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Talent Generation Z Gen Z

Team Lewis ‘retires the résumé’ in appeal to young, diverse and nontraditional talent


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

September 20, 2021 | 7 min read

In an effort to attract talent from more diverse and nontraditional backgrounds, PR and digital marketing agency Team Lewis, which counts Adobe and bareMinerals among its clientele, is swapping credentials for character. The move comes amid a flurry of new initiatives to get talent through the door in adland as employees evacuate.

Crumpled up resume

Lewis is ditching credentials for character.

California-based agency Team Lewis today announced it will not require job applicants to submit résumés, but will instead invite them to share who they want to be. The initiative is designed to help the agency, which employs over 500 staff members across 24 offices in North America, Europe and Asia, attract and retain younger, more diverse talent from a range of backgrounds and experiences.

The move comes as the advertising industry struggles to find and retain talent during what some are calling “the great resignation.”

To tap into young, diverse and perhaps nontraditional talent pools, Team Lewis is encouraging candidates to visit, where they are asked to use just one word to describe who they want to be and attach a link to their LinkedIn page. Team Lewis’ talent team will reach out to applicants to discuss their ambitions and see if they might be a fit for one of the more than 100 positions available with Team Lewis across the globe.

“We understand that creativity comes from all over the place — so it's important to include a variety of perspectives, because that's where the best ideas come from,” Hillary Werronen, the company’s senior vice president of US operations, tells The Drum. “And we also just know that a traditional education isn't for everyone and a degree — or where your degree is from — shouldn't define what you want to do as a career. Different life experiences can contribute to the work that you do, and that might not come from somebody who has an agency background or a degree.”

A new generation of workplace ideals

The decision to “retire the résumé” was made in response to a survey Team Lewis conducted in conjunction with HeForShe, a gender equality initiative created by the United Nations. The study, which focused on Gen Zers attitudes toward work found that only 20% of Gen Zers would work for a company that didn’t share their values and that 47% said that if two candidates had the same qualifications, they would support the role going to the “diverse candidate.” Considering that people between the ages of 15 and 24 now make up a fifth of the global workforce, Team Lewis believes it’s more important than ever to meet the demands of this demographic.

The study also revealed “the effects that the Covid pandemic had on groups like women, younger individuals in the ‘Zoomer’ generation, and the inequity that has happened in this industry coming out of the pandemic,” Werronen says. “The pandemic has pushed a lot of people to consider their lives in general, where they want to make a change. A lot of individuals have felt like the career is the easiest thing to be able to kind of swap out and do something different.” By focusing on who people are and who they want to be — rather than their credentials alone — Team Lewis hopes to attract some of these people.

Social and personal impact

The move is the latest of a series of changes the agency has made in the last couple of years to support not only talent acquisition and retention, but also professional development and job satisfaction. The company offers third-party career support and mental health resources to all employees. Plus, through its Cause program, every Team Lewis employee can select a nonprofit organization to receive $1,000. As part of the deal, Team Lewis proposes creative ideas to the charity of choice, and in some cases takes on creative work for the organization pro bono. “It's been a huge effort to help employees to feel connected to causes within their communities that have been impacted by the pandemic,” says Werronen.

Most recently, Team Lewis launched RISE Academy, a new program designed for non-degree holders and candidates without backgrounds in marketing or digital that offers training in lead generation, creative strategy, digital, content marketing, media production, social media strategy and more. In some cases, participants have the opportunity to work directly with Team Lewis clients. Successful participants can earn marketing certifications and may secure full-time positions with the agency. RISE Academy is part of the agency’s diversity, inclusion, communication and equality program.

Hiring during ‘the great resignation’

An appeal to attract more diverse, young talent and talent from nontraditional backgrounds, Team Lewis’ decision to go résumé-free reflects a broader trend within the industry at large. As demand for talent outpaces supply — with new data suggesting that more than half of agency employees and marketers plan on changing jobs or careers this year — agencies are investing in new means by which to attract and retain talent as they compete with brands and big tech players.

“The marketing industry and the tech industry — a lot of industries — have really experienced difficulties during what people are calling ‘the great resignation’ moment that we're having right now,” says Werronen. While she says Team Lewis has fared well during the pandemic — and even grown its workforce — it’s important to invest in new talent, and especially in new, diverse voices.

“What we're trying to do is break down barriers, so that regardless of what group you fit into or how you categorize yourself, [that identity is] aligned with what type of work you want to do, who you want to be, what kind of changes you want to make in your life,” she says. “In many cases, companies might focus just on the salary, title or location. [But] there's a full spectrum of things that impact what makes an employee fulfilled in the job that they're doing. And that really plays into more factors, like who they want to be as an individual. Do they want to be a helper? Do they want to be a creator? Paying attention to that is a lot more than just the numbers.”

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