One Question To Ask Before You Hire

When I was Chief Content Officer at Thrillist, I noticed a curious phenomenon: All the millennials on the staff were working three jobs.

They had their Thrillist day job: writing, creating videos, selling ads. But they each had a passion project, too—a charity or labor of love they worked on in the evenings. Finally, they each had a lottery ticket—a friend’s startup they spent their weekends on. It paid them in stock that was currently worthless, but, you know, it just might become The.Next.Facebook.

Curious…but then again, Thrillist employees were contractually required to be drunk at all times. I dismissed it, then, as a strange anomaly, but now I’m starting to think I might have seen a glimpse of something bigger—maybe even the end of jobs as we know them.

Let’s look at the gathering evidence. There are fewer jobs, especially in media, and more and more jobs are part time. The average amount of time spent before switching employers is shrinking. Most employment in the US is at will vs. contracted. More Americans are becoming their own bosses.

Today’s young workers, recognizing job insecurity and constant transition as the new normal, are placing multiple bets on the table. If an employer won’t offer the pensions and long-term job security of yesteryear, why shouldn’t workers play the field? Rather than defining themselves by one job, or even by a career with one company, millennials are dividing their loyalty, and embracing a fluid journey across multiple organizations, with ongoing side projects and side bets.

Gigs Are The New Jobs

Media theorist Doug Rushkoff saw this coming. In a 2011 article called  Are Jobs Obsolete? he paints a natural progression from slavery to serfdom to today’s “workers,” and points out that our notion of jobs as an absolute good (i.e. the way politicians describe them, as the magical solution to every economic ill) is really just a byproduct of the industrial revolution, and something we can theoretically move beyond.

Who really wants a “job,” anyway? People want income, and to learn new skills, and to meet smart people and have memorable experiences. And these days, maybe your best shot at achieving all that is on the open market, not with one employer. Millennials are embracing the gig economy.

And employers are, too. After the mandatory period of handwringing over “kids today” and their lack of loyalty, smart businesses are beginning to respond to this new reality. I’m seeing companies in the media space challenging long-held assumptions about hiring. Instead of staffing as big as you can afford (that old ego game) it’s becoming more about staffing a small hot management core, and retaining outside teams and partners to do—with guidance—smart content production.

I call this notion teamstreaming—flowing in exactly the team you need for only as long as you need them. Key decisionmaking is still centrally controlled by a few traditional employees built to develop the brand and business. But the content production itself is outsourced to SWAT teams hand-picked for skills and experience valuable for a particular initiative.

For employers, teamstreaming means less overhead and infrastructure, more flexibility, and lower costs. For content creators, it means more freedom to choose particular projects and partners, and patch together the career they want. Together with the recent affirmation of Obamacare, it lets them earn the money they need without being handcuffed to any one desk for the health insurance.

My company, Teamstream Productions, focuses squarely on this premise. Relying on deep relationships with hundreds of excellent content producers hungry for new experiences, we can assemble a lean expert team for any enterprise, a team of content creators and strategists motivated to stay abreast of emerging tools, practices, and technology so you don’t have to. Across all channels—mobile and the web, video, social media, eCRM, print—we connect companies trying to publish and build audience with just the right teams to make it happen.

So before you hire, ask yourself whether you’re really looking for a long-term commitment to one individual, or just trying to get some mission-critical work done the right way. If it’s the latter, the millennials may be pointing the way to a better option.

And they might not even be drunk.

Keith Blanchard
About the author: 

Keith Blanchard is the Chief Executive Officer of Teamstream Productions, a next-gen content production house.  His executive assignments have included roles as Chief Creative Officer at Story Worldwide, running digital for Rolling Stone, launching websites for Us Weekly and Cosmopolitan, and as editor-in-chief of Maxim magazine. Follow him on Twitter.