To serve today’s clients’ expectations, marketing agencies need a diverse mix of internal talent with both multi-discipline expertise, as well as skills in specific specialties, like building social communities.
MRM//McCann is constantly on the lookout for more hybrid talent, particularly with experience navigating the many layers of the client relationship.
“Most clients are looking for a more agile, streamlined process,” says Marty Smyth, vice president, strategic marketing, MRM//McCann. “There’s a lot of competition [in hiring]. The best people that we have are the ones who are focused on their responsibility to the customer experience, rather than just their particular role.”
One of the keys to retaining talent is finding people that share the core values of the agency, says Craig Erlich, CEO of Pulse220. “You don’t want everyone in the agency to [think alike], but you do want to find people who are willing to embrace things and grow.”
The ever-growing number of Millennials in the workforce has also changed the way agencies approach hiring. These employees demand variety in their careers, notes Erlich. “They want to be empowered and are capable of learning quickly and hitting the ground running.”
And Millennials typically don’t want to work anywhere longer than two years, which makes retention of talent an issue, says Yvonne Tocquigny, CEO, Archer Malmo Austin. “People want to move around and change jobs so often.”
Because of this, Tocquigny says her shop ends up recruiting new talent outside of the Austin area. There is a great deal of talent out there, even if they’re not interested in putting down roots. When it needed to hire a new executive creative director recently, the shop actually hired someone to sort through the 400+ resumes it received.
While Austin is undoubtedly a cool place to work, telecommuting is also increasingly an option, as technology is allowing agencies to operate more efficiently and be more mobile. “The potential of working in a home office allows us to offer flexibility that top talent might be looking for,” says Live Marketing’s Anne Trompeter. “Someone who was in a traditional, time-clock type of environment might like to try something new.”
Hiring can be more difficult today because of the proliferation of marketing platforms and the specialized talent required, says Nick Jones, executive vice president, retail practice and innovation lead at Arc, the 2015 MVPro winning shop from this year’s PRO Awards. The fact that Millennials are digital native means they typically adopt quickly, and can pick up new technology easily.
Pivot Point, a WBENC (The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) Certified Women Owned Business, operates based on what is important to its employees, like flexible work schedules and work from home days.
“We focus on keeping a positive work environment and offering the benefits our employees need,” notes Jackie Burks, co-principal of Pivot Point Marketing . “If moms need to leave for a pick up at three o’clock they don’t need to feel scared that they have to do that. When you take out those boundaries and parameters you get much better employees and work that they produce.”
Other marketing agencies have no dress codes, no vacation days, massage retreats, trapeze classes and trips to the Caribbean. Many agencies encourage pets in the office and schedule happy hours on Fridays, and hot dog and karaoke contests. The Marketing Arm allows employees to “global desk swap” for three to six months with fellow employees across the globe. Every couple of months, Jack Morton Worldwide brings in speakers like the head of Girls who Code, an organization that works to close the gender gap in technology and engineering.
Internally, agencies are restructuring even up to the highest levels, to meet the complexity and specialization required by clients and market demands. Bob Raidt, for example, was appointed president of Arc seven months ago. He didn’t want an autocratic role, so he asked Jones to join him on the lead team, as well as the creative director Jim Carlton and business lead and global planning director, Karuna Rawal.
“The marketing environment requires us to bring more specialization into that leadership team,” Raidt says. “This cross-functional capability is really crucial for our success on our agency lead team. Now, because turn-around times are closer than they used to be, the demand for speed by clients requires the team to be together up front in the process and really understand the brief of the client’s business situation to bring the idea through each of their channels.”
In most cases, the agency relationship no longer just sits with the CEO, says One North CEO John Simpson. “They may be the entry point, but to create a branded experience with your audience, IT needs to be a part of the conversation. You might need to deal with the people who are engineering a product or delivering a service.”
This means marketing agencies need to look for a more consultative mindset when hiring, he adds. “We need people who are true problem solvers, and who can have conversations with different departments [in client organizations].”
Mike Neumeier, principal of the Arketi Group, says his shop has always taken an integrated approach, which means when hiring they look for people who can be flexible and work across many different disciplines. But the hardest thing to find is a good writer, he says.
And even when someone leaves the agency, they can still be a valuable asset, says Neumeier. “Your alumni can be as important as your employees—keep in good contact with them, and make them feel good that they came through your firm.”