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Hiring on the rise

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Happy days may be here again for marketing executives as hiring in Fortune 500 marketing departments is on the rise. But with that good news comes the challenge of keeping talented marketing pros on board once they are hired.

According to recruiting agency Aquent Marketing Staffing, more than half (57%) of marketers say they plan to hire additional staff this year. That was among the findings in Aquent's "2006 Spending & Staffing Trends for Corporate Marketing Departments" report released late last month. Aquent surveyed more than 1,700 marketing professionals at Fortune 500 companies in North America via e-mail in February.

"The market is really hot right now," said Arun Sinha, corporate VP-CMO at Pitney Bowes. "We've stepped up hiring."

Sinha added: "Finding a good marketing person in this market, right now is a little challenging. Our process is taking much longer than it has in the past, and many candidates may now have multiple job offers."

Even when companies do manage to find and hire talented marketing professionals, they worry about how to keep them in the fold. Fifty-nine percent of the companies Aquent surveyed said they are concerned about employee retention, and 78% said employee turnover will be a challenge for them over the next five years.

"Marketers are finally catching up with the fact that there's a very high rate of turnover in marketing," said Sean Bisceglia, president of Aquent Marketing Staffing. "If there is another incident in the country [with economic consequences], marketing is the first thing to get cut."

Sinha said Pitney Bowes has a program in place to retain and promote marketing employees. They are initially trained on the corporate marketing level in areas such as brand management, the Web, PR and events. That way, "they get a much broader view of the company," he said.

Those who demonstrate high potential move to specific business units. Not only does that help Pitney Bowes retain valuable employees, it elevates marketing talent throughout the company and ensures a consistent approach to strategy and tactics.

"We're upgrading the talent across the company from a strategic marketing standpoint, and we are making sure there is one approach to marketing that is followed all across the company," Sinha said.

Despite the challenges of attracting and keeping good employees, hiring is proceeding at a rapid clip. Online marketing skills in particular are in great demand.

More than half (53%) of those surveyed by Aquent said Internet marketing is the No. 1 area where they plan to increase spending, followed by event planning, data analysis, project management and direct mail.

"It is hardest to find people in the Web marketing area," Sinha said, noting Pitney Bowes is looking to hire people with this background. "People with a good understanding of the Web infrastructure—who know how to leverage it—are a little harder to find."

Companies that handle classified employment ads have also taken advantage of the uptick in hiring to tout existing products and launch new ones in order to meet the growing demand. Many of those products are Web-based.

DirectEmployers Association, a nonprofit consortium of more than 200 U.S. employers that owns and operates the JobCentral National Employment Network, announced last month that job listings by member companies posted on their corporate Web sites will automatically be posted to the Google Base site. Google Base is a beta site similar to Craigslist that was developed by Google to serve as an information clearinghouse.

Online portal Monster.com announced last month that it has teamed up with Development Dimensions International to launch a suite of "candidate assessment" products that are integrated into its Monster.com job postings to make it easier for employers to measure the skills and experience of applicants.

The new tools tap into the Web's emergence as the primary source of hiring for U.S. companies, according to a study by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, conducted for DirectEmployers. The study found that in 2005, Internet sources produced 51% of all hires.

Twenty-one percent of those hires came from corporate Web sites, followed by general job boards (15%), niche job boards (6%), social networking sites (5%) and commercial resume databases (4%).

The study also found that 74% of U.S. companies plan to increase their spending on corporate employment Web sites this year; 68% will up spending on employee referrals, and 60% will boost spending on social networking technology.

The ROI for online job listings can be attractive. A recent study on the effectiveness of online local, directory and classifieds advertising, conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and comScore Networks and sponsored by CareerBuilder.com, showed a positive ROI and significant conversions both online and off for companies that participate in those forms of advertising.

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