One could be forgiven for thinking that, at times, we live in a parallel universe to that of the media.
While we hear tales of doom, downgrade and disaster via the BBC, internet and the bloke in the pub, many of us are rushed off our feet, have had our best years yet and are wondering how we can find the talent we need to handle the business we have.
So how have we arrived at this tale of two economies? How is it that, while unemployment seems to be rising and there is genuine concerns over national debt levels and falls in manufacturing and retail, are many of our experiences so markedly different?
Firstly, it’s company marketing budgets are going up. The IPA Bellwether report charted a rise in spend for the second quarter running in Q4 of 2011 and they’re set to rise again in 2012. OK, so they won’t be shooting upwards, but it’s a still a rise.
Secondly, spend is moving to particular areas: online, price discounting and more direct marketing strategies. This isn’t bad news, unless perhaps you’re a mainstream media owner or a media buying shop.
Thirdly, all this takes place in an atmosphere of low business confidence that equals confidence levels last seen in 2008, according to the latest Bellwether Report.
Why is recruiting marketing posts so difficult?
Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the weird phenomena many are experiencing when trying to recruit.
Many companies have complained of lack of response when advertising for graduate entrants or for roles requiring little vocationally-specific experience. Others have complained about the lack of commitment on the part of interviewees to even turning up.
Much of this sounds surprising until one learns that the roles advertised had little specific detail, were often relatively poorly paid but yet still required the individuals to sell their soul for the opportunity in question. Roles such as these abound, and intelligent grads can spot a poor opportunity when they see one.
Few have confidence that taking such roles would offer them a greater chance of climbing up the career ladder than waiting for a more professional position which offered real progression and development opportunities. Sadly, many grads I know are putting off applying for decent opportunities because of experiences with these poor exploitation attempts.
That’s why companies may find greater success when advertising for interns. It’s a more honest deal, asking less of the individual and, while paying less, it’s normally time-bounded and gives basic exposure to the chosen environment. The candidate feels less abused and controlled. A happier situation all round.
Perhaps more surprising is the struggle to find experienced middle-weight staff in all disciplines. Then again, remember that nearly four years ago the training tap was turned firmly off. As a result, many professionals have chosen other routes outside of the industry during recent years, while others have chosen this time to start their family and aren’t looking for to return full time to work, if at all.
The supply has been dramatically reduced and now we’re operating at capacity, there’s no easy solution. Flexible working, creative recruitment and the ‘intelligent’ selection of candidates with transferable skills are all potential ways of easing the pain, but won’t relieve it entirely. Perhaps even ‘over-qualified’ people, who may now have different priorities in their lives, could be well worth considering. But all of this will require culture change – and few of us like change.
How will 2012 pan out?
So, will budgets be slashed and demand for staff fall once again as 2012 unfolds? I think not. If these are the spend levels we’re experiencing while confidence is low, then imagine what might happen if confidence increases.
My advice is plan for growth now. Put clear development plans together for your teams and seek out training opportunities for your people. It’ll win their loyalty and will help ensure you’re not the one scratching around for a competent replacement in the intensifying war for talent. You’ll then be the boss who enjoys the benefit of their newly-found abilities.
Rest assured, too many companies will be ‘too busy’ to do that kind of thing. And you will reap the reward of their inaction.
DMA guest blogger Frank Hutton is a member of the DMA West & Wales Council. He founded and built a successful marketing recruitment consultancy. Frank’s latest venture, Hutton&co provides career coaching to individuals and consultancy in team building and performance to businesses.