In the first agency study of the digital marketing sector, digital marketing recruitment specialists The Candidate quizzed dozens of industry professionals across a variety of positions and levels of seniority.
Their findings show that there is more to the skills shortage than just money as a series of structural factors linked to training, recruitment processes and higher education challenges play out to cause a major headache for agencies and candidates alike.
At the heart of the problem lies the disconnect between many digital native marketers, often graduates of specialist vocational courses holding junior agency positions and senior staff, two-thirds of whom graduated from redbrick universities and without specialist digital marketing backgrounds.
“The research proved incredibly enlightening”, says Candidate’s Managing Partner Colin Telford: “Whilst we hoped it would help identify some of the reasons behind the skills shortage what we didn’t expect to discover were essentially two separate cultures – one predominantly redbrick, the other, graduates of specialist digital marketing courses, both with their own sets of values and motivations and both failing to fully appreciate the needs of the other.”
The divide revealed itself in a variety of ways throughout the research. For instance 100% of senior respondents saw strong interpersonal, client handling and negotiation skills as more important than computing or internet related skills. By contrast more than a third of junior respondents believed creative and technical skills were the most important.
Another example was the marked contrast in salary outlooks. 50% of junior digital marketers believing that salaries would increase by 5-10% over the next twelve months compared to the majority of senior management who see salaries increasing in line with inflation.
Says Candidate’s Brian Matthews: “The closer we looked at the data the more obvious the gap appeared. For example, junior graduates place such a high priority on training that it came out as the single biggest reason that they left their first role. Office location and social factors are also important again outweighing salary as priorities, issues that barely ranked for more senior staff,” Matthews continued, “If agencies don’t clearly understand candidates then how can they expect to appeal to them? On the other hand if candidates fail to appreciate how an agency thinks, how it prioritises then of course there will inevitably frustrations.”
What’s clear from Candidate’s research is that addressing the skills shortage requires a form of realignment – for agencies and candidates to sync better. Not only do agency management call the recruitment shots but it’s clearly in their interests to start developing a better, more nuanced candidate understanding. Candidates too, particularly vocational graduates would be wise to put themselves in the shoes of potential employers and consider the kinds of non technical skills and that their prospective employer valuables.