Big Data, People Analytics, and the future of executive recruitment

Bringing in new staff to run and, hopefully, improve the performance of a business means that payroll – alongside commercial rent – is often the biggest expense a company faces; but a typical business knows comparatively little about the real motivational factors that drive their workforce once they have got them through the door.

What if smart use of data could help firms understand their employees better? How would that change the criteria on which they base their hiring choices?

Big Data is usually talked about in terms of what it can do for consumers and customer relationships, but what happens when you apply its principles to staffing?

What happens when a firm starts to look scientifically at information about its employees? What happens when it starts to apply People Analytics?

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Five key tips when recruiting for senior management roles

MTA media headhuntersIn the last 12 months a good proportion of my time has been spent recruiting for senior management roles, particularly leaders for B2B information businesses.

Appointing and interviewing candidates for a number of similar roles in a short (ish) period of time has lead to a series of commonalities emerging; a number of key qualities employers are really looking for, those that make good senior management candidates stand out from the field.

Here are my five key things to look for when recruiting for senior management roles:

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Recruiting digital executives? Do they know how mobile ad-blocking could affect your firm?

Here’s a potentially concerning development all media owners would be advised to keep an eye on: this week, the Financial Times revealed ‘several’ mobile operators are proposing to lock advertising on their networks, with one European provider preparing to do so before the end of this year.

If you’re thinking of recruiting digital executives in the next 12-months, this could be a live issue with which they (and you) might have to deal.

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Gamification in recruitment: are firms missing an opportunity?

Gamification is increasingly touted as a way for big firms to improve recruitment programmes, staff training and retention, but if the results of a recent survey are to be believed (and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t) wholesale uptake isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

The report – commissioned by people management firm Penna – found that far from rushing to bring gamification technologies in to their recruitment programmes, many companies have no interest in adopting its techniques.

In addition, the survey found, despite gamification currently being bang on-trend in the HR and recruitment sectors, 89 per cent of employees had never actually heard the term.

Gamification may be in vogue, but when Penna asked leading HR directors about its use in the workplace, and 70 per cent said it had never been used at their organisation.

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Digital recruitment: where is Britain’s fastest growing tech hub?

Off the top of your head can you guess where Britain’s fastest growing technology hub is located?

East London? Manchester? Cambridge? Liverpool?

Nope, it’s none of those places. According to this year’s Tech Nation report, Bournemouth is by some distance the fastest-expanding tech cluster in the country. Between 2013 and 2014, it saw a 212% rise in new tech companies forming. It’s growing nearly twice as fast as Liverpool, its nearest rival.

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Publishing recruitment: programmatic to drive digital jobs boom in 2015

Online publishing businesses in the UK expect to be at the heart of a 2015 recruitment boom driven by the adoption of programmatic advertising systems, according to research released this month.

Data from the annual Association of Online Publishers’ Organisation Census said 71% of online publishers in the UK expect to recruit additional staff in the coming year – the highest percentage seen since the survey began in 2003.

Recruitment and skills development is now a key investment area for online publishers, according to the AOP, as the industry begins, at speed, to adopt the use of programmatic trading.

The results of the AOP Census mark something of a turnaround from last summer when a separate survey found nearly a third of all publishers in the UK – online and offline – hadn’t even heard of programmatic advertising.

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Recruiting for change management: six key considerations

Use of MOOCs in educational publishingAs an executive search firm serving the media and information sectors, a large number of recent briefs have focused on hiring people to drive or assist transformational or cultural change within a client organisation.

The majority of our clients have been looking for executives and managers with a proven track record in changing the way teams work and/or think.

For the hiring firm it’s often difficult to know the exact qualities they should look for when hiring new people to bring change to their business. What makes a good manager of change? It can be so different from one business to the next, it’s often difficult to draw up a specific list of requirements. There are, however, a few fundamentals – things to look for – that hiring firms should take into consideration when recruiting for change management.

