#MarTechFest Dial Up: Steven Bartlett on the Talent War

When quizzed on the advice he wish he’d gotten as a young entrepreneur, at this week’s #MarTechFest Dial Up, Steven Bartlett the 28-year-old founder of Social Chain, didn't go overboard.

He didn’t point to anything flashy, anything shiny, anything high-tech. No investing in Apple Stocks, here.

Instead, he suggested something intrinsic, fundamental, and structural. Hiring.

“I wish someone had advised me on hiring really great talent. I thought success would come from my own ability. But in a business, you don’t touch most things.”

At the start of his businesses, Steven would hire “just anyone”. He believed that the success would come from him; his team second.

The first day he hired someone amazing, everything changed. This made him reflect on everyone else in the business. Every success comes from your people, from the contributions of your team. So, hiring talent becomes the backbone of your company.

“The quality of your talent will be the single biggest prediction for your outcome…you are a recruitment company, and this is a talent war”.

So what is the talent war?

2021 has been a difficult time for hiring talent, and 2022 proves to be just as tricky. 

Basically, the biggest shift we've seen in the recruitment world this year is the move to a candidate-driven market. For the first time in a generation, there are more jobs available than candidates, giving job-seekers a higher level of power and an even higher level of flexibility. 

In fact, 48% of employees are actively searching for new opportunities, on top of 38% planning on making a change within the next six months. 

This willingness to up sticks and leave means that candidates can be much more selective about the jobs they apply for. And employers are desperately seeking the skills these clients possess, and their current employees lack. 

With a record 4.3M Americans quitting their jobs in August 2021, this has left marketing agencies in a bit of a pickle. Nearly 35,000 advertising, PR, media, and related marketing services positions have remained unfilled since the start of the pandemic. 

But it's not just a case of filling roles, it's a case of having those roles filled well.

Quality. And quantity. But mostly quality.

For Steven, all this is like running a football team. Who have you got up front, who has your competition got up front?

“Who have you got in defence?” he asks.

This means that the quality of your talent will be the single biggest predictor of your outcome.

So, it’s bizarre that companies focus on other things other than the people. You should be constantly be looking to replace employees with someone better, he says.

But instead, companies tend to focus on things like "lemonade in the fridge" says Steven. 

This is a reference to the approach companies have taken to hiring, and retaining staff, recently. It involves giving employees small, quirky perks in order to improve morale and culture.

For years, companies have spent a lot of money on wacky workplace improvements, in order to attract young talent. Think pingpong tables, jelly bean buffets, Google even offers free gourmet meals and massages. 

Instead, the research shows that companies should invest more in training managers to communicate respectfully, and nurture employee well-being. This is what surveyed employees have said is most important to them - respect. If this comes across in the interviews, your potential employees will note this. 

“We need to respond to these young workers’ need for meaningful work,” says Danielle LaGree, an assistant professor of strategic communication at Kansas State University, “contributing not just to the bottom line of the organisation, but also its purpose.”

Although, the possibility that the industry will adapt to fewer applicants by reducing roles might be more realistic than you'd think.

In fact, Forbes suggests that in 2022, the pendulum will swing back towards a new form of creativity. This will be delivered with a combination of talent enhanced with tech, in order to meet the CMO's demand to do more with less, and with fewer marketing resources.

The skills gap

Though Steven suggests the need to replace employees with better employees, constantly keeping an eye out for new talent, for a lot of companies this is not feasible.

The time and resources aren't there. But a solution to this might be to upskill your existing team. 

The talent war doesn't just stop at roles being unfilled. There's also a question of the skills gap. 

The skills gap doesn't just extend to the people on your team, but to most individuals in the industry. This means, no matter who you hire, the growth of tech will be outpacing them. So, the skills gap is worsening the talent war.

A significant skills gap will lead to a war for talent as adoption of martech continues to accelerate, and, for agencies that are able to lead clients with tried and trusted frameworks for implementation, there will be significant commercial advantage.”

Robert Husband, Media Partner, Moore Kingston Smith

So, what's the solution?

The lack of the in-house skills required to ensure successful initiatives and solve some of the issues around tech integration is a problem that can be addressed through training and development.

In the last 6 months we have seen an overwhelming demand for certification in martech and marketing operations across all industries. From the world’s largest tech companies, to agencies to FMCG and beyond, companies are recognising the need to get more from their tech by upskilling”

Carlos Doughty, CEO & Course instructor, MarTech Alliance

Hate to miss out? Well, you can catch marketing legends Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose's sesh on demand, right here! 👈