HR Challenge: How Do Agencies Find Talent?

What are we talking about in this article?

The number of people who have been employed at US advertising agencies has increased by an average of 0.6% between 2017 and 2022. For job seekers and advertising professionals, this news is probably encouraging. But for employers in the marketing and advertising sector, this means that the competition for talent is fiercer than ever before.

Add this on top of the global Great Resignation, when employees across industries are seeking out greener pastures in droves, and employers are coping with massive recruitment and retention challenges.

You can’t just leave the talent management and recruitment process to your HR department — because this issue touches every aspect of your agency, leaders must collaborate to find solutions, using technology and carefully honed strategies.

Project Management

Part I: Talent management

What is talent management?

Talent management is a comprehensive approach to hiring, onboarding, engaging, managing, and retaining your employees to create a cohesive and supportive working environment, one that promotes excellence and growth for every individual and the company as a whole.

This is neither a simple nor short-term project. Talent management is an ongoing process that demands investment and periodic reevaluation on the part of the employer. Each and every employee requires a separate set of strategies and planning, and the entire process only ends when the individual ultimately leaves the company.

Talent management challenges and how to solve them

No one said talent management was easy. There are numerous challenges associated with the process, and it’s important to be aware of them in order to succeed and know where and how to improve your strategy.

1. Poor recruitment strategies

Talent management starts with recruiting. But when there is no solid foundation in place, your practices begin with chaos. Perhaps you don’t know where to look, and your job ads end up in the wrong places or are not being viewed by the best candidates. Or maybe the process simply takes too long, and talented individuals who might very well be excellent candidates drop off, even before you extend them the job offer. You may not have a hiring strategy in place at all.

The fix: Develop a cohesive, solid infrastructure for sourcing candidates, conducting the hiring process, and ensuring a mutually good fit. You need to spend some time creating a plan, identifying the right outlets to advertise the position, and ensuring each role is given the proper attention. Consider how the candidate’s goals align with your organizational mission, and, while you don’t want to rush the process, factor in efficiency, making the process as quick and productive as possible.

Aim to create a talent pipeline, so you have an easier time hiring for future roles. A candidate who isn’t right for one position may very well be better suited to another down the line.

2. Demanding perfection

When employees begin a new job, there is always a learning curve, one that may be steeper depending on the hire’s background, experience, and other factors. But too often, especially in a creative industry like advertising, managers expect far too much of their employees.

The fix: Show empathy and understanding, particularly when you’re onboarding new hires. Develop an onboarding process that allows the employee to acclimate to the new environment and your expectations. Consider the unique needs of each individual.

Three-month evaluations are commonplace across industries, so you may choose to implement the practice. Either way, you should deliver plenty of constructive feedback, helping your employees become accustomed to their responsibilities.

3. Lack of support

Unfortunately, too often, managers are so invested in their own responsibilities that they don’t take the time to give their employees the support they need to do their jobs well and feel satisfied in their roles. This can lead to a lack of motivation and dissatisfaction on the part of the employee.

The fix: Talent management includes ensuring employee engagement. The employer must invest in their employees, giving them support, whether that means one on ones or more frequent check-ins. They should also institute wellness programs to help their workers.

4. Overestimating or underestimating the talent

Perhaps you’ve rushed the hiring process and ended up with a poor fit. Or you simply overestimate the abilities of your employees.

On the flip side, some employees complain about being micromanaged. This, too, can be demoralizing and make your team members feel like they are not being trusted to do their jobs.

The fix: As we’ve underscored, it is critical to consider fit along with abilities when hiring. Once you do find the right candidate, afford them the trust and respect they deserve. Remember that you hired them for a reason, and be careful about allowing them to operate independently.

5. Poor leadership

Ineffective leadership can derail your entire agency. Without well-equipped professionals at the helm, your employees will be working without a clear direction. This will also adversely affect your brand, something that’s critical to uphold.

The fix: Across industries, one problem organizations routinely face is recognizing people for their talent without assessing their managerial capabilities. When promoting or hiring people into management and leadership roles, it is important to consider not only their skills in terms of the work they do but also their ability to guide their team members and nurture their career growth. Agencies can help shape talented individuals into model leaders by, for instance, offering management training when they move into leadership roles.

6. Overreliance or under-reliance on technology

Technology can be enormously helpful in talent management. When you fail to utilize it appropriately, then you introduce problems, such as bias (unconscious or conscious) in the hiring process.

That said, focusing too much on technology can have consequences. The hiring process and talent management process, in general, require a human touch.

The fix: Implement a range of technological solutions, such as applicant tracking systems (ATS), which will reduce bias and streamline your entire recruiting process. Use the data your software generates to make more informed decisions — while remembering to leave complex tasks that require empathy to human professionals.

Time tracking & estimation

Part II: Recruiting talent

What is the recruitment process of an advertising agency like?

Advertising agencies offer a fast-paced, demanding environment. As with any industry, the hiring process will look different depending on the agency itself and the position in question but usually includes methods of sourcing candidates — using recruiters, posting listings on job boards, and so on — screening them, interviewing them, and ultimately extending an offer.

Agencies will want to get a sense of the candidate’s background. Do they have agency experience? Have they worked on a full-time basis, freelance, or a combination of the two? Have they specialized in certain areas or industries?

