This year a lot of time and energy has been expended on discussing the negative impact of COVID-19 on businesses. However, many organisations are finding that the changes they have been forced to make have placed them in a better position to move into the future than before.
In particular, working from home and a restructuring of the way they operate has created the opportunity and flexibility to bring in strategic part-time or temporary talent such as fractional CMOs, that they wouldn’t otherwise have considered or benefitted from.
Necessity is the mother of invention
An article by the McKinsey Consumer Goods and Organization Practice highlighted that companies have done an admirable job at adapting to all manner of challenges this year. They have been motivated by the need to protect the health of staff and customers as well as refocusing operational efforts in the face of demand that’s either rapidly evaporating or surging well past the available supply.
At no time in living memory have organisations shown such agility, and as a result, many have achieved what they had aspired to but failed to deliver, for years. As McKinsey puts it:
“Decisions are made faster. Innovation cycles have dropped from months to days. Working remotely, previously a benefit offered to a portion of workers at some companies, is now an imperative for most employees. Companies are putting a greater emphasis on employees’ physical and mental health than ever before, and they’re celebrating leadership capabilities that weren’t considered critical before the crisis.”
Fractional talent and the workforce of the future
The way we work has been evolving for a long time, and big businesses as well as agile startups have been changing the desired workplace skills and practices that they want. This applies to individual employees, but new and updated behaviours have also been identified amongst the business structures and leadership that have shown they can already function in a rapidly changing environment.
These are the desired behaviours of companies that are thriving now, and look to continue to do so moving forward as well. McKinsey has identified the key characteristic for businesses of the future as:
- Rapid re-prioritisation
- Management of cost to maintain liquidity
- Real-time innovation in digital channels
- Experimentation with a remote workforce
- Re-engagement with employees
- Faster decision making
- Resilient leadership during a crisis
As part of this, CEOs have recognised, more than ever, the value that fractional talent, including that of the Fractional CMO, has brought to their businesses in order to navigate particular challenges, periods of change or deliver on certain projects.
The ‘old normal’ had inherent barriers to accessing the best available talent, amongst all but the most innovative firms because they were the ones that had the resources to attract the best of the best. However, now that the importance of being physically present and fitting into an office culture and routine has been upended, forward-thinking firms of all sizes are realising the enormous potential for tapping into fractional leaders such as fractional CMOs, over more full-time recruits or even an interim marketing director. The key difference is that an "interim" leader is a temporary substitute for a permanent employee and remains a relic from the ‘old normal’, whereas a fractional CMO is an injection of brainpower and is at no point a filler or extended ‘interview’ for the permanent position. It’s about marketing talent on-demand as opposed to an interim "solution".
Myth-busting for CEOs
Much of this year’s events have also gone some way to strip outdated myths about remote working and a more agile workforce, of their merits. A study that has been published by Cisco, covering 10,000 office-based workers across 12 countries, showed key findings that make an interesting (and reassuring) reading for CEOs. For example:
- The vast majority (87%) of respondents believe flexibility and options – over place and hours of work – leads to greater productivity.
- Over half (61%) believe their organisations should retain the faster decision-making processes that have been developed since the Covid-19 outbreak began.
- Nearly two thirds (64%) of respondents say that the switch to working from home has improved their mental health.
Delivering transformational change with a Fractional CMO
Despite the horrors of this year, something incredible has emerged. The ability of organisations to deliver transformational change in almost all areas of their businesses within a matter of days has been eye-opening.
For many, that has opened up a whole new world of talent possibilities: The realisation that a team can work effectively remotely and, as a result, enjoy some of the benefits of a better work/life balance; the greater realisation of the accessibility of a part-time and temporary talent pool around the world, all available at the click of a button or with the ease of a Zoom call; the ability to downsize office space and possibly release funds tied up in the real estate.
This has all lead to a psychological, operational, and often a financial shift that has allowed businesses to bring in talent, like a Fractional CMO. These individuals can help deliver targeted and strategic skill that really maximises the impact of the permanent management team, as well as allow the access to short term skills that are needed for specific reasons or projects - for example, to re-evaluate your sales and marketing strategy alongside an existing marketing leader.
All of this, and it can be done quickly, efficiently and it's cost-effective. Where a new full-time CMO or chief marketing officer can take months to recruit and thousands in funds to find, a fractional CMO or other temporary talent, can be accessed quickly through specialised networks and only brought in for the time or purpose they are employed. This allows for a more agile, responsive, and ultimately modern business model that’s not only predicted to thrive long-term in an ever-changing world - it’s a model that’s already working successfully.