Episode 6: the talent squeeze

Published on September 17, 2021
blog, insights, podcast
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Every digital media company is struggling to recruit and retain great talent. In episode 6 of our “People of Programmatic” podcast, part of our 10x10 series to herald Xaxis’ tenth anniversary, our guests explore the new landscape of work and workers, and reveal how recruiters, managers, and executives can evolve their practices to find great people and keep them on board.

Listen to this episode on: Apple Podcasts |  Spotify | Google Podcasts

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The talent shortage and how to manage it.
  • How skilled workers’ expectations have changed.
  • Whether companies are to blame.
  • Solutions including culture, mindset, and rewards structures.

“The talent shortage is real. It's not just in media. … There are millions more jobs available than there are actually bodies to fill them.”

- Juli Santiago

The world of work has changed

Early last year, as the pandemic took hold, companies changed their hiring and work practices. 

  • They stopped hiring, especially at the entry level.
  • They held off on promotions. 

Today, they're feeling the effects. There isn’t a junior talent pool to promote. And overwhelmed mid-level managers feel increasingly strained without the assistance they need.

Companies “didn't hire at the entry level. And then there was also a lack of promotions at that lower level. So you kind of created this ripple effect that really just caused some big pain.”

- Juli Santiago

Meanwhile, everyone developed work-from-home (WFH) practices. Some employees left urban areas and many don’t want to come back to centralized offices.

  • According to PwC, workers in metropolitan areas (66%) are more likely to work in roles that could allow remote working than those who live in rural areas (44%).

There is talent out there

Applicants still far outnumber available jobs, so companies have to adapt.

  • 68% of the media workforce is willing to talk to a recruiter — twice the pre-pandemic level.
  • There is a “window shopper mentality.” People are willing to explore.

“If I reach out to [a candidate] they'll at least speak to me, hear what I have to say…. If what I have to say is compelling enough [they] will be very willing to make a move now.”

- Juli Santiago

Are companies the problem?

The problem of finding and keeping talent may be with the companies themselves. They need to recognize that, as we emerge from more than a year under Covid restrictions and WFH structures, workers’ expectations have changed.

  • Give top talent flexibility, the ability to work from somewhere other than an office.
  • Expect counter-offers, sometimes large ones, which are now common.
  • Condense the time between initial contact and hiring.
  • Recruit outside your immediate geographic regions.
  • Also recruit outside the usual parameters.

“There's no shortage of talented people from tier-one companies, major banks, consulting firms, etc. They’ve got great skill sets that we could easily adapt, and the fault is completely with us, as an industry.”

- Michael Wright

  • 51% of job-seekers would forego higher salaries in favor of flexible work conditions.
  • 49% of job-seekers turned down an offer due to a bad recruiting experience, and 56% said it would cause them to discourage others from applying.

Companies must meet workers' expectations

Talented workers will take jobs that offer the things they're looking for — hybrid work models, flexibility, PTO, career advancement, supporting staff, and, above all, a sense of purpose.

  • Onboarding is key. Build connections. Welcome people, fast. Even email is too slow.
  • Shorten the promotion timeline.
  • Expand the pool from which you’re recruiting and promoting to new industries and wider skills.
  • Lay out core principles, including your philosophy on hybrid working.
  • Solve for whatever is wrong in someone’s current work situation.

“What is the pain? What can they not fix by staying at their current situation, and then we need to help them fix that pain in a new opportunity.”

- Juli Santiago

Tackle retention: Be aware and proactive

People have spent the past year evaluating what they want and what they’re getting from work. Companies need to address those concerns and make sure to show they’re putting employees' lives at the forefront.

  • Be mindful of burnout. Encourage time away from screens.
  • “Ruthlessly question” whether meetings are necessary.
  • Offer quick growth, training, and promotions.
  • Give people a sense of purpose, the larger goals they’re helping accomplish.

“You need to give people sight of the bigger picture. … What is my work for? Is it valued? What's its purpose?”

- Michael Wright

Stay flexible. It’s going to keep changing.

There’s a long way to go, maybe 12 more months before things “level off,” Santiago says.  Not everything will be solved, but things are getting better.  “We’re recruiting candidates, seeing them at a more rapid pace,” she adds. “Companies are starting to figure it out.”

Our guests agreed that there are exciting times ahead, and ways to apply everything that’s been learned over the past year to capitalize on the new trends. And, of course, there’s more learning and growth ahead.

Episode Host:

  • Arshan Saha, CEO, Xaxis APAC

Episode Guests:

  • Michael Wright, Global Head of Talent Acquisition, GroupM
  • Juli Santiago, Recruiter, SearchMax Inc

Arshan Saha, CEO, Xaxis APAC

  • Arshan Saha is the CEO of Xaxis and Specialty Businesses, Asia Pacific. A senior member of the GroupM Asia-Pacific leadership team, Arshan leads GroupM’s data-driven specialty businesses including Xaxis (Programmatic), INCA (Influencer Marketing), Finecast (Addressable TV), Sightline (Addressable Out of Home) and Acceleration (Data & Tech Consultancy practice). Formerly the CEO of Xaxis Asia Pacific, Arshan marks more than 12 years of executive experience in the advertising industry with a proven track record in building Xaxis in Asia Pacific. Under his leadership as a regional director and the second employee in the region, Xaxis’s revenue in the region grew 20-fold. Furthermore, he spearheaded the incredible growth of the team from one pioneer to its current strength of close to 500 in Asia Pacific. He is a visionary leader who can not only guide his team to excellent results, but also a mentor who offers valuable insights and guides his team in their personal and career development. Through successful collaboration with his teams and customers, Arshan has driven ad-tech innovation through his work, with more than 300 clients from multiple industries and an array of large and mid-sized publishers, as well as technology vendors across Southeast Asia. Early in his career, Arshan was voted on to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Southeast Asia Leadership Council, making him the youngest council leader in the IAB. He was also the winner of the Best Young Talent Below 30 award in 2012, and in 2015 he was nominated for Campaign Asia’s 40 under 40 Most Talented Individuals in APAC.

Juli Santiago, Recruiter, SearchMax Inc

  • Juli has been recruiting for more than 16 years in the advertising/media space and currently works as a Partner at Search Max. She leads a team of recruiters, researchers, and contract staffing specialists to fill permanent and interim needs for agencies, brands, digital platforms, and vendors across the United States. She has worked with GroupM since 2007, helping with recruitment, training, and building client relationships. Juli has an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Marketing and lives in Florida with her spouse of 10 years, her son Dominic, and a puppy named Cannoli. She enjoys doing volunteer work for her community, cooking, baseball, bad reality TV, and the Boston Celtics!

Michael Wright, Global Head of Talent Acquisition, GroupM

  • Michael is the Global Head of Talent Acquisition at GroupM. He claims no academic qualifications of any kind and left school at 15. Today he is based in New York, running a team of superheroes around the world who have delivered 8,000+ hires year-to-date. He’s also a semi-successful music producer, a close partner of Xaxis, and a proud Arshan fanboy.

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