November 26, 2019

Understanding the Changing Talent Marketplace

Written By: Angie Pascale

Talent is one of the most critical aspects of success to any agency. Attracting, retaining and growing that talent is a daily challenge for every agency, regardless of size, location or service offering. 

And while this attention to talent has always been important, there is a major change happening in the talent landscape. The gig economy, evolving professional and personal motivations, increased competition--these things are changing how talent look for jobs, why they stay with a company, and how they value their contribution. To find the best talent and keep them around for longer, agencies need to understand and adapt to these changes. 

At Colab 2019, our Global Summit in Singapore, industry leaders at several media publishers, tech companies, and advertising agencies shared the following insights on the changing talent marketplace.

Globalized Culture of Individualism

“We require [employees] to be part of something larger, yet the market rewards those with an individual vision,” Jean-Michel Wu with Grace Blue Partnership stated. This paradox has led to a global culture of individualism and independence. It’s not just the often-criticized millennials. People of every age want to express their uniqueness and identity. 

One way that WPI Partner Agencies are allowing talent to express their individualism is by participating in talent exchange programs. With more than 67 agencies in over 40 countries, the WPI global network of independent agencies provides numerous opportunities for partners to exchange talent around the world. These programs create inspiring, challenging and singular experiences for employees, ones that allow them to enhance their learning, connect with others, see the world, and contribute to something larger than themselves.   

WPI Partners The Union in Scotland and Advance in Denmark recently particpated in a talent exchange program.

The Freedom of Freelance

The gig economy is creating a major migration in the world of advertising and marketing. More and more people are freelancing, and in fact, it’s predicted that there will be more freelancers than full-timers by 2027 in the United States. 

Brett Barfoot with Grace Blue Partnership and Cavalry Freelancing shared predictions for the freelance marketplace 

  • Freelancing offers a number of benefits to all parties:
  • Brands are more nimble in how and when they scale
  • Agencies can cover more volatility as clients move from retainer-based to project-based engagements
  • Agencies can offer a wider variety of skillsets without the costs and risks of building in-house capabilities
  • Freelancers are given more choices, more opportunities and more flexibility in their schedules

To directly address this desire for freedom and flexibility, WPI Partner Mering in Sacramento, California is offering unlimited PTO and flex time. “It didn’t really matter how competitive we were on the salary side, this time-off issue is really important to them,” added Lori Bartle, President of Mering. 

These additional perks still take priority, no matter what part of the world you’re in. Cairo Marsh, Managing Partner of WPI Partner Agency relativ* in Japan, explained: “The flexibility that people want these days, it’s important, and it also shows that we value the way that people work and that we trust them enough that they’re going to do their jobs.” 

David Luhr, Chairman with Wieden+Kennedy, summed it up nicely: “If you believe in independence, you have to give your people independence.” 

Putting Values Above Finances

According to Jean-Micheal Wu, the majority of people are making decisions about employment based on values, rather than and often even at the cost of financial gains. “A company’s ethics and transparency can be as important as an actual job description at attracting new hires and retaining key talent,” Jean-Michel stated. 

He went on, “What employers are dealing with is a generation who feel a need to be true to who they are, and are less inclined to compromise their values for a job.” 

As independent agencies, we’re better able to create and promote these value propositions over larger holding companies. John Keane, CEO with WPI Partner Ardmore in Northern Ireland and WPI Chairman explained: “As business owners, we can be agile and make the changes that make our agencies great places to work...we’re able to create an environment that these guys want to work in.” 

Stephen Brown, CEO with WPI Partner FUSE Marketing Group in Canada, added, “From a recruiting perspective, being independent has totally worked in our favor. Anyone that has worked at a holding company who is good talent are more than happy to come over.”

Doing Meaningful Work

Wieden+Kennedy knows how to keep employees. It’s not because they have an open work-from-home policy. It’s not because they have unlimited beer on tap. It’s not even because they pay well. 

While these perks may be offered, David Luhr shared the real reason that W+K talent stick around: “We make sure they have a great client list to work on. That’s what they really want.” 

David Luhr, Chairman of Wieden+Kennedy, discussing how to build a culture and give your people what they really want.

Yet, “a great client list” can be subjective. What one person views as a dream brand may not be that exciting for another. That’s why Ardmore lets their staff decide. “We never take part in any pitch without the entire agency being asked do they want to...everybody gets a vote,” said John Keane. This creates a level of onus and contribution among staff to work with the right clients, at the right time. “On that basis there are quite a few [pitches] that are turned down. And some are accepted, not because they’re commercially fantastic for the business, but because people really want to work on work with purpose.”  

Dooj Ramchandani, Co-Founder of Blink Digital in Mumbai, India further explained, “people want to see their work getting some impact, awards are one way to see that you’re getting validated for the work that you’re doing. 

Investing in People

One of the biggest investments our partner agencies are currently making across all aspects of their business is in people. Ardmore has two dedicated people at the agency focused solely on talent training and growth. 

FUSE Marketing Group is investing in people through two new comprehensive data platforms, which will allow talent to perform their jobs in a more efficient and productive manner. 

Blomquist Communication in Sweden encourages their talent to educate themselves, and supports them by providing two weeks off to go back to school or attend training. 

Representatives for WPI Agency Partners Blomquist Communications, FUSE Marketing Group, Mering, and Ardmore speaking with Robert Sawatzky of CampiagnAsia at the WPI Global Summit in Singapore.

Jean-Michel explained how people--good people--can also attract others top talent, “Hire best-in-class leaders, not just to fulfill roles, but to position them as beacons to attract others is one of the most important things to do.” 

The importance of finding, retaining and developing world-class talent will always be a challenge for independent agencies, and truly, every companies across all verticals. Understanding the changing talent landscape, recognizing the motivations of your people, and being imaginative with compensation and reward structures can help to position your agency as desirable long-term employer.

Written By: Angie Pascale