The Best Employees Are Multi-Talented: How to Find, Hire & Retain Them

So, you’ve heard of the multi-hyphen movement. Maybe you’ve even read Emma Gannon’s brilliant book, The Multi-Hyphen Method. But what does it mean to be multi-talented, really? And why does your company need to find more of these priceless individuals before everyone else snaps them up? All will be revealed.

Disclaimer: this isn’t about millennials and Gen Z having short attention spans and being flaky.

Quite the contrary. It’s about playing their multi-talented strengths to everyone’s advantage. Get it right and everyone wins. (Bottom line included.)



Multi-hyphens are professionals with more than one specialty. Or no specialty at all – they might be exceptional generalists. They’re people with a growth mentality, not a fixed mentality. They’re always keeping an eye on developing trends and are consistently able to understand what’s yet to come thanks to their curiosity.

Put it this way: the days of studying a career-relevant degree and honing that one skill in a single workplace over the course of decades are officially over.

Now, exposure to multiple employers, a wealth of business challenges, and the resources to develop new passions as they arise are transforming modern professionals into Jacks and Jills and non-binary people of all trades.

Worried that they won’t have the expertise to operate at the highest levels of your business? Well, about that…



Multi-talented teams bring an inordinate amount of benefit to the whole business. Fact. The world is more connected than ever, and technologies and trends are changing at an unprecedented rate. You have to move fast, particularly if your company is scaling. Holding out for a bleeding-edge expert at every hire is going to cost time you don’t have.

Instead, talent with a history of broad interests and continuous learning are more likely to hit the ground running, get up to speed quickly and add unexpected value to the team than someone who’s happy to stay in their lane.

You don’t want people who think outside the box – you want people who have no box. No ceilings, always.



First, the obvious cost-saving: by having members of staff with multiple capabilities, you keep costs down by not having to hire two people for two separate roles. You just need a generous bump in your single hire’s salary to reflect their extra responsibilities. Naturally, you need to be sure you’re not pushing them past capacity (PSA: burnout culture is real), but when multi-talented teams are well planned, you effectively eliminate downtime – no one should find themselves without something to do.

Then the less obvious cost savings: your reliance on contractors goes way down, because you have a team of diversely skilled individuals who can almost always jump in and save the day. The disruption caused by sick leave is reduced too – someone will always know enough about Ava’s work to pick it up when she’s got the flu.

Trust us: hires with a proven record of curiosity and self-sufficiency pay for themselves (often several times over).



If you encounter a truly multi-talented candidate – someone who has consistently pushed the boundaries of their knowledge on their own initiative – you’re looking at someone who isn’t afraid to fail.

Exceptional teams aren’t scared of getting things wrong. They’ll tackle the projects with the greatest opportunities for learning, because they know that’s where the real business value lies. Better still? You won’t have to babysit them.

Generalists also bring new fresh new approaches to established disciplines. They’re not bound by the same preconceptions as experts in one single thing.

Collectively, a team of multi-hyphens draws on a much greater pool of knowledge than a team of specialists.



According to Gallup, 55% of millennials report being disengaged in the workplace. What do disengaged employees do? That’s right – they quit to look for more stimulating opportunities elsewhere.

Now, what sounds more stimulating? Being a copywriter surrounded by a team of other copywriters, all copywriting together, or being a copywriter with additional skills in design and research, embedded in a team of designers, engineers and product managers, all of whom bring their own secondary skills to the table?

Multi-talented teams regularly expose their members to new ideas, career goals and creative inspiration in a way that functional silos just can’t. If you, as an employer, can create that environment and support your employees in exploring these new outlets, you’ll have a team that is engaged, grateful and, above all, loyal.



Provide flexibility, autonomy, recognition and transparency in your workplace. All multi-talents need and thrive on these things. They also need openness. Be human, honest and authentic with these people. They will connect to you and your vision much more if you do.

As an employer, encourage innovation and give them additional horizontal accountabilities, not just linear vertical growth as part of their career development. Multi-talents get bored and disengaged once things become more granular, derivative and paint by numbers.

So what are you waiting for? Review your job descriptions, cast a critical eye over your hiring process. Is it giving enough weight to career changers, lifelong learners and candidates who demonstrate intellectual capabilities beyond their primary role? Are you empowering your existing employees to develop business-relevant skills beyond their current occupation? Make the switch to save money, generate better ideas and build long-lasting employee loyalty. Now that is good business.


At Black Unicorn we help brands find the talent needed for growth and a productive culture. If you’re a brand wanting to work in a progressive way, get in touch. We’d love to talk.