Is 2016 the Year of Talent for Digital Marketing?

Successful Tactics to Find, Train and Keep Real Talent

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In an industry like advertising -- specifically advertising technology -- where the only constant is change, it's incredibly difficult to find talent with actual experience. Even if you've been in digital marketing for years, it doesn't necessarily mean that you know the ins and outs of the tech and execution strategies that are hot this quarter, or even this month. One of the core challenges currently facing any company in this space is the constant struggle to find, train and keep real talent. This phenomenon begs the question: Is this the year of talent?

In the current climate of hyper-changing workplaces and potentially underqualified candidates, we're all trying to solve the talent equation. What's the best strategy to hiring and retaining a team in an ever-evolving, overly competitive, and fragmented market?

Here are some of the most successful recruiting tactics that have worked for me, time and again:

1. Divide your recruiting plan into two parts: seasoned experts and personality rock stars.

  • Seasoned experts: Look for someone with 3-plus years in the industry, who understands the concepts and inner workings of combining tech and creative advertising. Three years might not seem like much, but it's enough in this space to differentiate for this type of role. Don't anticipate these candidates coming on board with 100% one-to-one knowledge of your business, but do expect them to get up to speed quickly and become leaders within your group as they help to develop new ideas and concepts off of their baseline knowledge.
  • Personality rock stars: Look for go-getters. These are people with personalities who are passionate, interested, curious, organized, excitable and personable. They will come on board totally green to our industry lingo and concepts, but they'll work their tails off to learn quickly and bring outside perspective to your team. They're also typically competitive and are going to give 200% until they feel like they are on a knowledge par with your seasoned experts -- and then they'll keep giving 200% until they get your job.

2. Invest in training. For this, I don't mean a four-week classroom program with a test at the end. You need to have a multifaceted approach that teaches hard and soft skills.

  • Assign a buddy. Have new hires shadow another team member on and off during their first few weeks on the job, listening in on calls and in meetings. The only way to really learn in this space is to listen and experience.
  • Let them own something right off the bat. They will likely mess up in some way, but they will learn much more quickly than if you hand-hold them for too long.
  • Give them training materials for hard skills. Teach them how to calculate impressions off of CPM and revenue -- without an internet-sourced impression calculator. If they're one of your "personality rock stars," have them do a Google certification or something similar, even if it isn't exactly what they'll be doing day-to-day. The baseline knowledge and concepts will be invaluable as they get up to speed.
  • Get them in-market. Talking to other industry folks is the fastest way to have them hit that "aha" moment where they actually understand what's going on around them. Bring them along for a vendor meeting or to a low-cost show where they can start to network, but be prepared to help them out with some contacts and meetings.

3. Recognize their value. You spent valuable resources looking for these people and training them -- you need to respect, develop and appreciate them to keep them around. This market is fickle and it's easy to lose all that investment to the guy next door who offers a pay bump and a "senior" at the beginning of their title.

  • Create a growth path. Take the time to sit down with your team members on at least a quarterly basis to set their long-term goals -- and create a plan to help them get there. Because there isn't a one-size-fits-all package for keeping everyone engaged at work, you need to approach each individual's growth plan differently, based on their unique goals and motivators.
  • Build a culture of accountability. Make sure that everyone knows what they are on the hook for and hold them accountable for it -- they will feel motivated to succeed and rewarded when they nail it.
  • Know the difference between office face time and work. Flexibility in work hours and location is table stakes at this point. You need to be willing to be flexible on in-office hours in order to keep top performers, but this only works if you successfully create a culture of accountability first. Your willingness to be flexible also demonstrates trust -- an intangible yet invaluable attribute for any team and organization.

4. Stay relevant. This market is ever-changing, right? Make sure your strategy keeps up.

  • Build short- and long-term strategies. We all have to keep the lights on, so it's important to divide focus between short-term gains that maintain cash flow and long-term strategies that require investment now for large future opportunities. Be clear about who is focusing on each area and how they interrelate. Review these strategies regularly to make sure you're on the right track.
  • Be transparent with the company on what those strategies are. Having a plan doesn't help in this case unless everyone knows what your plan is. Make sure you clearly communicate the overarching direction and goals to the entire organization -- and keep them updated as those plans change (because they will).

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