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Recruiting a Head of Digital? Have you considered these six key issues first?

MTA media headhuntersWhile Martin Tripp Associates specialise in filling high-level positions right across the media sector, the vast majority of searches we’ve completed over the last three or four years have had one thing in common: nearly all of them have been about finding executives to assist in a transition from print to digital, or increasingly, from one kind of digital presence to a more advanced one.

In that context, the job title ‘Head of Digital’ can seem anachronistic. After all, if your business is digital-first (as many of our clients now are) then virtually every department – editorial, sales, marketing, product development, the lot – should have digital skills at the core.

However, some clients still have successful print businesses with separate digital teams that need to be managed. In that context, when they’re recruiting a Head of Digital, what they really need a matrix-managing figure to establish digital best-practice across the business.

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What do they know about data? Two key themes to explore when recruiting content managers

Data, data, data… it’s everywhere. Regardless of whether your role is commercial or creative, a good understanding of the uses of data is evermore important if you want to progress.

As an executive search firm used to hiring content teams and senior digital heads, we work closely with client organisations to source the best possible candidates – and questions about their knowledge and experience of working with data are asked increasingly.

One of the growing requirements for content specialists, we have found, is knowing what data to gather, analyse, and how to use that to personalise, and successfully shape on-going content programmes, build a loyal following, and convert into leads, and eventually customers.

Now, content managers don’t have to be data specialists, but a bit of knowledge can be very useful.

So when recruiting content managers, a hiring firm might be tempted to look for candidates with a good understanding of how to use data constructively and in a way that is timely, cost-effective, and entirely practical for their business.

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Six key skills to look for when recruiting general managers for global teams

As an executive search firm which specialises in making senior leadership hires in the media and information sector, we are often asked to find general managers who have a track record in leading international/global teams.

Many of our clients have operations in the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas, as well as in Europe.

Leaders who have experience of managing geographically-disparate and culturally-varied teams are essential if these firms are going to work well and in a cohesive fashion.

When recruiting global team managers, a hiring firm should look for a candidate who has experience in, and insists on, these core competencies:

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Current affairs print magazines thrive as others decline

Cover of the Economist magazine

Earlier this month my eye was drawn to an unexpected stat amid the latest crop of ABC figures; amongst the various lists of declining circulations was a rare piece of good news: the UK’s current affairs magazine market is, if not booming, at least outperforming the rest of the market by quite some distance.

A quick look at the figures suggests at least half the titles have grown circulation year-on-year, some quite substantially. When you consider the current climate for print media, that’s an astonishing achievement.

Big beasts like The Economist, The Week, and Private Eye, all continue to put in a strong showing. Two of those three are still growing and while Private Eye’s sales have dipped slightly, they retain the highest paid circulation figures in the sector. Our good friends at Prospect magazine are also on the up, as are Monocle, New Statesman, The Spectator and the possibly miscategorised BBC History magazine.

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Facebook At Work: will executive search firms use it like LinkedIn?

Media recruiting: Facebook logoWorkers rejoice! The days of firms barring employees from looking at social networking websites could be at an end. Why? ‘Cause Facebook is aiming to help everyone do their jobs just that little bit better…

In-house recruitment professionals should be especially excited by news that Facebook has launched a new social network specifically for office communications – it’s called Facebook At Work.

The speculative amongst you may care to think that sounds a bit like Facebook making inroads into LinkedIn’s territory, albeit in a different way – we’ll come to that…

So far just a handful of companies have be asked to join an extended trial of Facebook At Work, but the service is expected to be rolled out to the wider business community in the coming months of 2015.

Like its big sister site, Facebook At Work lets users create an account, post content, and interact. But instead of doing that with friends, it’s with co-workers.

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Personalisation: it seems to work, yet more than a third don’t bother

The coming of the New Year brings with it an annual rush of predictions on the trends and technologies that will dominate the next twelve months for those businesses keen to use digital channels to expand and improve the way the talk to – and do business with – their customers.

