By Lucy Marino, executive director of the marketing and creative practice at global talent solutions firm Robert Half, which connects employers with skilled marketing, creative, digital, advertising and public relations professionals to meet their specialized recruiting needs. Marino manages strategy and operations for the company’s marketing and creative talent solutions teams across U.S. locations.
Ninety-four percent of creative and marketing managers struggle to find the talent they need today, according to the 2024 SALARY GUIDE from Robert Half. Left to itself, this difficulty can create a vicious cycle: Open positions pile more work on your current team, increasing the chances of burnout and employees’ likeliness to quit, leaving even more open seats while falling further behind on projects and work. So, how can you break this cycle and swiftly address talent gaps?
The answer may lie in adopting a variable talent model. This approach involves adding contract professionals when, and for only as long as, you need them. It reduces strain on your primary team, gives you immediate access to expertise you may not have internally and ensures project deadlines are met. Our research also found that over two-thirds (67%) of managers in the creative sector are planning to hire more contract professionals in the second half of 2023, aligning well with the 40% of creative and marketing professionals who are open to interim roles.
Here are the key ways a variable talent model can help you bridge the talent gap and contribute to your creative team’s success:
1. Rapid Infusion of Targeted Skills
You may sometimes find that your in-house team lacks the specialized expertise needed for particular initiatives. Perhaps you’ve just secured a branding project from a client in an unfamiliar industry or need to launch an immersive digital marketing campaign while your lead web designer is on extended leave. Utilizing contract talent lets you quickly onboard professionals — or even a whole team of professionals — with the specific knowledge and experience required to complement your core team’s existing capabilities. Since contract professionals can typically hit the ground running, they can offer immediate insights, share industry best practices and even act as informal mentors for your team.
2. Workload Balance For Your Core Team
Whenever there’s a sudden influx of projects while some team members are on vacation or already assigned to other initiatives, your other employees often shoulder an unsustainable workload. This imbalance doesn’t just stress them out; it can also diminish the quality of their work, potentially leading to errors that could jeopardize client relationships. Bringing in contract professionals provides a safety valve, allowing you to redistribute the workload more evenly. This helps prevent burnout and allows your permanent team to take the time off they need to recharge, improving overall well-being and morale.
3. Your Current Employees Can Focus on High-Value Work
Contract talent can also help with day-to-day team responsibilities, like getting project deliverables in order, testing graphics across various media or researching industry trends. This frees up your core staff to tackle more complex challenges, such as honing the overall direction of marketing campaigns. The result? Increased engagement and job satisfaction for your permanent team, who are no longer bogged down in routine tasks and have the opportunity to expand their skills.
4. New Perspectives and Global Talent
Many contract professionals work remotely today, so they may live in a neighboring city to your business, across the country or across the world. That means you’ll be introducing your team to different creative cultures, styles and problem-solving approaches. This geographic diversity not only enriches your project with a global flair but can also help in understanding and catering to international markets, giving your creative team a competitive edge.
5. Reduced Risk of a Costly Bad Hire
Making what turns out to be a poor hiring choice isn’t just expensive. It can sap team morale. Although every effort should be made to streamline your hiring process to avoid missing out on top candidates in today’s tight market, rushing things too much could end up in a new hire that doesn’t work out. Bringing in contract talent gives you the breathing room you need to search for an excellent permanent hire without compromising productivity or quality in the meantime. In fact, these contract professionals could turn out to be ideal candidates for your full-time openings, minimizing the risk of a bad hire.
6. Fewer Costs, More Agility
By bringing in only the talent you need, as you need it, you transform fixed staffing costs into more manageable, variable expenses. Contract hires also often require less investment in onboarding, training and professional development, meaning lower upfront costs compared to permanent employees.
Your business becomes nimbler, too. With a variable talent model, you can adapt more easily and quickly to whatever the industry, or economy, throws at you. This is crucial in the fast-paced creative world, allowing for quicker adjustments in headcount levels, usually with far less bureaucracy than hiring for full-time roles.
7. Project Continuity
You can also bring in contract professionals for your long-term projects where you’d like to keep the same people engaged if possible, because the last thing a critical project needs is turnover. Using this feature of the variable talent model, you’ll also have the option to call on the same person repeatedly for recurring projects by working with a resource who continuously recruits and maintains a deep bench of talent ready to move your project forward.
These professionals are highly skilled and have deep experience across a range of industries and practices. Over the course of their careers, they’ve tackled complex engagements for companies of all sizes, in a wide range of industries. They thrive on the change that project work provides.
Revamping how you hire creative talent allows you to seize new opportunities. A variable staffing approach lets you pivot rapidly, add fresh perspectives and manage costs more efficiently. It’s not just a fix but an upgrade for today’s complex and ever-changing creative industry.