Awards Nominees about how they’ve built the teams behind the Internet’s best creative work.

Streamline for Agility

For the past 13 months, the needs for businesses to adopt digital-first strategies and new content exploded. More audiences at home meant an immediate need to quickly meet people where they are, while speaking to what they were experiencing. 

That required companies everywhere to quickly pivot, and create experiences that resonated with at-home audiences. Decide which option helps you move faster. While onboarding a  contract copywriter or strategist works for some companies, others need a more permanent solution to become more agile. A June 2020 study by McKinsey and the Harvard Business School found that companies that launched an agile business model prior to the COVID-19 pandemic significantly outperformed companies that hadn’t.

This is certainly true for Anheuser-Busch, which in 2018 launched draftLine, its full-service, in-house creative agency, to streamline its marketing across the company’s 42 brands. draftLine uses a hybrid approach: functioning as the only agency for a few AB InBev brands, while supporting external agency partners on more established brands. Before they started draftLine, AB InBev lacked an agency that worked across their portfolio, resulting in very siloed marketing. By creating draftLine, the company’s in-house team is “able to unlock creative solutions, quickly disseminate information and share best practices across brands.”

The move has allowed draftLine to “transform the way [they] work, be agile and quickly replicate successes from one brand and apply it to the other,” said Spencer Gordon, AB InBev’s VP of Digital and Head of draftLine US.

Decide If You Need General or Specialized Work

Prior to the pandemic, changing consumer tastes were already changing the creative work being made. COVID-19 just rapidly accelerated the need for hyper-personalized work. This type of work might be better suited for an in-house team that can create multiple iterations of a strategy based on data. “draftLine is the only agency on some of [our] new-to-world innovation brands, specifically helping position the smaller brands as we pilot, execute and scale,” said Gordon. 

To do this, the company gathers insights from around the country to convey to its marketing department. Even more, Gordon’s teams leverage local talent in LA, Austin, Miami, New York, and St. Louis to create work with local knowledge. 

Know When Your Creative Team’s “Got It” 

One of many things the pandemic made clear was the need for companies to create with more empathy. That can mean leveraging your internal brand and creative team to tell strong stories that are central to your company, like Zendesk. The customer service software company “has invested in its brand and creative execution since day one,” said Erin Pinkley, VP Brand Creative at Zendesk. Over time, the company has grown its team intuitively to fit this need.

Pair Internal Talent with External Collaborators 

As more brands produce their own creative experiences, giving an in-house creative team budget to hire contractors is great for tentpole projects. According to Sam Bathe, an Art Director at Zendesk, this strategy allows the team to discern when outside experience can elevate unique projects like ‘Stories About Helpful People,’ a 2021 Webby Nominee for best branded editorial experience.

“We’re very hands-on when it comes to sourcing and commissioning artists and agencies for special projects,” said Bathe. His team spends time honing a shortlist of partners making inventive work, and finding the right chemistry with partners.

A hybrid model that uses both internal and external talent also works to build better relationships, which helps any company in the long run. Zendesk approaches this collaboration by trusting the guidance of specialists: “When you’re working with the right external collaborators, it’s important to give them the space to be creative and lead you on aspects where they’re the experts.”

Make the Final Choice

Whether you choose to restructure an internal team, partner with a digital agency, or leverage your in-house team to manage contractors, make sure it sets your team up for success. The best creative work is often made by utilizing two or more options—using a freelancer to help drive a project over the line, or giving budget to an in-house creative team to commission an artist’s work.

Find The Best Talent Resource to Outsource 

It’s hard to know which strategy to use to get a project over the line, and make it not only great, but award-worthy. Looking for a freelancer that can help your full-time team bring its vision to life? Our partner MarketerHire can help. It’s a talent platform that quickly matches organizations with vetted freelance marketers, and educates companies on how to best utilize them.

It’s easier and faster than other recruiting platforms. No job postings or interviews—you’ll be matched with a marketer who is perfectly suited for your project’s needs. 

The Future of Work: Today, Teams are Working Autonomously. What About Tomorrow?

