Young creative minds are choosing alternative careers. They aren’t applying to work in advertising; instead they are being poached, particularly by the technology sector.
While its obviously foolish to ignore the risks should we fail to uncover, woo and then develop the best creative minds, we should also respect our advantage. To provide a safe-haven to the best creative minds is something that comes naturally for our industry – even if its practices have fallen by the wayside these past years.
As leaders we face a paradox: we have access to an incredibly competitive job market of emerging talent, but recruiting a diverse, free-thinking and talented workforce is harder than ever.
We need to be active in respecting what new talent can do, rather than passively believing they are desperate for jobs. And we need to re-think both archaic and recently developed methods – not least the CV, which should be firmly assigned to history, because of its inability to provide any real insight into someone’s capability.
Equally we should eradicate recommendations on LinkedIn, which, despite their potential to modernise recruitment, have fallen flat, generating only false public images. If you want a true representation of a person’s character and performance you’re not going to find it in the public arena.
We should learn from our clients, like Unilever, who have already ditched CVs in favour of using algorithms based on smartphone activity to recruit.
This approach borrows from Google, whose own data is capable of identifying suitable candidates while predicting their level of long-term potential.
However, such an approach is unlikely to be as effective for agencies because critical mass is required to get any real nuances beyond the basic personality types already in market.
Given that agencies are reducing in size, this model is not one that we can wholesale replicate. At a smaller scale, and with limited trials, we’ve also learned that people can lie faster in these surveys than any other medium or do the opposite, underestimating themselves to the point of ruling themselves out.
At scale, do Unilever and Google have enough data to iron these kinks out? We’ll know in five years time.
For me, it’s not Google’s algorithm that’s impressive, though, but its conclusion that a process consisting of six interviews is required to hire successfully. I believe that this sort of approach, one that involves a more hands-on strategy for sourcing talent, will strengthen an agency.
For this to occur, we need to build closer relationships with recruiters that understand how things have changed and think differently in this paradoxical world.
That’s why we’ve partnered with recruiter Gemini People exclusively in a new financial model designed to proactively talent spot – outside the industry – rather than just take briefs inside the industry.
In addition to this, with skills and talent at such a premium we must look beyond the traditional creative pairs, instead hiring creative singles, even if they retain a bias to either design or writing.
From experience, we know that new talent prefers this approach, favouring the flexibility of not having to spend their entire career with the same person – or facing an interruption in their careers if they need to split up.
Agencies are unparalleled in their confidence to break rules and challenge accepted perceptions when it comes to hiring. Someone with diverse experiences, both professional and personal, are always a huge asset to our businesses.
Take our strategist Shu Han Lee: she studied graphic design, worked as a creative director for an organic food wholesaler and blogged about food for the New York Times Diner’s Journal. She published her first cookbook, Chicken and Rice, with Penguin Books last May and had her "Noodles" classification system appear on Hong Kong Tatler.
Another option is to grow your own, which requires more investment but also comes with more reward. For those, like us, with leaner workforces, apprenticeships offer an ability to recruit directly from school or among that expanding bunch of people who want to retrain and have transferable skills.
To date, two of our full-time employees started as apprentices, another starts imminently and we’re forecasting potential for one in five hires to be in place by end of 2018.
Our experience so far is that from the minute they join, you begin to shape them. And not long after, they begin to shape you. You will inevitably lose people you’ve invested in to others but the percentage that stay go on to be exceptional.
All of these ideas contain strategies for embracing difference and address the general malaise that the next generation isn’t being properly identified or nourished.
Agencies will always fight over the best people, and the best talent has options. If these folks won’t knock on your door, you need to knock on theirs.
Jonathan Trimble is chief executive at 18 Feet & Rising