The Age Of The Kordell Stewart Employee

A number of years ago, after working at numerous creative agencies, I went to work for a global media agency. At that point, I’d spent my career at “creative” agencies. So, what did I bring my new employers? Hybridization.

I was (and am) a “hybrid employee,” with varied and diverse skills. I knew a lot about many different things, vs. the traditional, vertical skills that normally would have filled the role. I was a “Slash.” Without the throwing, kicking and running skills, of course (sorry for the shameless Kordell Stewart reference…).

What is a hybrid employee? A hybrid employee is someone who is part-generalist and part-specialist rolled up into one. It’s someone who can fill various roles, step in for different people, and isn’t limited to expertise in a narrow area. In my opinion, you better get ready, ’cause we’re living in the age of the hybrid.

Why is the time ripe for the “Kordell Stewart” employee? Because the advertising and marketing industry is in a constant state of evolution/revolution, where things are changing nearly every day. Because digital, social and mobile are changing everyone's jobs, anyway, every day. More than ever, we need people comfortable with the gray-areas and constant change that defines today’s new normal.



So what do these hybrid employees, Kordell Stewarts and polymaths bring to the party?

1. They may not be the best at one thing, but they’re good at lots.

This is critical in the fast-moving world of communications today. People need immersion and facility in lots of types of communications, projects, and execution. To be extremely deep in only one technology may work for you today, but not tomorrow. And, with technology changing so fast, non-hybrids might be expert in an area that is quickly outdated and passed by. As Business Partners International put it in a paper on hybrid employees, they’re like an amazing all-in-one tool. Sure, it may not be the best possible hammer you can buy, but it can nevertheless drive nails into concrete.

2. They can adapt.

Let’s face it, things change. Tasks and specs evolve. Objectives get added. Scope increases. Sometimes experts and specialists will take things only as far as their job-description and expertise go. If the spec or job changes, they’re out of their depth. However, the hybrid employee does whatever it takes. They’re comfortable following the job and the tasks and the scope as it evolves, even if that’s beyond their normal bailiwick.

3. They speak multiple languages.

Hybrids are able to understand the mindset of a variety of partners and functions. This helps them understand issues, shortcut problems, collaborate better and push to make work better in a way that non-hybrids struggle with. So, even without having expertise or depth in other functions, they are able to build bridges and make translations that make stuff better.

4. They’re energized by activity and action.

Hybrids have to be moving. While other employees might be happy to sit on the sidelines when not needed, the hybrid, like old Kordell Stewart, want to return punts or play wide receiver when they’re not playing quarterback. And think about what an asset that is today – rather than being burned out by the ever-changing world we live in, they relish the activity and excitement.

5. They’re self-learners.

Since the world is changing every day, it’s hard for anyone to keep up. But another good thing about the hybrid, is that they tend to be self-learners, who stay on the bleeding edge. They tend to be conversant about new technology, specs, norms or techniques before others. Because they like it. And they like surprising people.

Are your ready for the new hybrid employee? How do you find them and keep them? What are your thoughts? Are you still thinking I’m talking about the guitarist from Guns ‘N Roses?

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