Recruitment isn't working
Perhaps it's time for agencies and freelancers alike to re-think how we're going about recruitment.
This month has been the first slightly tricky month for me since going freelance. A series of shifting project kick-offs, comical contractual negotiations and vanishing projects mean that - I’m doing fine - but I’ve spent rather too much time talking about work this month than doing it. I’ve been freelancing for almost two years now, so I’m very grateful not to have experienced this any sooner, but I’m coming more and more to the conclusion that recruitment is broken.
Here’s what I mean. Talking to freelancers, recruitment agencies, employers, I’m far from convinced that anyone thinks they are getting a good deal. There’s so much short-sighted, short-termist recruitment going on that wastes everyone’s time, and, eventually damages clients. No-one wants that.
I don’t know any UX freelancer who is doing it for the money. That might just say something about the people I choose to hang about with, but we do share some characteristics: a wish to exercise just a little bit of control of who we work with (clients and agencies); what we work on; and how we work. I completely expect agencies to want the same from their freelancers - to have real control of who they bring in, when and how. They shouldn’t want ‘a body’, they should want ‘a somebody’.
Often the biggest challenge I face as a freelancer are those initial days working out the style of the agency I’m working with, how they work, and where I fit within the team. It’s in the interests of freelancers and agencies alike to try and shortcut this.
I used to be a head of a user experience team, and if I was still doing it, this is what I’d be doing right now:
- keeping a tight, smallish core of a team with complimentary, varied skills
- creating a roster of trusted freelancers, no bigger than I need it to be, just enough to cover me if a number of them are busy at a point in time
- spending just a little bit of time making sure that when they go on my roster, they take time to understand the culture of my agency, the way we work and want to be perceived - I want these people to be able to wear my agency’s hat convincingly and represent it persuasively. Nobody works for me without this
- treat those freelancers like associates or ‘friends of’ the agency (and whisper, the better the relationship you build, the more chance you have of ‘working something out’ on daily rates)
- create a mutual relationship where they keep you informed of availability and what you’ve got upcoming, giving you the best chance of marrying the right type of people to the right type of projects
- recruit the ones you can, obviously…
So, why - with a few honourable exceptions - aren’t we doing this more?