The future of work means having more flexibility, and it has arrived. A year of navigating the coronavirus pandemic tells you that — companies around the world were thrust into remote collaboration. We experienced this at The Webby Awards when in just 9 weeks we adapted to a work from home culture, and rethought our in-person event as an online celebration, Webbys From Home, which was an entirely new experience for us. 

Now, employees and organizations are asking what work should look like in the immediate, and distant future. More employees distributed has meant more possibilities for how they can continue to work remotely. There’s the growing popularity of a hybrid model, four-day work weeks, and simply the reorganization of internal workflows in favor of flexibility.

It is clear that flexible work, in some form, is inevitable, and the talent environment has changed. Possibly for the better. Below we explored what it means to prioritize autonomy at work. We also spoke to a few 2021 Webby Nominees on how they are collaborating during this unique moment in history.

Approach and Expectations Matter 

With more teams engaged in distributed work, workers are desiring greater flexibility — 73% of employees want flexible work options to continue after the pandemic, Microsoft reported in its study of 30,000 people in 31 countries. That means leaders need to think about new expectations and policies for remote working. The most glaring expectation to examine is time — are team members expected to work a fixed schedule or are flexible work hours allowed? Is a flexible system based on trust, or should each team member’s hours be recorded? If you choose a hybrid model, Harvard Business Review suggests creating a map of your “hybridity configuration” as a start to figuring out a solution.

For Webby-nominated Flatiron Health’s Marketing and Brand Design teams, producing great work remotely meant being intentional on when to be synchronous. The healthcare technology company is focused on accelerating cancer research and improving patient care. As the pandemic settled in, their Marketing and Brand Design teams quickly adapted and one key strategy included collaborating more intentionally. Alex Gorstan, Flatiron Health’s Director of Marketing and Tanya Elshahawi, Flatiron Health’s Director of Brand Design shared how the team rethought their work over the last 14-months.

“We’ve always appreciated the value of spontaneous collaboration and it’s been a challenge—one that we’ve largely overcome—to preserve the benefits of those kinds of interactions,” said Gorstan.

The paradox of distributed working is that it requires more digital interactions. It’s up to leaders to find the balance between meetings that are necessary to productivity and team morale—which inherently boosts productivity. To preserve the spontaneity their brand and marketing teams love, Flatiron Health has “standing meetings with open agendas to hash out looming problems or questions,” said Gorstan and Elshahawi. It also means their team schedules “five-minute daily meetings to efficiently kick off the day and provide updates,” and establish norms of meeting-free days so they “bring projects and initiatives across the finish line.”

Take a Page from Headspace’s Friday Rulebook 

At the center of flexible work discourse is the four-day work week. Prior to the pandemic, there were anecdotes that indicated that companies that switched to this model witnessed a 40% boost in productivity, like Microsoft Japan. In the future, we may all have a four-day work week as more companies and employees warm to the idea.

More than maximizing productivity, saving one additional day per week may benefit employees’ mental health. Webby-winning Headspace certainly found this to be true, and as a brand on a mission to improve the health and happiness of the world, it is in a unique position to meet employees’ needs.

At Headspace, they have “essentially instituted a four-day workweek,” to help mitigate burnout and boost productivity, said Morgan Selzer, VP of Content. “Every other Friday, we have what’s called a ‘Mind Day,’ where employees are really encouraged to shut things off, not send emails, step away from their computer and spend time doing something that will bring them joy,” she said.

The work model is not explicitly a four-day work week, but also functions to create flexibility and mental reprieve. “Mind Days” occur every two weeks, on a Friday. For the remaining Fridays, Headspace has implemented no-meeting Fridays to let employees focus, uninterrupted.

While the decision is still largely unique to the business, Headspace Content Director Freddie Campion hopes an industry standard for flexibility is eventually established. “That flexibility and that kind of freedom — to not have to go into the office if it’s not urgently necessary, or if you’re someone who needs to collaborate with people in real life, that flexibility between the two, generally speaking for myself, is hopefully where the industry will be going,” he said.

