Marketing is going through a talent crisis. How can we fix it?
Nearly half of clients, agencies, ad tech and media companies think the industry is facing its “worst-ever crisis” when it comes to talent, reaching 54% among agencies, according to recent WFA research. In light of this acute crisis, four industry experts share their views on the size and source of the issue and how companies can take practical actions to address these challenges.
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Clockwise from top left: Celeste R. Warren (Merck), Eli Velez (DDB), Ian Malcolm (Lumency) and Lucinda Peniston-Baines (Observatory)
Celeste R. Warren, Vice President, Global Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence, Merck
“Most organizations have been impacted by the escalating turnover rates within their respective industries, and the marketing industry is no exception. Retention has always been an aspect of talent management strategies, but is has erupted into a focus point for leaders. I believe we need to contemporize our thinking when it comes to our retention. Our traditional strategies of increased compensation (at the point the employee has one foot out of the door) or tiered offerings of stocks and other incentives at a three- or four-year horizon have not been successful over the last few years.
We have to approach our efforts foundationally by providing a culture where all can feel valued and appreciated for what they bring to the organization. Candidates in the labor market are looking to join companies that have the same organizational values and standards that they have as individuals. We should focus on creating an inclusive culture steeped in psychological safety. We also have to revisit the traditional viewpoint of thinking that where employees work is more important than the output of their work. The workplace isn’t just bricks and mortar of an office building, but the IT infrastructure which enables employees to do their work productively from anywhere.”
Eli Velez, Global Business Operations Lead, DDB Worldwide
“The talent crisis is a real problem and not only due to burnout or changes in behavior that COVID brought along, but also a result of the lack of clarity in job descriptions when hiring new employees. Our industry must get rid of its obsession with hyper-specialized talent that can do little on their own. The lack of visibility on career progression, the constant rotation of senior management, and the exhausting reorganizations have become common challenges which need to be addressed if we want to find, grow and retain key people within our organizations.”
Ian Malcolm, Chief Executive Officer, Lumency
“A tight talent market isn’t unique to marketing - labor is in short supply across many sectors. Volatile supply and demand intersections in many industries over the last 30 months has accelerated a trend already at play pre-pandemic – a more singular focus on short-term marketing and sales outcomes. This can make for difficult work for marketers. Less time to devote to building brand equity, more attention to micro campaigns that need to be planned and out the door quickly.
Short-termism and the fast pace required to deliver for quick results can lead to burnout and reduced work satisfaction. This compounds the tight talent market by making marketing less attractive to new talent and to the talent brands are looking to retain. Short-termism is also not good for the long-term success of a brand. Strong brands are built by investing for the near horizon and for the long game.”
Lucinda Peniston-Baines, Founder and Managing Partner, Observatory International
“With the best agency-side talent in increasingly high demand you need to secure that talent by being the most high performing, attractive marketers you can be.
Review your ways of working. Make working with your marketing teams an enjoyable, friction-free process to enable agency partners to get it ‘right first time’, deliver great work for you and make a reasonable profit. Invest in your marketers’ briefing and creative evaluation skills and ensure clear roles and responsibilities for smooth approvals and decision-making.
Pay on time – your agency doesn’t appreciate being treated as a bank. And try not to be tempted to move away from a retainer to project fees, it can be a false economy as a higher margin is often applied to project work and, worst of all, that amazing planner or creative that worked on your last campaign will have moved on to a more committed client when you next need them most.”