2016 marks twenty years since I became a headhunter. While that makes me feel incredibly old, it has been a fascinating time to be an observer of the media landscape across the UK and beyond.
When I first started, the internet existed, but was a hard-to-use and limited resource with dial-up access. Email also existed, but not in my office (we relied on faxes). Things were changing, yes; but no-one had really grasped the magnitude of what was about to happen.
If you really want to know how much the media world has changed in the intervening years, imagine saying this back in 1996:
Brands, publishers and media owners are increasingly focused on tailoring content to meet the specific needs of individuals; and fuelling this rush to ever-greater personalisation has been a reliance on access to data – every last search term, web view, and geo-tagged movement helping firms to build a profile against which advertising can be sold.
So what does a consumer get in return for handing over all this information?
Other than being fed messages that advertisers think are relevant, they usually get nothing; but all that could be about to change…
With just over a week to go before everyone downs tools and sets off for a well-earned break, it seems a good moment to review the last twelve months to see if any discernible pattern can be established from looking at the subjects we have covered on this blog.
By taking the wholly unscientific route of totting up the topics (essentially, counting repeated use of subject tags) covered in the last year it’s possible to see where our thoughts have been since January. So, which issue has dominated this executive recruitment blog? Of all the topics we have used in the last 12 months, which has been the most prevalent?
Social responsibility is an increasingly significant issue in the make-up of our leading corporations, but as firms want us to love them for the good they do, how do we assess the quality of their ethical programmes?
Well, that’s where ‘brand purpose’ comes in.
Brand purpose can be a vital tool for companies which are keen to follow through on stated ethical promises, to add meaning to what they do, and to connect with consumers on an emotional level and build trust. It can also be pretty handy when it comes to recruiting new staff; but more of that later.
It’s all too easy nowadays for marketing messages to be avoided. In such a super-saturated time it seems obvious to say this but, nevertheless, it’s true. Print advertising is growing less effective; ad-blocking software fights against pop-ups and intrusive Google Ads; and YouTube has provided us all with the ultimate get out – the ‘skip ad’ button.
With so many firms throwing digital campaigns in our direction, it’s a wonder any break through and connect with individuals. It’s almost like we need a guide on social media to sift the rubbish on our behalf, tell us what’s stylish, and what to buy. Well, welcome to Influencer Marketing and its cabal of hip, young things waiting to fill us all in on what’s made the cool list.
Every so often, one of our clients will hit it off spectacularly well with a candidate during the first round of the recruitment process. Sometimes, the client even comes back to us, says they’ve found their perfect candidate, and adds it’s unlikely they’ll need a second round of interviews.
It seems perfectly natural, doesn’t it? If you have limited time – and you think you’ve already identified the person who would be the best fit – then why bother continuing with the process?
Well, let me tell you, no matter how constrained your time scale, the answer from us will always be loud and clear: even if you think you’ve found the right person, continue the recruitment interviews…
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, Mark Zuckerberg made an interesting comment about what he looks for when making important hires.
“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person,” he said. “It’s a pretty good test and I think this rule has served me well.”
To a large extent, it’s obvious that Zuckerberg’s model has served him well. It has helped create one of the most successful and fast-growing businesses in corporate history. And the principle of wanting to work alongside like-minded people, with whom he enjoys working, is a good one. Who wouldn’t want to work that way?
Shifting demographics, rapidly emerging markets, and new digital technologies have fundamentally reshaped the way the world does business – but if you think change in the last decade has been acute, then the next few years are likely to blow your mind.
The future is set to look ever more different, particularly in the way the global workforce is sourced, organised, and managed. By 2020, PwC predicts that twice as many employees as today will need to be ‘mobile’ within a business to ensure it has the flexibility to react to shifting times.
In his 2011 AdWeek memoir on David Ogilvy, the advertising legend, Kenneth Roman tells the following story:
“At one board meeting, he [Ogilvy] gave directors sets of Russian nesting matryoshka dolls. Inside the largest doll a smaller one, then a smaller one, and so forth. Inside the smallest doll there was a slip of paper:
“If we hire people who are smaller than we are, we will become a company of dwarfs. If we hire people who are bigger than we are, we will become a company of giants.
“Hire people who are better than you are. And pay them more than you if necessary.”
It is a great guiding principle. The smart manager hires the best team and revels in its success – a success which reflects well on all of them; everybody wins. The less smart manager hires down, the team struggles to meet targets, and the manager ends up blaming team members; nobody wins.
Estimates suggest paying staff can constitute anything up to 60% of a firm’s revenue, yet when we hire members of our senior team, rarely does the process become technical or subjected to scientific rigour. More often than not, gut-feeling can be the determining factor. Well, all that could be about to change.
Welcome to the world of People Analytics – where firms apply theories associated with the collection and analysis of Big Data to their workforces.
People Analytics is the move to help firms understand their employees better; to know what drives them, what causes demotivation, and to examine how that could change the criteria on which hiring choices are made.
Every week I talk to dozens of media business leaders about how they recruit senior executives. I ask them what the changing nature of business means for their hiring policies, what their recruitment challenges and pain points tend to be, and I also ask about the measures they take when they’re recruiting executives – the advertising they use, the contingency agencies taken on, and the headhunters they engage.
When I ask these questions I frequently hear the same answer repeated back to me:
‘Oh,’ the business leader will say. ‘I just recruit through my own network’.
The remark is usually qualified with: ‘we know everyone in the market anyway’.
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?
In 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Workers 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.
It 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:
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…
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…)
Hiring 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:
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 Glassdoor.co.uk. 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.
Bad 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.
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.
Here at Martin Tripp Associates we’re often approached by people when they have made the decision to move roles and are actively looking for a new job opportunity. While our end goal is to place the best candidates in the best roles, our primary objective is to help clients find the best available talent for the post or business function they need to fill, rather than to help candidates source new jobs.
Unlike most recruitment agencies, retained executive search specialists aren’t looking for a ‘transactional’ relationship with candidates, it’s not the job to try and fit candidates into as many available vacancies as possible, it’s more a matter of establishing relationships with the right people in their specialist area, so when client vacancies come along, we know who to approach.
With this in mind, I thought it might be useful to set out some simple ways in which a senior executive can establish and nurture a relationship with an executive search firm.
Last month, I had a surprising conversation with a regular media client. He’s used Martin Tripp Associates extensively over the years, but only to help headhunt content roles. I was amazed that he was unaware we also recruit in other areas – heads of digital, marketers, general management, commercial roles, strategy directors, and so on…
So, being a statistics geek, I thought I would share the following infographics with you. They help visualise what it is we do here. Based on last year’s activity, the first chart shows a breakdown of our assignments for media clients according to the disciplines we recruited.
While ‘General Management’ was the largest single category we worked on, the big rise was for ‘Product/Insight’ roles and this reflects a trend toward better-informed product development and customer-led innovation.
We have also seen rapid growth in demand for digital-savvy commercial leaders. They are in short supply, and highly prized by their employers; like the Product/Insight people, the best are only found and recruited by a thorough search process.