Joshua Goodall, account director, MEDIAMONKS
A lot of ink has been spilled since McKinsey Engagement Managers Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod published their study in 1997, The War for Talent.
Commentary on the battles waged in the war for talent continue to remain among the top concerns for company leaders. PwC’s longitudinal study – The CEO survey, now in its 24th cycle – has consistently ranked hiring the right talent and developing competitive strategies to upskill workforces as a top priority.
Technology’s potential to replace some talent has now become an additional element to manage in the mix. In 2021, after a global pandemic, the war appears far from over. If anything, things are likely to heat up even more as companies seek to invest heavily to make up lost ground.
MediaMonks merged with S4 Capital in 2018, under the leadership of Sir Martin Sorrell, and over the years we’ve remained acutely aware of the challenges companies face in attracting top talent.
Because we operate at the forefront of digital innovation, I have witnessed first hand the immense pressure placed on Marketing and Technology teams to evolve skills, adapt to the rise of new technologies and shifts in consumer behaviour, while continuing to drive bottom line improvements.
It's a challenge felt universally, whether at the world's leading firms like P&G, Google or Facebook, or local organizations like UNSW, ANZ and NAB. With a need to recruit best-of-breed talent within a competitive marketplace, a new model became needed—one allowing for optimal skills to be brought to bear on marketing challenges with speed, quality and value. A pillar of this approach is the embedded partnerships offering.
The embedded model allows for scalability, responsiveness and deeper engagement on client problems. The name itself gives it away that this is not a tactical engagement, but a commitment for the long-haul to help clients meet their aims—whether integrating into a brand's existing operations or designing a new one.
What sets the embedded model apart is its approach to true, balanced partnership, with both parties equally placed to tackle the task at hand. It is not a labour hire proposition. The immersive nature of the model could easily be mistaken for a ‘hired hands’ upscaling of marketing operations, but that significantly undersells the value of what is offered and can ultimately be achieved.
Rather, at its core, the embedded partnership meets key needs in securing the right skill set and being able to operate within the confines of wider organisational boundaries—particularly with headcount and the need to reduce overhead on hiring new talent.
A key enabler of the embedded partnerships model is that it is operations agnostic. It can effectively integrate into existing marketing operations, or the embedded resource could be there to design new workflows.
“The demand for this type of engagement has been increasing,” notes Vinne Schifferstein, Managing Director of MediaMonks ANZ, as clients weigh the cost of outsourcing production versus bringing a team in-house.
Schifferstein goes on to say: “Being able to run the cost-benefit analysis is a big drawcard for the clients we work with. The fact that the talent we place on embedded engagements are able to bridge the divide between marketing and technology is highly valued as clients continue to break down silos in their operations.” It’s not only Development professionals that MediaMonks embed into client teams. Current engagements include Strategists, CX Planners and Project Managers working hand in glove with client partners in house.
Beyond the financial appeal to procurement teams, who run the numbers across the ledger for these types of engagements, embedded partnerships offer frontline marketing teams access to talent that can be scaled to meet deadlines.
An example of this is the work MediaMonks does within the Banking & Financial sector. Facing compliance milestones, banking clients have actively partnered with us for years to clear backlogs of development work, while keeping an eye to the future on what is the next best step to becoming more customer centric.
From day one, we have been able to augment their offering to the existing tribes working through larger digital transformation projects. There was no increase in communication overhead with onboarding processes and lengthy briefings; rather, teams were able to orient their actions to the business needs and scale up accordingly through our existing channels and workstreams, which served as a conduit between teams and specialists.
The ongoing nature of embedded operations means that marketers gain the long-term benefit of increased knowledge being retained in house, without the expense of training specialists in their respective fields. This in turn is often realised through ‘train the trainer’ type engagements where the initial team member from our team goes on to train other members on workflows, platforms and best practices. By training the next generation of a team, clients are able to continually focus on opening up new ground in their marketing operations, without relinquishing prior gains.
Some may question the effectiveness of a business model where the best and brightest are sent to operate behind the scenes of a client’s business away from management’s direct oversight. As a creative and marketing services partner, we face a risk ourselves that we could lose talent, which is why additional efforts are made to ensure staff on embedded arrangements are nurtured in their career development and rotated out of engagements to avoid burnout and a loss of perspective on the client’s business.
“We make a concerted effort to monitor our team’s performance on embedded partnerships. A big commitment from MediaMonks is that we are equally accountable for achieving success in a client’s business. You don’t get that if the external perspective on a client’s business is lost,” remarks James Patishman, VP Solutions APAC at MediaMonks. “It’s a lot like a diplomat on a regular posting cycle. The minute they go native, the objective is lost,” Patishman adds.
In the 20+ years since the framing of the war for talent identified the need for new strategies to attract, cultivate and retain talented professionals, it is fair to say that the challenge is no longer solely a contest against structural industry forces that lead to talent attrition.
Agility, speed, quality and value are the rules of engagement now more than ever. As the competition for talent has become more like guerilla war, embedded partnerships are fast becoming marketing’s new force multiplier.