How to Manage the 'Tween Stage

What to Do Until You Staff Up on Hybrid Talent

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
The world has seen dramatic changes in the application of technology for communication –- probably much more than ad agencies ever planned on. Broadband enabled consumers to do more online, and that's exactly what they did.

How did small agencies adjust? Some moved quickly to develop their interactive expertise. Many more, however, lived in denial that the internet would impact agencies the way it has. Whichever place your agency is in, there's no denying one thing: We are in the in-between stage of managing for the future. The 'tween stage, as I refer to it.

By that, I mean that there are more people in our industry who have one skill set or another (traditional or digital). But rarely are they proficient at both.

Now you may be reading this and getting upset, because you or those you know have dual skills (or hybrid talent). That may be true; The question is: How do you define the level of skills?

Our executive creative director has a helluva time finding truly great hybrid talent. Many art director, designers and copywriters claim to have both. But their skills often lean more heavily toward traditional or digital. Same applies to searching for account management and project managers.

I believe this is just a phase that we are in. In a few years, more talent will enter our industry with well-developed hybrid skills. And we'll soon forget how frustrating it was to find talent that could effectively serve our clients. In the meantime, we'll have to learn to live in these 'tween times. And here are a few tips to get through it:
  1. Start training your staff. Agency owners and managers have a responsibility to help our talented staff to develop the skills they need, but don't have access to. Most of the training is of the interactive nature.
  2. Vet applicants carefully. Some traditional art directors, for example, may have more interactive skills than their portfolios may indicate. Offer a test project to know for sure.
  3. Sometimes just the opposite is true: Candidates may claim to have more hybrid depth than they really do. Know who you are hiring.
  4. If your staff is very traditional, and you can't yet deliver innovative tradigital campaigns yet, then don't. You'll run the risk of overpromising to a client, and no one wins in that situation. That said, continue to experiment internally, with pro bono clients, or with small clients who are willing to learn with you in exchange for reduced fees. It's a great way to learn the interactive space.
  5. Patience. Know that in a few years, this 'tweener stage will be over and everyone will get it. Hybrid talent will be the price of entry.
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