Overcome Digital Overload

Bringing workflows that work in-person over into a digital setting does not work seamlessly. During our recent ”The Future of Work” event, MarketerHire CEO Chris Toy noted that prior to the pandemic, companies were reliant on communication crutches to get by. Casual interactions, like passing team members in the hallway or catching up for five minutes provided spontaneous moments to sync on work. Transferred into a digital setting, these communication methods have resulted in digital overload. More conference calls, video meetings, and screen time can lead to digital overload if not properly managed. Between February 2020 and February 2021, Microsoft recorded the time people spent in Microsoft Teams to have doubled globally. Meetings now average 10 minutes longer, increasing from 35 to 45 minutes. Users are also sending 45 percent more chats per week on Teams.

Current discourse often examines Zoom fatigue, but “Slack fatigue is another challenge” that Flatiron Health is working on overcoming, said Gorstan and Elshahawi. “It’s not always easy to recognize in a remote setting whether someone is “available” and willing to chat. Fortunately, norms around delayed replies help, but in reality that just adds another “inbox” for you to work through when you have down time.” To help address this, Elshahawi and Gorston noted that the company has “established meeting-free Fridays so people have the time to go heads-down and get into that precious flow state and start to knock things off their lists.”

MarketerHire Understands How Distributed Workplaces Hire 

Companies are actively defining the future of work with the decisions they make today. It is clear that people are seeking autonomy in some way — for some it means working from home two days a week, for others it means using a four-day work week model. Some workers have sought that autonomy by moving into a freelance role.

Our partner MarketerHire intimately understands how companies can hire expert consultants, and work in more flexible, distributed ways. Their work centers on pairing companies with pre-vetted freelance marketers that can start working immediately. Whether you are a full-time employee seeking more autonomy in work or an organization in need of a collaborator, MarketerHire can help.

The Future of Work: How the Freelance Industry is Shifting

The Future of Work is Now, and It is Freelance. After nearly a year and a half of remote working, employees are working 2.5 hours longer. Moreover, companies are executing new initiatives and strategies for the first time. This, coupled with fewer resources after widespread layoffs, has led to a new reliance on outside help: freelancers.

COVID-19’s acceleration of the industry proves that collaborations between companies and freelancers are here to stay — 12% of the U.S. workforce started to freelance for the first time in 2020, and 47% of hiring managers are more likely to hire freelancers, according to a 2020 Upwork study. The number of people freelancing will likely increase in the coming years, and will keep extending beyond traditional freelance roles.

But this rapid shift raises important questions:

How do companies find the right freelancers? How can both organizations and the industry at-large better support independent professionals? Below, we explore how companies partner with independent collaborators with Webby Award winner m ss ng p eces, and speak with two senior-level freelancers about their experiences.

Freelancers Have Traditionally Been in Creative or Production

Previously, most traditional freelance roles were in production or creative. While opportunities tend to grow in other capacities or roles, the production industry sets the standard for how external talent can be added to support in-house efforts. This is true for content and production companies like m ss ng p eces, the 2020 Webby Production Company of the Year, a production and entertainment partner creating content and immersive experiences for clients globally.

According to m ss ng p eces Managing Partner Kate Oppenheim, leveraging specialized talent in addition to its robust lineup of in-house directors, was key to producing immersive projects like Invisible Hate, a 2021 Webby Winner in virtual and remote experiences, and Black Love Is, a 2021 Webby Nominee in video.

“Staffing up projects is one of the artforms of our business,” Oppenheim said. Her team produces specialized work, and finds balance in making sure there is “a m ss ng p eces hand firmly at the wheel, but also that [they] have the specific skill sets necessary to executive anything the creatives dream up.” That team will inevitably be hybrid in some form.

“Staffing up projects is one of the artforms of our business,” Oppenheim said.”

Freelance Opportunities are Growing Across Capabilities

Freelance opportunities have already been growing. Boston Consulting Group’s 2018 study of 6,500 executives worldwide found that nearly 40% expected to increase use of freelancers in the next five years. Opportunities in more industries skyrocketed in 2020 as COVID-19 shifted the direction of businesses.

