The Talent Crunch | Simon Lendrum

Posted 3 May 2022.

​​This month I’d like to share some thoughts on one of our key strategic challenges – attracting talent to our industry and specifically a high quality, diverse pipeline of future leaders.

First, the irony. Readership of this blog will be low, because everyone is too busy to do anything but respond to the next urgent client request.The industry has never been busier. There are open roles across our membership.

I suspect the same goes across client organisations.

This results in greater demands on agencies, with finite resources being stretched to deliver more and more. The knock-on effect is salary inflation, with limited ability for agencies to adjust pricing quickly enough to keep up. Bottom-line pressure increases, the ability to staff up is constrained, and yet the desire to keep clients happy remains as high as it ever was.

The result is an ever-decreasing circle. Lower margins coupled with higher demands puts stress on the third, critical, dynamic; staff well-being.

So what to do about it?

Solutions will be two-fold:

The long-term solution, which we are focused on as I write, is to develop a comprehensive employment brand platform for our industry. We need to be more visible to the future workforce and more attractive as a career option among those who see us.

This is not an existential crisis – the industry has never had more career options, of appeal to left-brain, right-brain, and T-shaped people alike. We just need to effectively tell this story – starting at high school level and continuing through tertiary level; we need to deepen our relationships with pathway organisations to ensure we are reaching historically under-represented groups and inspiring them; and we need to coordinate our efforts with member agencies to deepen engagement and relationships with individual candidates, providing work experience and internship opportunities across our industry.

We are currently mapping the industry – the opportunities, the existing relationships, and the gaps, so we can build a strategy for the long-term. We’ve had some great feedback and involvement from members and appreciate this enormously. The outcome will be a platform that provides a deeper, richer pipeline of future talent.

But what of the short-term need? The vacant roles will remain. We need to entice people back to our side of the fence and keep the talent we’ve got. This can only take effect at an individual agency level. We need to continually improve our workspaces – ensuring that we’re listening to the needs of our teams and ensuring we’re a truly inclusive workplace for the teams of today.

Our industry is brilliant at what we do, and our reputation precedes us. We need to leverage this, remind people that it’s more glorious to work by the beach than in drizzly West London or Detroit, and be more salient within the international talent market. So as borders open, and New Zealand remains an aspirational place to live, let’s look at how we can promote our industry in other key markets.

Moving to New Zealand does not require a compromise when it comes to working in our industry and doing world-class work. We’ll explore how Comms Council might tell this story, to attract more talent to our shores, and add to the richness of creative talent that we all know lives and thrives here already.