Luke Smith, co-founder and chief executive, digital marketing agency Croud
What will the future of work look like? Businesses of all sizes, across sectors, are currently grappling with this question as government restrictions lift and our cities begin to reopen. For many employees, the past year has been the first time they have had an opportunity to evaluate how they work and to set their own expectations of what they want from their place of work. The goalposts of what was once the accepted nine-to-five have shifted dramatically, and business leaders have to take note in order to get the best out of talent post-pandemic.
The fluid nature of work and the best way to set up a company to service clients with the advent of digital and its global 24/7 nature has long been on my mind. Ten years ago I set up digital marketing agency Croud, using a model in which a full-time team is supported by the world’s first crowd-sourced global network of digital experts – or the ‘Croudie Network’ as we call them. Our Croudies can be based anywhere in the world (Croud is operational in 120 different markets), respond to briefs 24/7, and allow us to scale up and down according to client needs and demand.
This mindset has never been more relevant than in the current business climate. The talent pool is ultra-competitive – particularly when it comes to digital skills – and expectations have never been higher; so what can leaders be doing to attract and retain the very best candidates?
Location, location, location
Firstly, broaden your talent search and decentralise your location. It is no longer realistic for businesses to make everything all about cities like London and New York. It’s more feasible now to accommodate talent who want to live outside of these cities – and catering to this might just be the key to attracting more diverse thinking, regardless of location.
I learnt this lesson during my time at the Google Campus hub in Dublin – made up of brightest talent from across Europe. Google recognised the dispersion of digital talent and the importance of building hubs of digital excellence, to ensure that it attracted and retained the best of the best. We’ve used this as a blueprint with our operational hub in Shrewsbury, where 150 people from 27 different nations work in our state of the art facility on the banks of River Severn. We were named one of the top 50 places to work in Shrewsbury. Our Croudie network is the best illustration of the importance of decentralisation in the post pandemic world, as just 33% of our UK-based Croudies live in London, compared to 67% who live outside of the city.
Get staff bought in
When we started Croud in 2011 we made every employee a shareholder from day one. The rationale behind this was to ensure team members felt invested in the growth of the business, beyond values and targets, and were able to tangibly feel the results of their hard work.
While nice perks, I think free lunches or luxury watches for continuous service is a little patronising when compared to a business being prepared to give a significant chunk of the business to the staff – which is material and inclusive.
If we learn anything from the current wave of employee activism rolling out across businesses, from Amazon to Pinterest, it’s that employees want to feel valued and rewarded for their work in a meaningful way. The staff as shareholders approach is not only a fantastic way to nurture a culture of entrepreneurialism and risk taking, but it’s an incredibly effective retention tool.
Grow from within
Business leaders should shift their mindset to be less about profit and more about growth and investment, and a key part of this is nurturing talent and ensuring growth opportunities from within. This is a mentality applied by Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson’s stewardship. I’ve read a lot of his writing that can be applied to business; such as treating people as individuals, developing them into a team and creating a framework that suits the businesses’ needs.
If you have staff who are bought into your company goal and ethos and work well as a unit, it is vital that there is comprehensive training, upskilling and clear growth opportunities regularly communicated and offered to teams.
Over the past ten years I have learnt how important it is for businesses to make work somewhere employees actually want to spend time. Whether that is by creating flexible working models, properly incentivizing and rewarding teams, showing clear paths for growth and development, or even simply making it a fun place to be business leaders can play an active role in creating the right conditions for a happy and productive workforce – which is a one-way ticket to growth.