The Many had made a big bet early in the year with its new office space in Pacific Palisades, California to add several new members, all part of its amped-up recruiting efforts and talent appeal.
Then, “in one fell swoop, COVID neutralized those plans,” says Amir Haque, partner, business strategy & growth, The Many.
As the agency “retrenched” from the initial COVID-19 shock, leaders first made a “big investment of energy” in digitizing its practice just to survive as an agency operating 100% virtually, he says.
Next, The Many turned its attention to attracting and recruiting talent with the realization “we now had total freedom to hire from anywhere,” says Haque. “People and teams had become more productive — in many respects — virtually, and as a result, the order of priority for how we hire has shifted.”
This insight sparked The Many to completely reevaluate its soup-to-nuts hiring procedures. “We used to hire based on experience, then location, then values, but we’ve been able to shift location to the bottom of that list, bringing experience and talent higher up the ladder,” explains Haque.
This month, the agency is adding nineteen new members, working from places including L.A., Palm Springs, New York, Massachusetts, Portland, Seattle, Peru, Canada and Australia.
As the agency moved through that process of re-prioritizing values, “you learn that there are other benefits to embracing a remote work culture, such as expanding the talent pool and simultaneously improving the quality of life of your employees in some respects, such as eliminating commute times,” says Haque.
These new faces aren’t necessarily a different type of applicant, but by expanding talent searches beyond just Los Angeles and Boston, with the flexibility to work remotely, the talent pool has “expanded exponentially,” which opens the door to all types of applicants, says Haque.
“This ties back to prioritizing experience and shared values as well as focusing on diversity,” adds Tim Cyrol, the agency’s director of human resources.
Since making an earlier commitment to the diversity group 600&Rising to hire more multicultural applicants, the agency has increased diversity related to race/ethnic identification to 40%, a 5% increase overall, and the percentage of female talent went from 45.6% to 55.6%.
The Many did have one unexpected challenge with this HR makeover by having to quickly transition payroll and benefits for nationwide coverage, “which was not an easy feat to roll out in just a couple of months, but necessary to make it work properly and continue to provide access to benefits to all employees,” says Cyrol. “We also had to consider how we schedule our all-agency meeting with everyone spread out all over the place in terms of time zones, but still working together as one team.”
Ultimately this new hiring process makes landing new talent both easier and harder, says Cyrol. The pool of quality talent has enlarged with recession displacing so many experienced and skilled people.
Yet at the same time, interviewing and getting to know candidates virtually has become a totally different experience, he states. Instead of spending half a day meeting team members in person, scheduling interviews might span days, sometimes an entire week. That’s due to the change in how everyone is working and planning their days for things like a remote casting or shoot, sometimes with less flexibility due to the tightly scheduled demands of a virtual pandemic work environment.
“However, this is a work in progress as we continue to learn and adapt so that we can continue to bring in the best talent.”