The new way to work: world-class creative, from anywhere

Illustration of UpWork.

As our world continues to grasp with seismic shifts in the way we work, it’s clear that creativity has never been more critical to building truly world-class organizations.

Within my own department, we’ve been challenged to get creative with how we build our hybrid teams, and also how we build a culture that can retain and nurture independent talent.

Advertising has typically been considered a contact sport: success came most readily from in-person, on-site collaboration, and team camaraderie came only from spending countless hours together, iterating and finessing before a pitch, all the way to celebrating our wins (and learnings) post-launch. Over the past few years, it’s felt like everything we knew about the way in which we work would be left in the past.

The pandemic accelerated a shift back to people

At Upwork, 80 percent of my team consists of freelance independent talent, and the team is 100 percent remote, across multiple time zones. We’ve found that our teams can still develop that genuine camaraderie and a robust remote culture, it just requires some creative rethinking, specifically when it comes to examining our intent. We make sure we’re intentional about how we’re allocating meeting time, evolving our team culture, and fine-tuning how we communicate.

Our biggest takeaway? The way we work is no longer determined by the people doing the hiring — it’s determined by our people being hired — the talent. Many people are not looking to go into an office anymore. To retain a successful hybrid team, the focus has to be on putting your people first, unleashing their potential, and helping them grow professionally and personally.

Fire the old way of hiring

The most successful employers are adapting in real-time to changes in the market by leveraging remote, contract, and freelance talent to augment and grow teams. They understand that finding and hiring the right talent should be fast, easy, and repeatable. (If you’d like to learn about the way we organize our team — check out my Adobe MAX 2021 breakout session.)

By evolving your remote hiring practices, you’re also eliminating inefficiencies and learning how to work better together. “Our team’s ability to put out a request for freelance talent and fill the request and get high-quality talent to complete a project in a matter of days, where the same project in the past would have taken weeks or even months to complete, is just remarkable,” says Gail Giacobbe, vice president of product at Microsoft. “And once you've experienced that, there’s really no going back."

Grow teams, not cubicle farms

At Upwork, I have a core team of full-time leaders who are experts in their disciplines. Each one serves as the hub of a wheel of independent talent: They engage with vetted independent professionals as needed based on the needs of a specific partner, an upcoming campaign, or a new business need. A significant part of Upwork’s creative team is composed of independent professionals chosen specifically for their skills and expertise rather than for their location or willingness to relocate — and many of whom are engaged through our own platform.

Now is the time to develop best practices for building a remote team culture that fosters organic collaboration and frees individuals to work on diverse and challenging creative projects.

The only talent you can’t afford, is not having any

Take it from someone on the talent side. Melissa Hong, a highly skilled freelance web designer and developer on our platform, says, “I have discovered that when you give this freedom to the people you hire, they are more motivated, happier, and more results-driven.”

Clients have noticed this shift too. "When employees aren’t limited by internal skill sets or resources, they can extend their capabilities and leverage their time,” says Kevin Scott, head of technology, PGA of America. “Freeing up their bandwidth enables them to put their energy across what’s more valuable, so they can create bigger improvements and changes that help themselves and the team.”

At Upwork, we have always strived to be human-centric. As long as we focus on our people and developing their personal potential, we never have to say no to a challenging creative brief. When business moves in days, if not hours, our people give us our most powerful edge.

This Adobe MAX 2022 post is sponsored by Upwork.