Don’t hire just to fill a role: Lessons from the Ultimate Asset Asia Pacific talent summit

There is a global digital skills deficit and finding people who can keep up with the technical and strategic change of pace in 2017 is a tough job for any business.

When you put this quandary into a region like Asia Pacific, that has varying levels of digital maturity and infrastructure, vast cultural and social nuances and (for emerging markets) potentially even steeper growth curves, the talent needs are heightened.

For this reason media and digital recruitment specialists Ultimate Asset bring together its top clients from the agency, marketing and ad tech world together once a year to discuss the issues, as well as sharing successes.

This year the event took place in Bali and James Lyon, CEO of Ultimate Asset Asia Pacific, says: “The event was a real success, as it was less prescribed than a lot of round table discussions that take place after work and in Singapore, where business leaders haven’t really detached from the ‘boardroom’ and day-to-day challenges of high pressure roles.”

“In taking people off site into a way more relaxed environment it encouraged very open, candid and constructive debate, the group was united on the need to invest more resource into learning and development, training at a grassroots level and bringing through great youth teams in organisations. We definitely felt that attendees took a few good actions away, and got to hear a different opinions from a nice cross section of the industry,” he adds.

Over one morning a section of experts sat round a table and The Drum, which partnered with Ultimate Asset, has digested the best lessons that businesses can use in 2018. Contributing to the discussion was Regina Goh, managing director, Asia at Blis, Matt Sutton, CEO of Adknowledge Asia, David Nichols, general manager of Brave Bison in Asia Pacific, Auke Boersma, managing director of Light Reaction Asia Pacific, Niall Hogan, managing director of Southeast Asia at Integral Ad Science, Benjamin Pavanetto, regional sales director at Adludio, Conrad Tallariti, general manager for Southeast Asia at Amnet, John Matthews, group head of performance at APD, Gavin Buxton, managing director APAC at S4M and Stephanie Claxton, head of sales for Teads in Asia Pacific.

Don’t just hire to fill a role

A common theme was around succumbing to the pressure of filling a role. The room agreed that due diligence was needed in the hiring process and hiring someone to fill a role was always an expensive mistake in the long run. Instead, the best results were achieved by making sure the person had potential outside of their CV by fitting into the culture and having a synchronous attitude.

Look outside of the industry for problem solvers

As platforms hyper-target us based on information and data, we are exposed to a risk of confirmation bias, whether we want it or not. Similarly, within the hiring process a mistake can be looking too closely at points of experience or thinking too literally about skills, particularly for roles in sales or marketing.

According to one attendee, one of the best hires they made came from someone outside of the industry that showed a better attitude during the interview. The industry know-how can sometimes be taught at a later date - and investment into training is key with this - so long as the natural ability to solve problems is there.

A way to assess this was to shake up the interview process. The attendees advised that people hiring should think very hard about the questions and the process they went through with applicants, using questions that helped put people out of their comfort zone.

Invest in local, young talent

Finding people to manage regional business is one tough part of hiring in Asia Pacific, as the pool of talent that have experience managing many markets is minimal. However, when looking to hire in specific markets, particularly high growth countries like Indonesia or India, the team agreed that there was amazing young talent to be found.

The industry mavens discussing the topic work across a range of businesses but central to the discussion around how to keep outstanding young talent was investing in their future. The concept of the ‘millennial mindset’ reared its head and though there were some negative stories around loyalty and work ethic, the team agreed that young people just wanted to make their mark.

Investing in continually helping young people to do their jobs better, through training, career mapping and creating pockets of independence and responsibility, had helped retention of younger staff.

Recent and frequent appraisals

While most companies may like to think this is a no brainer, a quick hands up round the room revealed that around half of the roundtable attendees had not had a recent appraisal.

Related to the advice around retaining younger staff, appraisals were said to be overlooked as a tool for staff retention. The group agreed that this was even more necessary in Asian markets, where staff aren’t naturally outspoken, unlike countries such as Australia or the UK.

Invest in learning and development

The investment in learning and development came up time and time again. One part of the training was about doing it at a grassroots level, another was the importance of bigger training projects, which are needed to boost areas such as programmatic, which needs more technical knowledge, faster.

The team referenced ways in which this was improving, citing Google and Singapore’s EDB and their Digitize initiative, which many across the table said had fed them skilled-up new talent. However, the need for a more neutral source for training was also brought up, with some people concerned that trainees coming from Google may lead to bias once in a different environment, such as an agency.

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