In the latest of these predictions, Tech Radar said last month the key trend for retail technology in the next 12-months would be the rise of ‘hyper-personalisation’. Instead of looking at portfolios of individuals, customer management would instead be looking at customer persona as a way to drive innovation and keep shoppers engaged.

“Only by serving the changing needs, preferences and behaviour of the customer,” it said, ‘will retailers and brands be able to meet today’s hyper-connected consumers on their terms, across all channels of interaction.”

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Key hires for 2015: recruiting product managers

MTA media headhuntersAt the start of 2015 I went back and had a good long look over our recent completed searches. One thing really stood out: over the last four years, the number of product management roles we’d been asked to fill has increased dramatically. Four or five years ago we’d barely been approached to place one product manager, we’re now doing at least four or five every year.

For businesses still struggling with a print-to-digital transition, or even if you’re a well-established online player, product manager is an essential position. Why then, do so many media businesses seem to struggle with the discipline? Why do so many struggle when recruiting product managers?

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Publishers need social referrals: so why have so few tapped into Pinterest?

Mention Drudge Report to any web publisher and they’re likely to grow wistful and yearn for the days when a single link from the site could send their annual traffic sky-high.

With few referral sites, small audiences and less competition, things were simpler for web publishers in the not-so-distant past. What traffic a site drew was usually direct, or via a search engine, and the volume of pages published on any given day often determined the size of the audience.

Fast-forward to today and the situation couldn’t be more different: the competition for eyeballs is more fierce than ever and (thanks to social media) the number of high-volume referrers has gone through the roof.

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Social isn’t just bringing new skills to customer service – it can also change its function

Picture the situation: your firm is an airline, a customer enraged by the delay in getting back to him about lost baggage pays to promote a tweet about the ‘horrendous’ customer service. It gets seen by 76,000 people, what do you do?

Well, if you’re British Airways, you take eight hours to reply, enrage him all the more with your excuse, and carve out your own little corner of Internet infamy.

Customer Services may once have been the preserve of call centres but now, thanks to social media, it has become a high-stakes game. Not only do firms have to deal with a new channel, they also have to deal with a new culture. Now, customer grievances and the responses they bring are aired in public. If your firm gets it wrong it could end up like BA – with a black mark that (despite all recent improvements to social customer service) remains shareable and searchable.

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What major themes did we cover in this media recruitment blog in 2014?

Trying to set the year gone in some kind of context is always tough – and 2014 has proved no different. Often, the problem is trying to distinguish how the previous 12 months differed from those that preceded them. That’s not an issue this year; so much has happened, it’s hard to know where to start.

My partner in crime Albert Ng has already rounded-up his key themes of the recruitment sector in 2014, so I’ll limit my review to the topics that have dominated this blog in the last 12-months (Ye shall know them by their fruits, and all that). So, what exactly have we spent 2014 writing about?

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Five trends that dominated media headhunting in 2014

MTA media headhuntersIt seems like 2014 has shot by in a blur. The executive search industry moves fast, and for us this year seems to have moved particularly quickly. Yet, here we are with the calendar year drawing to a close. Well, what better time could there to pause and look back at some of the major trends and challenges that clients (and us headhunters) have witnessed and undergone in that time?

Here is my guide to the major themes of 2014 for headhunters and their clients:

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Can gamification final make a mark on the recruitment sector in 2015?

With Christmas round the corner you’d think weary journalists and bloggers would begin to relax, to picture mince pies and a warming fire. This isn’t the case. Around now, fear rises. The mouth gets dry, the head light. They know it’s inevitable: any minute now the editor will lumber over and ask the question they’ve spent most of December hoping to avoid:

“Old chap,” the editor says. “Fancy writing a few hundred on what’s going to be big next year?”