“Over time, and more recently, there’s been kind of a wave for Account [Management],” said Freelance Account and Brand Lead Lisa Paravano. Companies should lean into using freelance talent for larger business and strategic development. Paravano has experienced this for seven years as a freelancer Group Account Director for agencies and brands like Pernod Ricard, República Havas, Berlin Cameron, and more.

Use Niche Platforms to Find Specialized Freelancers

As companies navigate new business directions and restructuring in the wake of COVID-19, they can lean on senior freelancers, even when highly specialized professionals are needed. Beyond traditional platforms like LinkedIn or Upwork, niche platforms like MarketerHireArc for remote developers, or TopTal for other tech talent, connect companies with growing need for experts who can start quickly.

MarketerHire helps companies develop and scale their marketing — with pre-vetted freelance talent specializing in paid search, brand marketing, SEO, growth, social media, content marketing, and more. Only the top 5% of applicants are approved to be on the platform, ensuring companies are matched with senior-level talent. The rise of niche recruiting platforms, like MarketerHire, reflect more companies’ need for specialized freelancers. Experienced freelancers bring value outside of their specific skills. We spoke to two experienced freelancers, Paravano and Adina Birnbaum, about the benefits independent professionals bring to organizations.

1. Senior Freelancers Can Fill-in Business + Staffing

Paravano’s freelance contracts are typically six-months long, to cover maternity leave or gaps of time, focus on new business, and help structure or run a team.  “[An] interim person like [me] can be brought in to help interview, screen people and do the job of a traditional account lead,” said Paravano.

2. They Can Launch Strategic Initiatives

Adina Birnbaum, a freelance Executive Producer based in New York City, has experienced this over seven years of producing and consulting. 

When she was brought into projects at Instagram, Squarespace and Chobani, each “had just established their in-house creative capabilities,” Birnbaum said. “Creating templates and contracts, finding workarounds where there were gaps in resourcing, and navigating more administrative duties was required in addition to traditional project-based production responsibilities.” The trade-off? A holistic view of the brand, including strategy development, innovation and beta testing, said Birnbaum.

3. No Need for Lengthy Onboarding

Experienced freelancers have been executing their roles for years and require less hand holding, said Paravano. Marketers know their channels well, and in her case, a Group Account Director knows exactly how to lead a team–especially crucial as companies change business directions in the wake of the pandemic.

“People aren’t sure where budgets are going to land, or if clients are going to sign scopes. But they need work to keep moving,” said Paravano. “When I’m hired it’s because I’ve been there and done that, and I don’t need a lot of coaching.”

How to Better Support Freelancers

1. Set Proper Expectations

When brands approach independent artists because they admire their work, they should establish trust and communication. “It’s important to set expectations from the beginning about how that artist is expected to work in tandem with the brand’s needs,” she said. Will the independent artists have freedom, or will it be a traditional executional relationship? Establishing the ground rules is vital. 

2. Define Your Method to Onboard Remotely

The absence of in-person onboarding and informal interactions can leave freelancers struggling to acclimate as quickly. “Now that work is 100% remote, many onboarding procedures have not evolved to compensate,” said Birnbaum. Create a process to help ease the transition into a new group and team. 

3. Commit to Good Compensation and Benefits 

Companies should be prepared to compensate freelancers properly, but what about other benefits? For Birnbaum, as more companies shift to employing “permalancers” or W2 contractors, benefits should become standardized. 

“Many of the tech companies continue to be leaders in this effort, providing comprehensive benefits to all employees, including medical, dental, vision, 401K, insurance discounts, ancillary benefits including disability, and legal assistance effective immediately, if desired,” she said. 

Many companies, such as agencies, do not. Groups like the Freelancers Union work  to compensate for this, connecting freelancers with similar benefits as full-time employees—like insurance, a database of resources to navigate COVID-19, finances and more.

According to Paravano, offering benefits goes beyond a conversation about ethics. “The way to retain top level talent in that pool would be to offer some sort of benefits, but then do they stop being freelance?”

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