Companies are going to be fighting for the best talent to fill a bunch of open positions, realizing that not every hire will be an A player right out of the gate.
The basis for this discussion is the fact that the workforce is getting older. As the Baby Boomers -- who represent the largest group of workers ever to have gone through the U.S. economy at one time -- inch toward the end of their working careers, they are vacating a huge number of jobs.
On the other end, we have the oft-discussed Millennials. These are the folks most often described as “entitled” when they’re discussed in the workforce, but they also make up a significantly smaller volume of employees than the Baby Boomers, so they won’t be able to fill all the spots being vacated.
The third factor at play is the increasing role of technology and its efficiencies, which in turn reduces the number of labor-intensive jobs in favor of more skilled workers.
How are these three elements going to weave together to create a balanced work force over the next 20 years?
It’s an interesting challenge. On one hand, if you have fewer people than jobs, you would expect the unemployment rate to drop to record lows. On the other hand, though, you have technology being developed to automate vast components of the workforce. Which will progress faster and play more of a defining role going forward?
If you look at our industry as a microcosm of the larger macro-economic situation, you’ll see that technology will only improve so quickly. Rather than removing jobs, it will redefine the kind of jobs that are going to be necessary.
The agency business is a great place to look at the impact of this war for talent. Agencies hire a lot of people right out of school and mold them into media buyers, account people and creative teams. As media has gone more programmatic, the kinds of jobs are changing, becoming more focused on technology.
So the requirement for those entry-level jobs are changing, as agencies hire employees with stronger math and/or technology-oriented backgrounds. These people are more valuable than the less-focused, more liberal-arts-oriented students.
It used to be anyone could get into media if they showed an interest, but media is becoming more specialized. When I went to school and graduated with a degree in advertising, I was a unicorn or a white whale -- something to desire, but very difficult to find. Now those students will be the norm. You will need to hire people who have shown an interest and penchant for media in an age of technology.
With fewer people entering the workforce than there are jobs, agencies and media companies can try to be more selective -- but in many cases, they are simply going to need bodies! That means the onus of training will to get these people up to speed, providing professional, regimented training at the initial hiring rather than “learn as you go." There used to be more on-the-job training, but my prediction is that in an era of more specialized needs, upfront training will be ever more important.
It’s a unique challenge facing companies over the next few years. How to find the people coming into the workforce who have some measure of experience, vs. balancing hiring people you’ll have to train on your own? Couple this with the challenge of the “entitled” employee, and you can see how hiring will be even more important going forward.
This war can be won if you plan far enough in advance. Are you planning appropriately?