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To retain adtech talent, you must future-proof the workforce
May 17, 2022
The ‘great reshuffle’ has made its way over to Europe, and the adtech industry is showing no signs of immunity. As employees, whatever their skills and seniority, begin to question their role in not only the workplace but in wider society, increasing challenges in attracting and retaining talent continue to grow. A core task for companies now should be to truly understand what employees are looking for and incorporate the necessary initiatives without delay.
Adtech’s got talent
It is clear that talent is the critical building block in future-proofing innovation. However, finding and maintaining high levels of skilled employees comes with many difficulties. If anything, the last two years have taught us that our places of work must be comfortable and invigorating, and that managers should be educated to pursue proactive conversations with employees in order to implement the appropriate actions that help meet their workplace expectations.
The importance of the employee experience, especially in fast-paced tech environments - and in the ever-growing adtech industry - is on the rise. Businesses must now focus on developing a world-class company culture focusing on the end-to-end people experience to enable collective continued success in order to attract and retain new talent. By creating an environment that employees are engaged, proud, and happy to be part of, reinforcing feelings of team spirit and a sense of belonging, companies will help them thrive in thinking more creatively. These must form the core values of any company looking to attract and retain its pools of adtech talents, creating a culture that actually embodies and gives life to strong values and standards instead of just putting words on a wall.
Looking after individuals’ mental health is also of the utmost importance. In the month of May - mental awareness month - these initiatives should be pushed to the forefront. There could be no better time for companies to introduce both rewarding and supporting initiatives. For example, setting up well-being platforms that can encompass the likes of free counseling sessions or customized content, organizing local wellness events, raising awareness about key topics such as imposter syndrome or collecting funds for mental health organizations. And on this subject, tools are key, but only if they contribute to a larger purpose: fostering a culture where communities are encouraged to propose their own initiatives in order to ensure many voices are represented and employees have the opportunity to co-create these themes.
A talent dilemma
Although many tech companies are becoming more attuned to how they can build an attractive work culture to drive a more solid workforce, the attraction and retention rate of different types of talent vary. The adtech industry specifically sees discrepancies, as some key talents are harder to find and keep than others.
For example, engineers and developers are particularly key for adtech companies to attract and retain, based on very specific requirements and expectations when it comes to work environment and overall higher average referral rates. Therefore, companies need to be quick to recognize all these differences in their employees’ expectations and endeavor to tailor the right conditions, for example by building an environment and culture that will enable them to do what they like the most (development, an inspiring roadmap, growing their skills, etc.).
Nevertheless, whilst retaining engineers and developers might be critical, no company can afford constant churn in other roles either, so they must extend this level of consideration throughout the organization and within all departments. Businesses must also be sympathetic to the habits employees got used to over lockdown, and understand that, for many, working solely from the office has become outdated. Employers must now realize the benefits of flexibility, and avoid presenteeism, trusting employees to work from home and be still as, and in many cases even more, efficient.
Once again, the opportunity has come to realize that by putting work flexibility at the heart of their policies, giving employees a much-appreciated sense of control over their day-to-day, they will be able to more successfully attract and retain vital talent. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But more than ever, reconciling the three critical needs of a successful culture, which are getting to know each other through regular in-person interactions, fostering performance and allowing the necessary flexibility, is a real challenge for businesses and a constant area of focus.
This context, made even more complicated by the bustle of the overall world where employees are evolving, requires any business to consider the right level of investment into resources dedicated to people. While technology brings the opportunity to do more and go faster, the people dimension of a business continues to need proper ongoing investment, and management teams shouldn’t be tempted to rationalize their involvement too much. The price to pay could be much higher in the future.
Integrity is no longer a buzzword - it’s a must
Both diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives are now not just a ‘nice thing to have’ anymore, but the bare minimum. These initiatives have skyrocketed in recent years, especially as investors are increasingly referring to these non-financial factors to evaluate growth opportunities. Leading companies now understand the importance of their social status, and actually follow through on all commitments in order to succeed and solidify true business purpose. This means focusing on fostering a better social image to not only keep employees aligned with company values, but also hold each other accountable when tackling issues such as gender and pay parity, and hiring for diversity on all levels of seniority.
For adtechs to better their social image, they can capitalize on their ease of access to campaign assets to offer meaningful visibility to worthy causes and charities. This not only gives back to the wider community but simultaneously also makes employees feel they are part of a company with strong values. A few adtech leaders are already taking the reins in this area, by donating pro bono ad space to charities for example. Many other players participate in important social awareness campaigns like International Women’s Day or Black History Month, in a way that goes beyond lip service. Again, context is key but companies need to find a balance between trendy campaigns that are meaningful versus what makes sense for the organisation at that moment in time. This form of initiative not only highlights key social issues, like bringing the gender-pay gap and racial diversity in businesses to the forefront, but simultaneously celebrates current employees to enhance those crucial feelings of value and inclusion.
The climate crisis has also put a weight on industry players to work towards achieving key environmental goals. With advertisers coming to terms with the realities of just how much energy the ads they buy use, adtech players have a responsibility to enable greener action within the wider industry. Adtech leaders can easily set the example for others to follow by signing the Climate Pledge for example, which is an action plan to offset carbon emissions and aim for net carbon zero by 2040. In doing so, employees in turn will also feel they are contributing to something bigger and feel good about their contribution to their company, making them more inclined to stay and work productively. Also, as younger and more sustainability-conscious employees enter the workforce, ESG commitments have become an invaluable recruiting factor.
The future of work
Undeniably, the adtech industry is undergoing a period of reformation, especially with the search for a privacy-friendly cookie alternative intensifying under fire from clamping down on privacy regulations. Already being under so much strain makes it even more critical for adtech players to secure the future of their workforce if they are to successfully innovate as a means to overcome these industry barriers.
Workplaces are going through a significant change of paradigms at a very fast pace, which affects how people make decisions and what they expect as fulfillment at work. Talents are shifting their "why" and "what for" in life and companies must provide what they're looking for by reconciling their expectations with a business reality. Those different ways of working and the multigenerational and multicultural aspects of the work environment are a constant challenge for employers. Another aspect that pushes employers to reinvent themselves and innovate on their talent management strategy is the rise of AI and the way it supersedes the human nature of work.
By Blandine Kouyate, chief people officer at Ogury