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Agencies The Future of Work Recruitment

Silicon Valley’s loss could be adland’s gain amid tech talent exodus

By Dan Salkey | Co-founder

November 24, 2022 | 6 min read

With redundancies and resignations at Meta and Twitter mounting, the flow of talent from marketing and advertising into tech might be finally turning, writes °Small World co-founder Dan Salkey.

Golden Gate bridge in daytime

/ Unsplash

Elon Musk doesn’t seem to be getting much right at the moment. His takeover of Twitter makes it a private company again, but the fallout has been ironically public.

After unceremoniously firing about half of the company, he set an ultimatum to roughly 3,500 remaining workers: “Be extremely hardcore, only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.” Anyone who didn’t want to take it to the extreme could put everything they own in a box to the left.

Exact numbers are unclear, but it looks as though “at least 1,200” rejected Musk’s ultimatum – around half of the remaining employees. There are fears Twitter will cease to be operational.

A glut of top talent finds themselves divorced from their previous employers, not just at Twitter but within tech at large. Scott Galloway has coined it ’the Patagonia Vest recession’. It could be one of the decade’s biggest redistributions of talent. So, where will they all go?

Well, tech’s loss could be a plus for adland. Our industry is suffering a recruitment crisis, especially in digital media. But it won’t just be agencies and service providers that offer up a berth.

Around a fifth of the world’s population is freelance. You can expect that number to rise as tech’s forgotten workers see the opportunity to attract lucrative contract work using the badge of honor provided by tech giants like Meta, Twitter and Google. In the short term, their former employers may even look to contract them to fill a skills gap created by cutting talent too deep. Those that can accommodate freelancers into their model will benefit by gaining specialist skills on demand.

Entrepreneurs looking for a co-founder or startups looking for their next big hire will relish top talent finally being released from the clutches of the tech giants. If they can sell talent on the purpose and vision behind their organizations, they’ll find plenty of applicants. They’ll also no doubt want to heed the warning of Elon’s rejected ultimatum and build a flexible work environment.

Agencies, particularly specialist agencies, will be eyeing up mid-level talent leaving organizations such as Twitter. 67% of agency leaders claim that the talent crisis is the single biggest factor blocking agency growth. Nowhere is this crisis more prominent than in digital media, so the flock of digital media specialists leaving social media companies will have a glut of offers from eager agencies. Many of them will have been former clients, I’m sure.

Despite his approach being wrong, Musk is right to demand more from people – especially those in tech. Some employees in the sector have certainly been living in a bubble, a work environment only made tenable by the continued injection of VC capital and inflated share prices.

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There definitely will be a course correction and the cream of the crop will always rise to the top. Great talent will always find good homes, while the rest may get a rude awakening. Those ready to welcome them with open arms will be new models of businesses offering fractional roles, startups looking to build a new future and agencies offering a greater range of work.

None of those routes will be less work than before, but they certainly won’t be “extremely hardcore”. Twitter rebels, we welcome you.

Dan Salkey is a co-founder of °Small World, a creative agency that transforms the relationship with talent.

Agencies The Future of Work Recruitment

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