The Impending War For Talent

There’s a war going on, but you may not have noticed it.  It’s a subtle war that’s about to heat up substantially over the next few years: the war for talent!

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?

3 comments about "The Impending War For Talent".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Cheri Baker from The Crowley Company, May 6, 2015 at 10:53 a.m.

    In order for the talent transition to take place successfully, there is going to have to be a much higher standarization among the education the next generation receives for specialized liberal arts degrees (advertising, social media, journalism, graphic design, marketing, etc.) - particularly as it relates to technology in our industry. Our experience with college interns - specifically in graphic design and marketing - shows a wide dearth between institutions. We've had marketing interns who haven't had to take writing classes or post to social media and designers who haven't been required to learn any type of code...and these are from well-respected, high-ranking universities. A marketing degree from A does not equal a marketing degree from B...and that makes for a time-consuming hire process.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 6, 2015 at 11:24 a.m.

    I think that it is fruitless to expect our education system to produce anything more than young folks who can read and write---I may be overly optimistic on the latter-----let alone prepared for an entry job in media. Sure, they can tweet---most of them---and they are computer "savvy", but otherwise, forget it.

    There was a time when ad agencies had extensive training programs for new recruits. These entailed not only the discipline that the youngster had been hired for, but all of the others---account handling, research, ad production, market analysis, etc. In fact it was not uncommon for a new would-be account exec to spend six months in the media department and additional time in market research, before being assinged to an account.

    Needless to say, such training programs---which, often, were very informative and helpful to those involved----have long since gone the way of the proverbial Dodo. One rationalle has been that due to staff turnover there was little point in training someone who would then leave and get a higher paying job at a rival "shop". Why train your competition's staffers?

    The real reason was cost cutting and a short sighted view of things. And the resulting "problem" now extends to all areas of the advertrising and media business, as well as to many other industries.

    Provided that they are really interested, in the first place---and that's not a given----young people need to be acclimated and nurtured so they get a sense of how various departments and functions interact and what the role of their intended destination really is---and might be. Until media entities realize that you can't just dump some college educated 22-year-old into a department, load him or her up with clerical work and hope for the best, you can expect little better than pot luck with the outcome. Sometimes a supervisor will take the time to teach the newcomer, to the extent that the supervisor is informed, but more often than not, such efforts are minimal and focused mainly on the job at hand.

    Frankly, I don't see this situation changing in the foreseeable future.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 6, 2015 at 3:17 p.m.

    As the brillian Dr. Winchester said on MASH referring to his love for music: I can play the notes, but not make music. Media Buyers came from the secretarial pool, from office workers, from English majors. Entitlement generations were begging to do anything to get into advertising (not that that is a good thing either). The walls were pretty gated. Do you want exact notes or music ?

Next story loading loading..