For creative roles, such as copywriter or designer, the candidate will need to show a portfolio of previous work. Soft skills are also critical, and interviews play a role in helping the hiring manager see competencies like critical thinking, time management, problem-solving, and communication.

Because of the unique nature of advertising, recruiters may employ nontraditional practices when hiring, such as asking for a video resume, too.

8 recruiting challenges and how to overcome them

1. Focusing on your 5 C’s

The 5 C’s — character/credibility, communication, culture, competencies, and confidence — can serve as a guide for values you adhere to when you’re recruiting candidates to your agency, as well what you should look for in the applicants themselves. You want to ensure a fit for both of you.

Make sure your recruiting materials showcase these values, and have an eye on them when reading application materials and interviewing.

2. Attracting the right candidates

When you’re dealing with a large talent pool, how do you find the right candidates? This is one of the biggest challenges advertising agencies face — they need people who are qualified, with the right technical and soft skills.

This, too, demands specificity in your job postings and collateral. Remember that you’re competing against other agencies for high-quality candidates. Promote a strong company culture, one that looks out for the well-being of its employees, with a solid work-life balance and benefits that people really want. This will help you attract the people you really want to the roles at your company.

3. Expanding candidate reach and reducing bias

At the same time, you want to ensure that you’re looking beyond traditional recruiting methods to find talent that you might not be able to find through your typical channels.

Strategies to address this can include expanding your search to multiple social media networks, considering remote work policies that allow you to look across the globe for talent, and creating referral programs that incentivize your current employees to refer people in their network. You should also use software, such as an applicant tracking system (ATS), that helps eliminate bias from the equation.

4. Creating a valuable employer brand

The no. 1 obstacle candidates face when job hunting is not knowing what’s it’s really like to work with an employer, according to a LinkedIn report. Meanwhile, 75% of job seekers say they consider the employer’s brand before they even apply for a position.

You need to work on building up your brand in order to attract top talent, as well as keep your employees happy during their tenure at your organization. This is an ongoing process that requires a multi-channel investment, from your website to social media to print advertising.

This also requires promoting positive company culture. It probably comes as no surprise that current and former employees talk about their experiences, and candidates will listen. So, it is critical that you build a positive reputation by, for example, generating meaningful content and offering excellent benefits.

5. Hiring fast

The hiring process can take a long time, although exact lengths of time vary from industry to industry and organization to organization. But when you drag it out, you’re losing money, and you could be missing out on top talent as well. Moreover, the longer you spend on recruiting, the longer your position remains vacant.

In order to hire the best talent quickly, you need to reassess your recruiting and hiring practices. Consider how each stage contributes to finding the right person for the role, and if you realize that you aren’t necessarily aiding operations with a specific step, think about how you can shorten it or eliminate it altogether.

Look at your data to assist you with shortening your process, too, and don’t forget about the many tools you can use to speed things along, such as ATS software and candidate relationship management (CRM) systems.

Make an effort to keep your candidates engaged, too, by informing them about steps and stages and helping them stay apprised of your progress.

Resource Management

6. Data-driven recruitment

Recruitment can’t be driven by intuition. You must have concrete data analytics to support your strategies. Without it, you will be operating blindly and continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Fortunately, today, there are many tools to help you generate, collect, and process data. Through comprehensive dashboards, found on a variety of systems, from CRMs to ATS software to Google Analytics, you can track metrics, view thorough reports, and observe a variety of concrete data to enable you to make informed decisions.

Your human resources department and hiring managers can work together to formulate key performance indicators (KPIs) concerning each position you’re looking to fill. From there, you can use the data you collect to identify qualified candidates and ensure you’re meeting your goals, all thanks to the metrics you are tracking.

You can also use your data to hone your recruitment process for the future. For example, it will help you identify the best keywords to utilize — enabling you to write better job descriptions — and see where lags are occurring during hiring.

7. Experimenting with different methods of engagement

Keeping candidates engaged throughout the hiring process is a delicate thing. And it starts from the very beginning when you’re implementing initiatives to attract the right talent. How do you source candidates effectively and keep them invested from beginning to end?

Another challenge is that when you’re going after top talent, you’re competing against other advertising agencies who want to bring these candidates on board, too. So, you need to find ways to both encourage them to apply and ultimately choose you.

You will need to conduct a fair amount of research to find out how to best appeal to and reach your prospective candidates. Remember that passive candidates, those who are not actively looking for a job, can often make the best choices — these are people who may not be comparing offers, although you will need to sway them to leave their current posts. Some agencies use recruiters to help them with the process of identifying potential fits on sources like LinkedIn.

Remember to use automation and other technology to help you, too. For example, you can tap into your talent pipeline and send personalized, targeted emails for open positions through systems like a CRM.

Of course, as we’ve discussed, you will need to shorten the timeline on the talent acquisition and hiring process as well — candidates will become discouraged and drop off if you leave them hanging.

8. Creating an efficient recruiting process

The ultimate goal of an agency, in terms of its recruitment process, is to fill open positions efficiently with quality professionals, no matter what their area of the business, whether it’s creative, financial, or administrative.

The candidate’s experience should be a positive one, as should that of the HR manager or recruiter and the hiring manager.

In collaboration with technology, agencies can find the best fits for their organization — and keep them engaged throughout their tenure.

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