Marketing Agency Culture Business Leadership

4 things you need to change if you’re going to attract the best talent

By Tim Jones | Managing director



Opinion article

April 4, 2022 | 6 min read

Whether you call it ‘the great resignation’ or not, it’s clear that we’re still in a moment where finding the right people is hard. Tim Jones, managing director at agency True, looks into the extent of the problem and argues that remedying it starts at home: doing everything you can to build an outfit that people want to work for.

True consider why hiring the right talent is particularly challenging at the moment and how to recruit around this.

True considers why hiring the right talent is particularly challenging at the moment and how to recruit around this

It’s getting harder to find high-quality talent in our sector. Many agencies are bouncing back post-Covid-19, and recruitment is on the up, with more open vacancies than ever before. The big six ad groups recently reported an 8.5% increase in hires in 2021 (albeit after a 6% reduction in 2020).

But are we amid a ‘great resignation’ in the marketing world? A glimpse at the data shows that most industries have experienced less than a 3% increase in resignation levels since pre-Covid-19, and the greater increases have been seen in blue collar roles and industries.

Why, exactly, is hiring hard right now?

It’s hard to know how overhyped the issue is, but it’s a challenging time to be recruiting. It’s taking significantly longer to find the right talent.

A lot of people have lost jobs, taken redundancy or changed career during the past 18 months. There has been such uncertainty, causing a knock-on effect. We’ve interviewed candidates in the past six months who moved jobs during Covid-19, only to realize that the move wasn’t quite right.

Remote selection processes (and remote working) may have exacerbated the problem. Many have realized that fully remote work isn’t what they want. As a result, many are more cautious that their next move, and they want to be sure.

So the great resignation is arguably more hype than reality. But it remains true that how we attract and look after talented people is more important than ever.

A people industry

We are a people business. We’re only as good as our people, our clients and the work we do. Our work and our people are symbiotic: one does not exist without the other. Attracting and retaining the best people is hugely influenced by the quality, type and effectiveness of our work. It helps create purpose and value for our people.

Here are four things that we’re doing differently in the context of greater competition and scarcity of talent.

1. Finding client relationships that fit

It’s easy to say, but a hard principle to stick to: qualifying potential client partnerships beyond the obvious factors. We get behind the brief to really understand what a client wants and needs.

Our vision focuses on ambition – we seek ambition in our clients, reflecting what we look for in people. A shared sense of ambition helps us do great, effective work together, motivating our teams and helping them feel more fulfilled.

Equally, a people strategy can be seriously undermined by toxic client relationships. If a client is treating our team badly we’ll move to resolve the issue, and sometimes that means saying no to clients for the right reason. We must protect our team for the longer term.

2. Growing our own

We’ve always believed in a meritocracy. Opportunity and growth are open to those who show talent, skill and application. We look for ambition, attitude and application as much as technical and functional skills, particularly in younger and less experienced recruits. This way our people can be more adaptable and open to change, with more transferable skills. People don’t want to be pigeonholed as ‘one thing’ for the entirety of their career. We love multipotentialites.

3. Closer support

Recent times have shown that resilience and adaptability are crucial, but everyone needs to know they are supported. When a new team member joins, we ‘buddy’ them with another person who’s been with us a for a while – they can confidentially meet or talk to their buddy whenever they like or need.

As leaders, we’ve needed to become more attentive, empathetic and pastoral in our approach to people. We’ve shown a softer and more open side. That’s helped our team see that we really are all in it together; that we have vulnerabilities too. We’ve made ourselves more available, and have pushed beyond one-word answers to the ‘how are you?’ question. Clichéd though it is, it really is OK to not be OK.

4. Flexible working

Yes, it goes without saying. But we’re learning how to make flexibility work as effectively as possible for both the agency and individuals. Supporting those who want to be in our office hub and those who work more effectively at home equally is really important.

We don’t mandate specific times in the office. We encourage face-to-face for key meetings and collaboration points on campaigns and projects, and we have regular IRL knowledge shares and socials. Work is the thing you do, not where you do it. We trust our team to deliver high quality work. That guides us all.

I couldn’t be more proud of our team. And it all starts with ambition.

Marketing Agency Culture Business Leadership

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