Companies and organizations hire digital agencies, designers, and a lot of other professionals more or less the same way. Here are some thoughts on how companies hire for projects and how there’s a better way to do it.
Most companies hire “outsiders” for significant projects. These outsiders are not full-time staff. Unfortunately they are seen as outsiders and the relationship from day one is built around that mindset of “us” vs. “them”.
Let’s use a website redesign as an example. A company wants to have a better website. Maybe the current one feels old, or more practically, it is simply not effective in supporting the business. The management in the company decides to hire a digital agency or design studio to help them create the new website. They might put out a Request for a Proposal or reach out to their contacts to identify the right company for the project.
Once the right company has been selected, an agreement is drawn up, which outlines the scope of work and the expected deliverables. This usually includes a timeline for the work and installments schedule of compensation. All this sounds familiar. MADEO, among other companies, professional consultants, strategists, designers, and developers has been hired that way. I believe there’s a better way.
Hire Teams, Not Projects
After years of Madeo getting hired for projects, and our clients recognizing these projects as successful, we have introduced a new way to get hired as people. And, as people, we produce projects. It might seem like semantics, but it’s not.
Let’s revisit the website redesign example. Once the company starts to work with the digital agency it has selected, the relationship revolves around the project, not the company. The agency’s goal gets skewed towards the deliverables; they must convince the company that their work is successful in order for the company management to approve the work, pay them what is due, and complete the project on time.
The Value of Influence
During that process the company gets exposed to new expertise from the agency. They are exposed to conversations around strategy, design, new ideas, and possibilities for how the company might do things differently. Once the project ends, though, that influence is over and the company shrinks back into its day-to-day.
When Projects Come to an End
What happens after the project ends is critical. Typically, the company decides to communicate around its new website. They may ask one of their associates to draft an email that will be sent to their community about the website. For their next presentation, they will ask the same associate to design, write, and create it, and, of course, they wouldn’t hire an agency just for that. The hiring process would take too long, and is simply not “worth it”. Over time those small assignments add up to make up the company’s communication strategy.
This Could be Better
Here’s what could be better: I think these emails about the website relaunch can be done better. The powerpoint presentations can be better, and I think websites, and everything that could make this company great, can evolve over time in a much more effective way. This happens when companies hire teams to help improve the company, instead of hiring them for a single project. The results are actually quite different.
This is how we have redesigned the process. We join companies with multidisciplinary roles related to strategy, design, content, and engineering. We bring expertise to the entire process — before, during, and after — of a new website design. This might include a project manager, information architect, content strategist, UX designer, visual designer, copywriter, and one or more web developers.
With this new way of collaboration, no task becomes out of scope.
We become an extension of the company’s teams. In some cases we work solely within one team, such as product, marketing, or communications, but more often than not, with our roles we end up collaborating with different teams. We even sometimes get company email addresses and join regular staff meetings. We become a genuine part of the company, and this insight allows us to sync the new website with the company’s roadmap. As we work, like the rest of the company’s teams, we focus on our projects, but we also contribute to other parts of the company to which we can be of help.
That means nothing is out of scope. Instead, requests are applicable as long as they are relevant to the expertise of the team members, and are beneficial to the overall roadmap of the company. Working in collaboration, the company’s team members learn from Madeo’s team members. When the project launches, the designers help design that email that the associate was going to do all by herself. The copywriter helps draft, edit, and proofread that email. The same will happen with the powerpoint, and every other tiny assignment in between.
During the website project all these new Madeo team members join almost full-time, but after the website launches their level of contribution is lowered, say to 50% or perhaps even to 10% of their time, but their contributions still influence everything small and big within the company. They revisit parts of that website and improve it over time. They teach the company’s team new skills. They listen to ongoing challenges within the company and offer solutions with their design, strategy, writing, and tech skills. And, as part of a smarter approach to hiring team members, we designed our agreements to be month-to-month, which offers the flexibility for companies to scale up, down, or fully pause at any point.
Rethinking Outsiders vs. Insiders
At MADEO, we are redesigning the relationship between “outsiders” and “insiders.” It is about bringing the right people closer to the company to help it succeed and grow. And, yes, those they hire will produce projects, but they will also produce tiny assignments just like the rest of the staff. They will contribute to conversations, ideas, and successes that are far more valuable than any single project.
You’re invited to get in touch and join the new community of smarter organizations, companies, and startups innovating with their Madeo team.
By Ramy Nagy