Skip to content
Talent Strategy
3 min

Shaking up your talent cocktail

by Kalev Peekna, Ryan Schulz, Michelle Kindall June 8, 2021

You’re at the helm of a new project. The pressure’s mounting to get the work started, and you need help. Do you hire FTEs? Contractors? Or partner with an agency or consultant?

It can be overwhelming. But before focusing on who can do the work, focus first on what your needs are. It could be that you have more options available to you than you think, including hybrid solutions. By taking a step back, you’ll find more clarity—and the answers to create the right talent mix.


Talent is everywhere

So, it could come from everywhere. With the rise in remote work, talent needn’t be “local” in the same sense. Talent is moving, so brain trusts are no longer clustered in coastal cities. You can have all the talent and innovation you want–and they don’t have to be sitting right next to you.


Stop chasing unicorns

You might be tempted to find someone who can do it all: content strategy, UX strategy, design, a little light coding—oh and also, project manage themselves. A unicorn. But even the strongest believers in the existence of such talent will acknowledge that they’re hard to find and expensive. You might come close and find a half-unicorn. However, if they leave, you’re back to square one. Instead of trying to find this magical creature that may or may not exist, consider working with an agency that can provide the multi-disciplinary expertise that fits your needs. That doesn’t have to mean replacing one person with five at full costs. Instead, think of it as accessing exactly the right portion of expertise you need out of each area. It will probably be cheaper than you think.


Fresh perspective

Would your project benefit from an outside perspective? This is especially important for research or branding projects that your organization doesn’t do all the time. Trying to work on your own brand is like trying to be your own lawyer. You don’t have the right distance. Agencies and consultants do this numerous times a year, so they have the experience to do it well.


Ideas + innovation

For efforts that require a lot of creative horsepower, consider an outside partner. It’s not that organizations don’t have innovative people internally. It’s just that everyone at the organization has a day job. It takes super-human emotional and intellectual ability to step out of your day job and produce breakthrough ideas. That’s why an agency or freelance creative team can be enormously helpful. They don’t have your day job. Plus, they bring that outside perspective to the party.


Enter: The hybrid approach

Many organizations have the mindset that they must choose: either keep it in-house or go outside. It used to be that the agency did their work, and the client did theirs (never the two shall mix). But resource allocation is a lot more flexible today. The fact is, the traditional agency model is changing.

At One North, we’re working alongside our clients’ teams. It’s not all-agency or all-in house. It’s a hybrid approach. Our clients like it because it’s much more collaborative. What’s more, we bring an outside-in, strategically driven approach to every project we touch. By starting with strategy, we amplify the roles clients already have and fill in their weaknesses. There’s no duplication. And when clients are facing a lot of high-volume production work, they can benefit from our “Smart Studios:” scalable teams designed to solve specific business challenges with a smart strategic wrapper.


Universal source of truth

Regardless of what shape your resources take, it’s important to have a central repository for essential brand and design documentation, accessible to all parties regardless of where they sit around the world. A design system–which includes brand guidelines, UI layouts, personas and more–aids in brand governance and ensures consistency is maintained. Most importantly, it will make scaling and onboarding talent a lot easier.


Questions to ask

Here are some additional questions to help you determine what resource mix is right for you.

  • Will this be a sustainable stream of work? For example, if you need a lot of bulk copywriting that’s not going to go away, your best bet is to hire a writer.
  • Does this require a multi-disciplinary approach? If you need a technologist, designer, brand thinker, UX specialist, etc., but it’s not enough work to keep them all busy for a long period of time, you’ll want to source agency talent. You don’t want to hire FTEs to work for three weeks and then sit around until they are needed again.
  • What’s the most effective way to get to the outcome I want? Hiring and onboarding FTEs takes a long time. What happens when they leave? With an outside consultant or agency, you can use them only when you need them.


Photo Credit: Mario Gogh | Unsplash

Kalev Peekna
Managing Director, Chief Strategist

Kalev Peekna is the Chief Strategist at One North. He brings a cross-platform, user-focused approach to innovations in brand development, design, data analysis and technology, and helps clients apply those innovations to their strategic aims.

If I were a vegetable: I would be broccoli. Because I have always wanted someone to call me “cruciferous.”

Most unusual job: Cocktail bartender at a Cabaret

Ryan Schulz
Managing Director, Chief Executive

Managing Director, Chief Executive at One North, Ryan is responsible for helping to shape and grow design solutions for clients. He works across practices to develop programs and capabilities that help clients fall in love with the future.

Michelle Kindall
Director, Creative Studios

Michelle is Director of Creative Studios at One North. She has more than a decade of experience leading integrated global marketing campaigns, building collaborative creative teams and creating innovative digital experiences. She sees the big picture and boils it down to sharp communications that support our clients’ brands and brings them measurable success.