Power Essay – Hiring the right talent by Lara Arbid

By Lara Arbid, deputy general manager, Magna Global

We hear it a lot in our industry: there are limited talents; the caliber is not up to the right standard; we spend months looking for people who fit the agency and share the vision we have… And we either end up hiring a great person who gets headhunted months later and leaves because we couldn’t match the offer on the table, or we settle with filling in the role based on whatever promise the employee sold us that wasn’t a reality. But are we really looking in the right place for talent? Let’s face it, when was the last time you conducted an interview and were impressed? Not impressed by the list of achievements on that CV, nor where that person graduated from or with what degree, but really impressed with the person, with their thinking, their passion, their hunger to learn something or do something, or teach something… anything? It’s been a while.

With the ever-changing requirements of our business today, media agencies are required to be agile, providing solutions across several disciplines with no clear definition of where our role starts and where other support agencies take over. We want to provide the client with a full solution, free of obstacles, simplifying their life and the number of people they have to deal with to fulfill their communication objectives, yet we don’t want to step into other agencies’ territories. So how do we do it? More importantly, how do we identify what roles we may need in the future? Let’s take digital, for example, since it has been the fastest growing media and the most complicated in terms of requirements and layers. Over the past few years all agencies struggled to bring in specialists to run programmatic desks, search strategists and optimisers, and social experts. Now we are required to think of even further specialities like data analysts and content creators. Who knows, at this rate we may even need to think of hiring an influencer specialist. Where do we find these people, and how do we know what we might need three years from now? Is retraining and reskilling something that we should really invest in? Or should we go out and headhunt computer engineers, consultants, technology developers? The list can go on and on.

Another fact that we are all facing is the new generation. Those fresh graduates have come out to the business world being told the sky is the limit, you can do whatever you want and be whoever you choose to be without any restraints or expectations. They come into the job expecting an unmatched experience, and if the job doesn’t meet the Instagram expectations painted while they were still students, they will follow an inspirational ‘quote’ they read on social media that told them to follow their dream. A job is just a job, you shouldn’t be identified by it, the experience needs to be meaningful.

While all that is great, the reality is not that simple. Back in the day we had to work hard to prove we earned our position and our job, we had to shine to grow and fight to get a seat on the upcoming training and prove to our management that we were worth the investment they were putting behind developing us. Today it’s the other way around. If you don’t invest in training and in keeping employees challenged, you lose them because they feel more connected with becoming an influencer than working in media. So how do we make media look “cool” or paint a rosy picture of it that makes it look ambitious enough to attract millennials, not to mention keep them employed and passionate about coming to work every morning? Let’s be honest, for most of us who have been in the industry long enough we know it’s a complicated relationship, but there is something about it that always keeps us excited. To do more, to be more, to give more. Also, whatever happened to ownership? Feeling the responsibility to do whatever it takes to get your work done and be on top of everything, not needing to be micro-managed and directed every step of the way?

I’m not saying there are no good people out there; I’m just saying that more often than not you find a candidate with one of the above qualities. They either have ownership but no passion, or passion but get so ambitious that they quit to become entrepreneurs and fulfil their dreams, using the agency as a stepping stone to make it happen. And rarely, when we find just the right mix of passion and ownership with the eagerness to learn, they get the training they need and then get headhunted, paid double in less than a year and make us the University of Media.

While the struggle remains real, instead of looking back over our shoulder at agency people with agency skills suited to agencies today, we are actively looking in new places to hire for future needs.
We are finding specialists with new skillsets, and instead of ‘moulding’ those talents to fit the agency requirements we are ‘flexing’ the agency to allow them to add value where they can and bring in that different outlook and experience. By being flexible we win them over, they stay with the agency longer and feel more accomplished. And for the more experienced, it’s an empty canvas waiting to be coloured.