Talent War - Agencies and their 2023 recruitment plans

Ashley Regan
By Ashley Regan | 30 January 2023
Credit: Piotr Dhrobot via Unsplash

Agencies are finding stability and are hiring slower as talent shortages ease in 2023.

However, they are still combating the effects of 2022’s recruitment scramble and high churn rate. AdNews reveals how agencies plan to extinguish these relentless obstacles. 

Nicole Gardner, general manager at marketing agency Edge, said: “Over the last 12-18 months, we have seen a need to hire fast and have contracts ready to sign even before having met a candidate. 

“The calmer market will allow for a more considered approach. We’ll see more return to the old adage ‘hire slow’.”

Jules Brahe, business director at data-driven media agency The Pistol, said: “A healthy chunk of our new recruits are coming from internal referrals, and we are finding stability in average staff tenure." 

Despite the clearer skies, agencies are investing in education to relieve the effects of last year's fast seniorising of inexperienced people and staggering salaries.

Brahe said: “We’re definitely feeling the crunch in middle management. People currently in these [accelerated] roles who are looking for their next step are not at the level we would expect. 

“If not managed appropriately, this could have a flow on effect to the quality of delivery for clients. 

“Our approach is to personalise learning programs in alignment with both the goals of the individual as well as the skills required to deliver exceptional work for clients.”

Jen Sharpe, founder and managing director at Think HQ, said: “The balance is slowly tipping back towards a shared value approach between employer and employee, which is much healthier.  

“As a result, I think many agencies are currently working out culturally, who fits and who doesn’t. 

“I also think that with economic conditions tightening, many agencies will be having a good hard look at the output of employees who commanded really high salaries at the height of the frenzy and will be assessing overall value.”

Similarly, marketing recruiters widely predict that with economic uncertainty ahead many agencies will start to hire more freelancers and temporary workers while pulling back on permanent employment. 

Jules Hall, CEO The Hallway, also agrees the percentage of contract workers is increasing and thinks agencies need to start strengthening their recruitment muscle.

“Agencies are going to be spending a lot more time sourcing talent and they need to recognise that’s a specialist skill,” Hall said.

“Pricing is critical. Agencies cannot use retainer pricing in a project world. Their costs have increased - both on an hourly basis, and the time it takes to manage and recruit contract talent. 

“Agencies need to prioritise their employer brand and focus on their team’s employment experience. The best freelancers are in hot demand. You need to manage them well and nurture those relationships. Just as you do with your full-time people.

“Get this right and agencies will thrive. Especially when the economy slows, and their clients’ headcount freezes force them to lean more heavily on their agency partners.”

However, not all agencies agree that there will be a mass trend of hiring contract workers to relieve the pressures of hiring permanent staff.

Virginia Hyland, CEO Havas Media Group, said: “We have no intention in hiring contractors for ongoing roles. Our clients are optimistic about the future and so are we.”

Paul Hutchison, Bohemia CEO, said: "I don't think it's an either or."

But "If there's one thing we have learnt from the past couple of years it's the need to be flexible and innovate. We apply this approach to all aspects of our business including how we build a motivated and high performing team delivering brilliant work for our clients."

Gardner at Edge said: “We have long adopted a mixed model of full-time employees and ‘permalances’ – ongoing contractors who prefer more flexible working arrangements as a lifestyle choice. 

“This model works well with the variable work loads of project based clients, while having the right people with the relevant expertise or experience, fulfilling the different types of roles."

Sam Buchanan, CEO of IMAA, said: “The IMAA’s members have not reported any moves towards recruiting freelancers or contractors for the year ahead."

Instead the Independent Media Agency Association reports that the talent pool remains challenging because international workers have not returned en masse.

As a result, “the IMAA is addressing this by launching a special initiative in the UK and an education platform to attract the next generation of indie agency leaders to the sector," Buchanan told AdNews.

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