To Attract New Talent, The Industry Needs To Change

Our industry's doing well, wouldn't you say? So why's it so hard for us to hire?

Let's take a look at things objectively for a second...

Online ad spending is surging well past predictions, so our hiring issues are not for lack of budgets.

It's safe to say the Internet isn't going away, and that it's quickly become a crucial element for any marketing campaign, so our issues are not a result of a lack of stability in the marketplace.

When I examine our hiring issues, I come up with two possible reasons for why we're having so much trouble. The first is infighting and territorialism, and the second is the lack of a voice for our industry.

The first problem stems from the ways our own companies are organized. Agencies are typically the first line of entry-level positions in our industry, because they offer the most jobs at this level of employment. Unfortunately, the agencies are divided on where dollars get spent, and there are very few examples of agencies that are organized for success. Most agencies are currently organized around service lines, with teams being allocated by media type.

There is a trend emerging to right this wrong and organize agencies around the client rather than the media type, but this will take some time, and it may require a few years for the majority of agency teams to be organized in this manner. Until then, each division remains territorial about how dollars are allocated. When these teams remain divided, what happens is that dollars are allocated from one media type to another, but the staff is rarely changed to reflect this.

If enough of these dollars are reallocated, then one service line is typically forced to downsize, while another is forced to hire. But rarely do agencies look to reallocate from within. Instead they typically look to outside sources to hire and overlook their own internal staff, who could be trained in the other formats and reallocated internally, saving much time and money and effort. Retraining existing staff can be a very effective means of retaining your people, keeping them fresh and excited, and avoiding the issue of P&L shifts that can damage an agency's annual numbers.

Agencies who are already going through the process of revising their structure to be client-centric rather than format-centric understand this. They allocate dollars based on the client's objectives rather than for media-centric reasons. Dollars can be shifted back and forth based on performance, and the teams are evaluated as a whole with their P&L rather than by media format. This model dramatically reduces the territorialism that exists in most situations and creates an environment where teams can continue to learn internally rather than having to jump agencies to learn and advance. Think of this way: As dollars shift, why can't people?

The second reason our industry is having trouble hiring is that we lack an external voice. There's lots of coverage in the industry press about how online ad spending is increasing and how the companies involved are coming up with great ideas, but we don't do a good enough job of telling people outside our industry. We're still lacking in ways to tap into the huge talent pool at colleges and universities.

We need to let outsiders know of the opportunities in our industry. People hear that advertising is a rough business and that the opportunities are limited, but that's not the case anymore. The same excitement and energy that was bringing people to the Internet in the late '90s is here again, but this time it's coupled with sanity and a strong business sense. It's a great time to get that message out and attract quality talent. Our industry needs to start thinking about how to do that. We need to spend a little more time talking to other people rather than continuing to talk among ourselves. Once we get the message out, we can stop poaching from one another and start bringing in outside people.

I'd love to think there are other reasons for our hiring issues, but I can't see them. What do you think? Are we missing anything?