The evidence is painfully unequivocal: Flexible working means greater diversity of talent. And greater diversity of talent means better business outcomes.
How and where we choose to conduct our jobs are questions which are increasingly answered by us, not our employer. And companies which do not welcome this with open arms will fly dangerously close to redundant faster than they know.
Just one percent of marketers today say they must have a traditional office environment, according to a groundbreaking study from remote-working specialists We Are Rosie — a network of 4,500 marketing pros who swoop in to power brands and agencies with a flexible approach.
Stephanie Nadi Olson, founder of We Are Rosie, said: “We are asking every leader in marketing and advertising to come along on this ride with us — where we liberate marketing organizations from outdated conventions, reshape how work happens, and deliver a refreshing new solution, built for everyone from the ground up.
“We are throwing out the rigid, inflexible, exclusive structures that have kept us stagnant and in struggle, and replacing them with a no bullshit approach to marketing services that also captures the greatest opportunities of our generation: inclusion, dignity, innovation, and sustainability.”
The study, compiled from extensive research including in-depth interviews with around 250 marketers, found that 61 percent of traditional (staff with the expectation to perform a set function within an established work time and workplace) full-time advertising employees prefer a different work status.
Meanwhile, 59 percent of marketing freelancers feel adequately compensated versus 49 percent of full time employees. Underscoring this is the statistic that 82 percent of freelancers feel motivated and engaged in their work versus 66 percent of full time employees.
Kat Gordon, founder of equality mission 3%, said: “Flexible work models allow greater opportunity to people who have never been able to be part of the traditional system, people who have left the traditional system because it wasn’t serving them, and people working within the traditional system who have been unable to show up to their full potential because of the working environment.”
Companies which persist with a bias toward local, full-time, in-office, traditional hires with specific experience are perpetuating a real world bias. People of different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds cluster geographically. People with disabilities or social discomfort cannot comfortably work in most traditional office settings. Parents and other caregivers shouldn’t have to make a binary choice between working and being there for those they love.
The experience on our resumes – education, internships, jobs, promotions – are all a function of our position of privilege or disadvantage, the report stresses.
The great talent migration was well underway before COVID-19 took hold (and even 2020). We Are Rosie noted a legitimate shift in those hanging up the full-time nine-to-five for freelance. The company estimates that 20 million of the 57 million U.S. freelance population work in marketing-related fields. And while tens of millions of COVID-related layoffs may force more people to consider freelance work, experts predict there will be a huge number of people who consciously decide they are never going back.
Alarmingly, only 28 percent of employees report that their organization was well prepared to accommodate remote work when COVID-19 took hold.
However, the benefits of working remotely are already clear: 39 percent of those surveyed said they’re sleeping more; 36 percent say they’re practicing more self-care and; 31 percent say they’re feeling less work-related stress.
The right companies were transforming to become more flexible in recent years.
For Bumble, a dating app pioneer that grew to nearly 100 million users in just six years, bringing We Are Rosie in to support the marketing team with flexible working was an opportunity to press forward on all fronts: Expand competencies and revamp processes and practices that they have outgrown while maintaining that start-up mentality.
Chelsea Maclin, Bumble’s VP of Marketing, said: “Businesses too often expect people to behave like computers with inputs coming in and outputs going out. Understaffing and over-expecting doesn’t lend toward the best work nor the development or well-being of people.”
So, when it came time to develop a cross-channel content strategy for Bumble Bizz – something the internal team didn’t have the experience nor the capacity to take on – the parachute freelancers at We Are Rosie were a natural fit.
Thorough audits and work “in the trenches” revealed opportunities to increase communication efficiencies and create numerous new template systems, trackers, directories, and documentation that set new operational standards for the marketing team.
Maclin added: “Flexible external talent is a way to continue to extend the business through meaningful – but mitigated – risk. It’s different people looking at the same problem in different ways, holding a mirror to the organization and challenging it to come up with the best solutions.”
SpoonfulOne, a children’s nutritional line aimed at reducing food allergy development, can also attest to the freelance model’s success. The Silicon Valley startup was created by some seriously clever people (PHD-clever people) in 2015 and is backed by Nestlé Health Sciences. It began selling online in 2017 and, at the start of this year, took on Zoe Glade as a VP to oversee marketing efforts.
“What we needed was movement very quickly to prove to a board of directors and Nestle Health Sciences that we can create a demand for this product — the Rosies were imperative in that,” said Glade, who explained that a hole in digital media and sub-par experiences with the company’s cyber destinations were letting the direct-to-consumer brand down.
She worked with We Are Rosie to take on three marketers to amp up digital media.
“The beauty of having this type of push-pull culture from a staffing perspective is that it’s not like you have to sit there and onboard them — you drop them in and they get to work and it’s amazing,” she continued.
Glade explained that, over the course of two-to-three weeks, the freelancers helped launch social paid media, SEO, display and GDN. SpoonfulOne immediately saw website traffic and revenue increase as well as a bump in Amazon sales. The brand now sits on data that shows a positive growth trajectory.
Flexible working isn’t just for start-ups and the world’s punchier brands. Some of the oldest advertising agency holding companies are benefiting too.
The VP of media for one network leaned on the model after the agency had elected not to defend a long-standing client account up for review on the heels of securing a new client relationship. Sunsetting an old client while onboarding another can be a tricky tightrope. The process typically prohibits the transfer of existing talent. Instead, agency talent is fated to come and go with their clients. This time, another idea emerged: Why not try a freelance team to see it out while the full-time talent transitioned to the new account? We Are Rosie dropped in a small crew, completely avoiding around 15 lay-offs and gilding the agency’s reputation with both clients.
But perhaps the most convincing case study is We Are Rosie’s very own: The company only launched two years ago and now boasts thousands of marketing experts from copywriters to CMOs. It’s never had a physical office space. The team has been quietly (and now very loudly) redefining the creative and operational processes of major Fortune 500 brands and ad agencies. We Are Rosie’s rapid success speaks for itself.
Even the person who conducted this research was so convinced by the findings that, as of June 1, she will be the company’s latest full time hire: Jessie Kernan, head of strategy and insights.
She said: “The Rosie Report is both a tribute to the amazing talent that is choosing a new way of working, and a wake up call for the marketing and advertising industry that a seismic shift is underway.
“The study presents clear evidence that work as we know it doesn’t suit a large and growing portion of the working population, that the talent opting into a flexible, independent future is the very talent — diverse, highly-skilled, adaptive — that organizations covet most, and that working in this way improves productivity, well-being, and the quality of the work itself. Not to mention, it is the only way for an organization to be wholly inclusive.
“Through real client case studies, we reveal that the organizational barriers to adopting new talent models are largely excuses, and demonstrate that a more open and flexible future can ultimately help us solve some of the world’s most wicked problems.”