Look Inside Your Own Company to Start Solving the Talent Gap

In the fast-moving digital advertising ecosystem, companies struggle to find the most talented employees, and prospective employees without relevant experience struggle to find jobs at all. The expectations of too many new workers are a material element of the unemployment drama we read about in the news today, at all levels The bad news from the front lines is that the firms that are growing in the digital media landscape need more and more from what increasingly feels like fewer and fewer candidates, primarily because of this skills gap.

Digital advertising continues to grow and create innovative technologies that are necessary to understand in order to thrive in this industry. However, since these technologies and requirements are relatively new, older candidates are unable to cope without proper experience or hands-on education. Having been trained in traditional marketing and advertising, too many new hire candidates need to be groomed for more senior, strategic digital advertising roles they implicitly feel qualified for, when too many struggle at the basics, having been unable to keep up. By basics, I mean maintaining the ability to communicate clearly about – not just understand the value from – digital technology and interactive analytics.

Our industry is increasingly comprised of ad tech companies, data management firms and a different kind of advertising agency that employs quants, any number of whom can explain in plain language why the focus of advertising has long-since shifted from radio and print to interactive. People looking to break into the digital ecosystem at higher levels are often left in dust by younger candidates who are well versed in technologies that were not available five years ago let alone ten years ago. Senior positions in the world of interactive technology are often given to these younger candidates, resulting in cries of ageism. But, the fact is that all too often, these younger candidates tend to be more qualified for the technical aspect of the job, but less experienced in critical thinking and creative.

A 2012 Carnegie Mellon graduate with a BS in Database Science in the top 20 percent of his or her class can command $275,000 in the first year post graduation. At least eight did in this year’s graduating class.

That’s right – - a recent college grad pulling down more than a quarter million dollars in their first job. Do any of these obviously bright youngsters know anything about building a business strategy? Perhaps not. But they speak the language they need to understand to stay ahead in interactive.

So what do smart interactive firms do to nurture and retain talent? Some firms are reluctant to invest in developing and updating senior talent for the fear they might leave the company shortly after training. This shortsighted mentality perpetuates the unemployment of potential talent. As we told the NY Times last December, these firms must be realistic not only about what they want from the candidate, but what are they are going to offer. There are only so many experts within the field of digital advertising. Agencies must assess what they are going to offer candidates in order to nurture him or her to reach their fullest potential. Smart leaders at the best media and marketing firms in the US understand this, and are taking matters into their own hands to create advantages within their own companies – for their own company’s future leadership.

The value of talent is often underestimated when compared to the value of technology. But, when companies are purchased, their acquirers – more often than not – are far more interested in the talent than in the technology. Sure, algorithms matter. But, they can be licensed. The purchase of a company also implies the purchase of strategists, sales people, and leadership. At its best, a company’s talent becomes the most eloquent assertion of a company’s brand. So, why don’t more companies invest in their talent?