Dusting off the crystal ball is amongst the most loathed of journalistic tasks: when asked to make predictions on what will set a certain industry alight in the next 12 months, it’s usually a toss-up between making grand proclamations that immediately turn you into a hostage to fortune, or saying so little as to barely cast your imagination forward at all. In short, it’s an unenviable task. But that said, let’s give it a go anyway…

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Are you successfully tracking your content marketing efforts?

Content marketing. It’s come to save us all, hasn’t it? With consumers looking around every available social network for information and entertainment, all brands have to do is provide satisfying content and in return people will be only to pleased to fill their coffers. Right?

Well, stone me. It’s a little bit more complicated than that. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, brands are either having difficulty (or simply not bothering to…) to measure the value of their work.

Just 21 per cent of B2B marketers claimed they were successfully tracking the ROI of their content marketing campaigns.

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Programmatic ads, Martin Sorrell, and what they mean for agency and other media jobs

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal summed it up succinctly: some brands, it said, are increasingly using programmatic systems to buy digital ads themselves, rather than paying third parties to do so for them. A survey from Forrester Research and the Association of National Advertisers suggests a reason: it says 46% of marketers are concerned about the transparency of agencies tasked to buy online ads. Put simply, if the agency doesn’t tell you how much of your money its live buying desk spending on ads, and how much it’s taking as a fee, fears can spread.

(If you’re unsure of what programmatic ads are – might be an idea to pause here and read this…)

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Five key mistakes firms repeatedly make when recruiting senior executives

MTA media headhuntersHiring the right senior talent into your business can be a time-consuming and expensive process. That’s where engaging the right executive search team to source talent can be crucial – it’s a time-saving and, ultimately, cost-effective process.

Time and time again we see hiring managers do things that, in the long-run, set them back. Common mistakes get made and, if not put right, they can repeatedly cost the hiring firm.

Here’s a quick and easy guide to the type of mistakes that occur time and again when recruiting senior executives – and the simple steps that can be put in place to rectify them:

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As headhunters, one of the questions we get asked most (other than ‘how much is it paying?’) is ‘how is our company perceived out in the wider market?’ It’s something of which busy company directors can easily lose sight. In fact, I’ve been asked that question twice this week.

The nature of my executive recruitment job means I talk to hundreds of people every week, and in doing so I pick up an enormous amount of chatter about how happy (or unhappy) people are in their roles. Sometimes the reasons are personal – say, a lack of opportunities for progression. At other times, they’re directly related to office culture. We get a lot of the latter. If you’re in senior management in the media, the chances are we have a better idea of how prospective employees perceive your company than you do.

Earlier this week, I spent a fascinating half-hour or so on For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a bit like Tripadvisor for job seekers. It give people an opportunity to hear a number of views on what it’s like to work somewhere, before they sign on the dotted line. On my first visit, I immediately looked up 20 companies I’ve worked extensively for in the past. And on every single occasion, the feedback was pretty much as I’d expected.

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Paddy Power: edgy content marketing, banded ads

If you’re a upstart brand looking to carve a sizeable place in your market and grow quickly, then a little controversy never really hurts. The theory goes that nothing stretches the money you have available for publicity like running edgy campaigns that risk censure.

Step forward online bookmaker Paddy Power and its roster of ads featuring the tranquillizing of chavs, tasering tea ladies, and refund offers if Oscar Pistorious was found not guilty – an ad eventually banned by the authorities.

Paddy Power has deliberately set out to drive business forward with an edgy and irreverent content marketing strategy that appeals to its target audience of young men, but the online bookmaker’s approach isn’t simply a matter of producing shocking ads time and time again, it’s more nuanced.

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Programmatic ads: can they disrupt agencies and threaten ad sales jobs?

If you buy ad space on behalf of advertisers and a technology comes along that, almost overnight, undermines your business model and makes it staggeringly easy for clients to place ads themselves, you might well have a few sleepless nights, perhaps even considering what other ad sales jobs are available.

