Looking for staff in all the right places

Much has been written about the human capital challenges facing companies and industries - high turnover, low morale, and a sense of vulnerability, both in their businesses and to the degree they have been held hostage to the vagaries of a...

Much has been written about the human capital challenges facing companies and industries – high turnover, low morale, and a sense of vulnerability, both in their businesses and to the degree they have been held hostage to the vagaries of a mobile work force. Let’s look at the key factors contributing to the Talent Wars over the past decade:

• High-octane economy, now moving towards flat, possibly negative growth

• Shrinking demographics, and changing demographic behavior

• Chronic under-seeding of

talent due to reduced on-campus recruitment

• Dramatic under-investment in training

• Globalization drawing Canadian talent to U.S. and U.K. epicentres

• Shifting values towards Brand Me, especially amongst gen-Xers

Canada has experienced further erosion of its brain trust because it has been slow to import new blood, and slow to ‘ramp up’ international talent coming from South Africa, U.K., India, and the Middle East; our position has been further diminished as branding responsibilities move south, creating more trade marketing opportunities versus consumer ones.

Consolidation and integration of related goods and services has further reduced the number of traditional options available and accessible to our local talent. The larger issue behind these Talent Wars has been the growing need for more marketing horsepower to help organizations of all types navigate through a cluttered and increasingly competitive marketplace, and to strive to be first to market.

Following is a brief history of industries that have preyed on the classically trained talent found in advertising and consumer packaged goods (CPG) businesses:

1981 – Ad agencies begin aggressively recruiting CPG marketing talent after eliminating on-campus recruitment.

’82 – Energy crisis sparks movement to hire pure marketers into the oil patch versus the traditional, lateral movement of operations talent.

’87 – Deregulation in financial services causes bankers to be reassigned into operations, making room for incoming marketing talent to integrate and consolidate branding efforts for loan, RRSP, and deposit products, and later for mutual fund, insurance, brokerage, discount brokerage, and wealth management acquisitions

’88 – Integrated, below-the-line marketing services blossom, including promotions, sponsorship, event marketing and direct response, followed by research, design, and strategy consultancies.

’90 – Brewery Wars – traditional

marketers are invited to create lifestyle badges to replace the promoted-from-within approach of field-sales reps.

’91 – To defend against the invading Big Box USA, retailers hire traditional talent to create brands and ‘store-in-store’ destinations.

’92 – Telecom industry faces deregulation; subsequently launches comprehensive analogue, then digital wireless, and finally Internet consumer products, then bundles, while also acquiring content to leverage properties.

’93 – Healthcare government funding drying up; pharmaceutical companies pitch directly to patients.

’94 – Crown corporations under pressure for higher profitability; forced to start recruiting marketing talent to help steer consumer spending and opinion.

’95 – Publishers start branding properties and defend against the threat of another national newspaper.

’96 – Software companies begin creating B2C strategies in addition to their B2B platforms.

’97 – Education cutbacks lead to the recruitment of marketers to reposition schools as brands, to attract top-flight students and to stimulate fundraising efforts.

’98 – Fast companies seeking revenue and recognition are now required to market to advertisers and consumers alike, and drive traffic to their Web sites.

’99 – Energy deregulation causes utilities to market themselves as consumer brands.

’00 – Associations import brand-name marketers as their spokespeople rather than using industry-grown talent

Despite the fact that traditional recruiting grounds are depleted, however, there’s a wealth of talent in other industries where traditional marketers have begun to seed their own pool. The onus is on the CPG and advertising industries to start a dialogue with talent that has been brought up in non-traditional categories, albeit ideally by classically trained marketers, to reduce risk.

Try answering this question: It is 1998; you are 22, graduating with a bachelor of commerce and seeking a marketing career. Would you consider Clearnet, Express Vu, Microsoft, CIBC, Canadian Tire, Enbridge, the Globe and Mail, ICE or Royal Canadian Mint, instead of making a pitch directly to Procter & Gamble?

Just as I thought. It’s wartime.

Let’s start recruiting where the best recruits are likely to be found. Once they’re enrolled and on board, we need to focus on how best to stimulate them, challenge them and, ultimately, retain them.

Stefan Danis, president and CEO of Toronto-based Mandrake, can be contacted at danis@mandrake.ca.