Fact is, a mere five years ago, any company in our space that had jobs to fill likely would have 100 resumes sent to it for each posting. Today? In this space and elsewhere, the talent crisis in our industry has been well-chronicled.
How can we remedy this problem? During our enjoyable OMMA-ending Spin Board session, Cory Treffiletti said that one of the things he'd like to see come to a stop in our business is the practice of poaching. Another panelist (that would be me) pointed out that poaching may be evidence that ours is now a "mature" industry, since that's one way we resemble other professions.
But during a conversation today with an industry veteran I respect a great deal, I got a somewhat different perspective on the issue.
"Part of the problem is that most of the individuals running companies today are survivors...and true believers, really. So they are reluctant to train new employees from the outside," said Shauna Monkman, who -- until recently-- was vice president of global online advertising for FT.com. "What these employers want are people who enter their companies well-apprised of the business. We've developed these clubs and cliques that look inward more than maybe they or we should. We need to be willing to train newcomers, and to recruit from outside of our ranks. A major part of the problem is just us."
Tough to argue with that bit of somewhat ironic reasoning, isn't it? The industry that has spawned a revolution of sorts in consumer-generated content that is intuitively monetizable and technologically scalable can't find enough people to pay for the trade that monetizes it. New York's 212.org and other groups like it in our industry's major markets are taking a large bite out of this problem, and should be applauded. But how many of us are doing what we can internally?
What can you do?
-- Do you have an intern who is working in your office for college credit?
-- Do you lecture at high schools, colleges or local business schools about our business or about media in general?
-- Do you have any idea how much fun it is to see light bulbs go on above the heads of kids in a classroom as they realize why ads on one TV show look so different from ads on another TV show?
-- Do you have any kind of mentoring program in effect in your office? I'm not talking just about reporting structures. I'm talking about people responsible for the guidance, training and advancement of others in your work space.
Too often, talented people have difficult work situations that reflect negatively on an entire industry for them, so they leave the business for good. Hell, I've been fired three times in the recent past. But I'm pigheadedly stubborn, so I regarded each departure as good news. Along the way, I managed to assist in the training of maybe a dozen others. Perhaps half the business I've developed in my own company these past three years has come from my "trainees" and their contacts.
That's not just networking, kids. Remember -- if you're hiring smart people, and you're putting them in a position to succeed, you'll probably learn more about your business from them within a couple of years than they will from you. I know that's true in my case. Surrounding yourself with smart people always makes you smarter. Give your people strong incentives and solid mentorship, and you'll be surprised how little you want to pilfer someone else's employees.