The Age of the “Kordell Stewart” Employee – Why being a “Slash” is the key today


I recently took a new job at a Media agency. I’d spent my career at “creative” agencies. Been an account guy for more years than I’ll own up to. So, what do I bring my new employers? Hybridization.

That’s right, I’m a “hybrid employee”. I have varied and diverse skills. I know a lot about many different things. And I don’t bring to the party traditional, and vertical, skills that normally would have filled my role. I’m a “Slash”. Without the throwing, kicking and running skills, of course (fyi, we’re not talking about the guitarist for Guns n’ Roses).

Truth is, I believe I was a hybrid employee before my current job, as well. What is a hybrid employee, you ask? 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. And guess what – 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 great state of flux and evolution/revolution. Because things are changing nearly every day. Because digital, social and mobile are changing everyone’s jobs, anyway, every day. Because we need people comfortable with the gray-areas and uncertainty 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 And, with technology changing so fast, non-hybrids might be expert in an area that is quickly outdated and passed by.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. 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 Kordell, 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 never-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 cutting 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 “Slash”, the guitarist?


  1. I think that you are bringing diversity to your team. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but it is diversity none the less. There is always great value in diversity, and I sincerely believe that diverse teams are more creative than those with less diversity.

    I will excuse the Steelers reference as Kordell also played for the Ravens.

    Good post, I am happy to hear that you are enjoying the new position.

  2. Thanks, MBN. You’re right about creativity – the hybrid brings more creative, lateral thinking to the mix. Which is in huge demand today.

    And Kordell played for the Steelers for 8 or 9 years before moving to Chicago and then the Ravens. 🙂

  3. Great discussion. I too consider myself a Hybrid. At my old agency, my primary role was Director of Account Management. However, given the size of our shop (small but mighty) at the time, my overall experience served to drive creative development (writing radio and TV spots now and again) and production (producing TV and radio commercials). Prior to that, I spent six years at another shop—three years as an account guy, and three years as an Operations and HR manager.

    I think the agency environment is key in encouraging and birthing Hybrid employees. Larger environments tend to operate in multiple vacuums, with each department working within their own silo. When working within a smaller, more chaotic, ever-changing environment, you tend to become more hands on—at least, the opportunity presents itself in a way that encourages an “all hands on deck” approach.

    It’s all about seizing every opportunity to learn more about what others do—which will ultimately help you to be better at your job…especially if your job involves client services/ account management.

  4. This was perfectly timed and brilliantly stated. Being hands-on across multiple departments and functions creates a wealth of experience to draw from. My most successful projects have all spurred from things I learned from other parts of the business.

  5. You say that hybids are the coming thing – hooray if it’s true! However, I struggle mightily convincing people that they don’t need a single-track specialist and pretty much always have. How do you do it?

    1. I don’t know if there’s a way to do it, specifically. But I think that the new world demands a hybrid, generalist approach more and more. I hope that hybrids will ascend, evolutionarily, in the corporate/business world.

  6. Michael:

    Excellent insight! I especially appreciate your point on the value of understanding and working with many different viewpoints. I wish more HR departments would read this!

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