Well, say hello to ‘programmatic advertising’.

The term isn’t one familiar to many, but for those focused on the future of ad sales and marketing, programmatic advertising is rapidly becoming the thing that dominates their thinking.

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Clickbait won’t help local newspaper business models, building communities will

A few weeks ago, a disgruntled newspaper journalist said to me “the rationale seems to be ‘why bother doing your USP well, when you can do the ubiquitous badly?’” It’s a question many journalists of my acquaintance have been struggling with. I’m sure they would sympathise with Gareth Davies, Chief Reporter at the Croydon Advertiser, who publicly vented his fury on Twitter after fellow Local World website, the Maidstone & Medway News, ran a story on the celebrity nude photo hacking scandal.

I’m sure most people would agree this isn’t a story of immediate relevance to the Maidstone & Medway area, and many journalists of my acquaintance are queasy to say the least about the proliferation of ‘clickbait’. The website’s editor, Simon Finlay, defended the decision, saying “we’re trying to drive an audience to our site… [these stories] do get us thousands of hits and that’s a good thing.”

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The costs of making bad executive appointments – and how to avoid them

MTA media headhuntersBad senior or executive appointments, most businesses have made them. An established firm would be hard-pressed not to have made a bad hire or two in their time; it’s almost unavoidable. The trick is to learn from that and to reduce the number you make in future. But how do you go about doing that?

The biggest error an organisation can make – especially when it comes to senior management – is choosing the wrong candidate for the role – trying to make a square peg fit a round hole. This may sound obvious but getting the candidate wrong is still a widespread problem.

According to a global survey of 6,000 HR and hiring managers carried out by Careerbuilder, 62% of UK firms admitted to having made poor appointments.

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How analysis and data skills can change the way executives make big decisions

One of the knock-on effects of digital technology is that like never before business leaders can draw on enriched information when making critical choices – but do they really let data rule, or are experience, intuition and gut feeling still the keys to successful management?

In recent weeks we’ve looked at several ways data gathered through digital sources is changing business. We’ve examined how supermarkets are using technology to revolutionise retail, how knowledge of data can help you get a job in both the editorial and commercial departments of a newspaper, we’ve even looked at growing data use in education and how the difficulties of understanding Big Data are, in some instances, restricting the development of personalised, one-on-one marketing.

In short, what we’ve seen is that analysis and data skills will be key to an array of future jobs.

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How Domino’s pizza uses mobile marketing and ordering to drive sales

None of us needs a technology worthy or a digital consultant on £100 an hour to understand the importance of mobile devices. Cast a glance down any high street and you’ll soon get an idea for how inseparable we all are from our phones. Even Google tells us now that more searches are made via mobile or tablet device than via desktop.

Why then have so many businesses failed to create dedicated mobile sites or build specialist optimisation into their existing digital platforms? Do they think – unlike them – everyone else is happy to endlessly scroll, searching for a button or link that’s impossible to press?

Well, not so Domino’s Pizza. A couple of years ago the fast food chain took the decision to use mobile – on its own terms – as the venue to drive for competitive advantage.

Nick Dutch, head of digital at Domino’s UK, told the Smart Insight’s Digital Impact conference, in London earlier this week, how his firm had adopted a mobile-first strategy and sought to grow sales by focusing on this channel.

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Tesco’s retail media revolution continues with health-themed ‘hackathon’

Tesco Labs, the supermarket’s digital innovation wing, is running a 48-hour ‘hackathon’ next month to spur the development of health-themed technologies for its customers.

The supermarket has made an open invitation to computer coders, designers, and those working in tech marketing and business development to attend the weekend event in London, starting on September 12.

The aim of the hackathon is to develop retail media ideas that can help Tesco’s customers make healthier food choices in store and online.

In addition, Tesco is keen to explore how it can share data to help customers understand their own behaviour, compare their food choices with others, share tips and advice, and track and find out more about what they’re buying and eating.

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