For the last four years I have written a blog post about the creative staffing climate and Cella’s predictions about what to expect in the coming year. Last year I published my post before the pandemic hit the US, and while I could have never predicted the life-altering change that was about to come our way, one of my predictions held true: creative, marketing and digital talent continue to be of high value in the employment marketplace. Of course, even our industry took a hit in the early months of the pandemic and we did experience a loss of jobs especially with our hospitality and entertainment industry clients. However, other industries we support continued to grow, and so did the need for highly specialized creative staff.

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With each of our clients we saw several significant creative staffing trends:

The role of content development grew exponentially.

With everyone working remotely, internal written communication and the ability to do it well became more important than ever. From a promotional and marketing standpoint, getting content out as quickly as possible became paramount and many organizations adopted content automation tools and an agile methodology to make it happen. This created an increased need for experienced Content Managers, Copywriters, and Social Media Managers.

The continued growth of Digital.

Digital has grown every year, but 2020 really kicked it into high gear.  Many tactics that may have been traditionally print, were converted to a digital channel. Designers, Developers, Channel Managers, Art Directors, and Writers with strong digital experience were and continue to be in high demand.

A 100% virtual workforce.

Remote work was a trend we had also been seeing over the past several years with many of our clients already starting to move in this direction. For the companies that did not already have remote workers, most were forced to adopt this new model of virtual teams in a matter of days. Companies were willing to hire candidates from across the country and consequently had better access to talent that they wouldn’t have normally considered due to geography.  

The growth of In-House agencies.

With budgets for advertising and marketing shrinking due to COVID and lost business, companies looked to rely on their more cost-effective in-house teams to handle work that would normally go to their advertising agency partners. In addition, the shift to digital platforms for marketing with their need for quick turn times and a broad and deep understanding of a company’s brand further drove this shift to in-house resources.

With what we’ve learned from an extremely challenging 2020, here are the trends to keep an eye on in 2021:

Virtual Recruiting is here to stay

Although some businesses will resume in-person work this year, expect that much of the recruitment process will remain virtual.  Interviewing through video conferencing helps accelerate the hiring process and has proven to be effective. Since candidates may not come to your office to get a feel for your company vibe, the candidate experience during the interview process will be more important than ever. It will be imperative to develop a smart, repeatable hiring process that relies more on screening for qualifications and less on gut feeling. Make the candidates feel as welcome as they would if you were meeting them in your office, and make sure the hiring process is outlined and explained in advance so candidates will know what to expect every step of the way.

The importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace.

2020 drove home the importance of diversity both inside and outside the workplace, and employers were forced to consider their own Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. In 2021 we expect to see an increased focus on diversity in the workplace both in the traditional sense of people’s backgrounds, but also in the way they think about and approach their work. With GenZ entering the workforce, we will also see a greater diversity across generations. Candidates recognize the importance of DEI and want to ensure the company they work for places value in having a solid DEI plan. 

Workforce Planning.

One lesson that many of us learned during the pandemic is that the best workers will succeed no matter their location. In July, Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom said 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home full-time, accounting for a whopping two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. A number of companies plan to make work from home (WFH) permanent such as Twitter and Facebook. There are many advantages to WFH for the employee such as fewer commutes and a better work/life balance, but there are also many benefits for the employer such as lower real estate costs and the ability to hire nationally or even globally. WFH can create a challenge around workforce planning. For example:

  • What will fair pay look like in a remote workforce with staff members now living in different parts of the country/world? 
  • How will you maintain your company culture?
  • How will you foster collaboration and teamwork?
  • What are your technology challenges?
  • How will you manage time zone differences? With WFH now being the norm, flexibility will be less about location and more about time. 

Build your employment brand around empathy.

2020 brought us a situation where our professional and personal lives melded together. There were often times where there was not a distinction between the two. It will be important for companies in 2021 to focus less on their employees’ work experience and more on their life experience. Mental health support will become a focus for many companies. It is important to sustain your company culture and ensure that your employees and potential recruits understand that you put people first. Publicize what you have done to support your employees, customers, and communities throughout the pandemic and what you plan to do in the future. Make sure the reviews of your company on Glassdoor and LinkedIn match up to what you want your employment brand to be.

In summary, many lessons were learned in 2020 that will shape the way we staff and build our companies well into the future.  Staying in front of these trends and future-proofing will be critical to support our business goals in 2021 and for years to come.