Campaign India Team
Dec 18, 2012

Lack of company strategy frustrates digital talent: Randstad

One reason companies are finding it hard to recruit talent is that stated requirements are at odds with the actual job offered, says the recruitment firm.

Keegan: companies often lack concrete social media strategy
Keegan: companies often lack concrete social media strategy

“Many companies say they need people for digital marketing, and in particular, social media but often they have no strategy in place or know what they want the person they’ve hired to do,” said Brien Keegan, director of Randstad Hong Kong.

Often, he said, companies end up hiring someone to “build a Facebook page” without first determining if a Facebook page is what the company needs. These companies also prefer not to hire digital talent at a strategic level, however digital marketers feel they need to be able to control the company’s digital strategy–leading to a gap in expectations.

“Our World of Work report for example, finds that companies in Hong Kong are looking for middle managers to focus more on execution and tactical duties. However digital marketers prefer to control strategy and to not be involved in tactical operations and execution,” said Keegan.

The upshot of it all is that companies are hiring technical experts to execute a strategy they don’t yet have but are refusing to hire talent who can build that strategy. As a result of this disconnect between employer demands and employee expectations, talent across all sectors (not just digital marketing) are discontented.

According to Randstad’s World of Work report, 58 per cent of employees across Asia-Pacific expect to leave their jobs either this year or next. Considering that 68 per cent of companies expect skilled knowledge workers to make up the majority of their workforce in the next five years, and that 51 per cent believe ageing workforces will impact businesses negatively in the next decade, the region could be headed for a talent crisis, said Randstad.

“It’s a ticking time bomb and companies need to wise up that retention is as important as talent acquisitions,” said Keegan.

A major challenge to retention is that that many organisations aren’t willing train, coach or develop talent. This reluctance seems self damaging considering 46 per cent of employers feel that staff are leaving because of insufficient training and development. On the talent side, 48 per cent of employees agree that there is a lack of opportunity for development and training in organisations.

“For corporations looking to grow in new areas such as digital, it’s a good idea to look at available talent and see who is interested, passionate and willing to be trained,” said Keegan. The advantage of this approach is you gain talent who already understand your business and its goals but now have the requisite skills to fulfil the job.

Corporate reluctance to train talent however, could be partly due to a lack of effective and easily available training programmes in this sector–that don’t take too much time commitment. Jonathan Lang, director of Decoded Asia, hopes to fill this gap by importing the training initiative from London to Asia.

Decoded was first established in London last year by former ad creative Steve Henry, ex Ogilvy planners Kathryn Parsons and Richard Peters and award-winning web developer Alisdair Blackwell. The programme promises to teach participants to code HTML5, CCS and JavaScript in a day.

While Decoded is largely patronised by the agencies in London, Lang found that there was greater interest client-side for the upcoming 'pop-up-shop' initiative in late January next year.

“Decoded won’t turn people into expert programmers in a day, but it provides attendees with the fluency to talk to developers and to understand what’s possible and what isn’t,” said Lang. Clients he said, are interested because they realise that a better grasp on digital would help them make better business decisions in the space and around cost control.

While programmes like Decoded answer the need for technical skills, it’s the soft skills that are most in demand in Asia-Pacific, said Keegan. “Any digital marketer today needs strong communications skills as often they will have to work across teams and organisations.”

Talent who gravitate naturally to programming often don’t come equipped with these communications skills and require strong leadership and nurturing to reach their full potential.

Organisations in Asia are facing a transitory stage between the old way of marshalling low-skilled workers and the need to change over to leading a team of skilled professionals, said Keegan. “At present, 34 per cent of employees don’t trust their leaders, either because they regard them as unable to handle current day problems, or because they’ve lost touch with their bosses.”

There is also a persistent “hangover” from the financial Tsunami where many employees were laid off, particularly in the financial sectors leading to a lack of trust in upper management.

“Based on feedback, leaders who want to earn the respect and trust of their teams need to be present and involved in the trenches,” said Keegan.

The article first appeared on Campaign Asia