Sandra Lawler - Founder Director of Alternatives www.alternatives.ie the marketing, digital and customer talent house, takes a brief look back at key trends in 2016 and looks to the year ahead, to see how best to win in the war for talent.
2016 - A year of growth ending in uncertainty
Last year was generally a good year for businesses and for those seeking new employment opportunities. The business landscape improved, employment rose, salaries were up and marketing budgets increased. 77% felt their personal financial situation was good and 71% felt secure in their employment. (Source: The Consumer Mood Monitor and Alternatives/MII 2016 Salary & Sentiment Survey). The demand for good marketing, digital and customer focused talent continued to increase, with an openness to both full-time and flexible talent.
But who would have anticipated the Brexit decision or the election of Trump just a few months later? We, like many businesses, experienced the direct impact of Brexit, with a number of UK led strategic projects and talent plans cancelled or put on hold.
We also saw confidence in trading conditions for the year ahead decrease versus the previous year from 54% vs 69% (Source: Alternatives/MII 2016 Salary & Sentiment Survey) and that was pre Trump’s election. So the year ended in what can best be described as “fragile optimism”.
Transformational nature of the digital economy
The biggest macro trend has been the continued growth of the digital economy and the transformational nature of this for business. In particular businesses are feeling the increased and direct influence of the customer on their businesses and brands. No longer are they in control-the customer is. It’s forcing- or encouraging- them to be truly customer led. As a result we have seen demand increase for those who can lead or help execute along this customer focused, transformation journey. Alternatives Elect, our global executive search arm, found our clients keen on attracting back Irish diaspora with skills in this area in particular.
Demand in 2016 was high in general for those with data and insight expertise and for experienced digital strategists, communications and UX/UI specialists -both for contractors and full-time staff.
As service business such as banks and telcos developed increasingly personalised, segment led offerings we were briefed on a higher number of product manager and proposition development roles. And demand remained high, as always for Alternatives, in the brand, communications and marketing management space, particularly at mid to senior level.
Growth across all sectors
In terms of sectors, all sectors showed an uplift vs. 2015. Retail was particularly buoyant and especially pre Brexit. Financial services continued to invest significantly in customer centric talent and agencies and professional services increased their teams once again. FMCG continued to come under retail pressure and teams focused on Irish market activation and innovation. The FDI tech sector continued its upward trajectory and continued to attract the lion’s share of top mobile, millennial talent, attracted by global brands, high speed pace of work and attractive offices.
So what's in store for 2017?
The double whammy of Brexit and Trump has resulted in uncertainty for the year ahead. But despite the uncertainty, some things remain constant.
Continued battle for top talent
With unemployment decreasing from 8.9% last January to 7.3% today and continuing to decline, there will be a continued battle for top talent. The results of Alternatives marketing survey indicates that the following skill sets will be most in demand:
- Digital strategy, digital communications and e-commerce
- Customer experience –From strategy to execution-for those with strong stakeholder influencing skills
- Insights and data analytics-and indeed those who can take both to the broader organisation to influence strategy and propositions
- Product and proposition development
- Innovation –in product, services and indeed new business models
- Strategic planning
- Good brand and marketing management at mid-to senior level will continue to be in demand, as will those with languages and experience in marketing and selling to international markets.
Continued growth of the gig economy and flexible ways of working, driven by candidates, not clients
Because of the shortage of skills, those with in-demand skills will be able to pick and choose their opportunities and increasingly the way they choose to work. The market has developed a lot since Alternatives introduced interim marketing into Ireland in 2000 and today the rise of the gig economy is unstoppable. It’s being driven by digital natives who can work remotely but also by a generation of millennials who are choosing to work on a project by project basis, leaving time to allow for other interests.
However it’s also being driven by talented mid to senior level talent, who are seeking more flexibility. In our 2016 Alternatives survey, of the factors most likely to motivate both females and males, the third most important one is flexible hours and /or the ability the work remotely. We have seen our interim (3 month plus contracts) and shorter term contractor business almost double this year and expect that to continue into 2017. Indeed uncertainty in the economy may result in businesses choosing a more flexible route to talent.
Development of a more people centric business culture, to attract the best
One clear emerging trend, driven by digital and by the demands of millennials in particular, is that of a more people oriented, more human workplace, rather than the traditional command and control model. Better office surroundings, more focus on outputs than inputs, less divide between work and non-work time, and ultimately the nurturing of a more grown up and trusting relationship. Those with the strongest people cultures will be those who will win in the war for top talent-both attracting and retaining it. It’s useful to bear this in mind when more than half of all our survey respondents said they planned to move company by 2018 to seek new opportunities.
Will 2017 be the year of diversity?
As an antidote to the increasingly nationalist discourse happening in the US and Europe, we would love 2017 to be the year where gender balance and diversity -both drivers of business results and successful innovation- are welcomed and accommodated. On the upside, there is more gender balance in marketing than ever before, with females occupying 47% of all director level roles (Alternatives/MII Marketing & Digital Survey). However the 17% gap in salary at this level, for like-for-like roles, needs to be addressed.
We would also like 2017 to be the year of diversity- of culture, background and age. Yes great talent continues to exist over the age of 50! And it comes in many forms, from many sources. So we need to embrace diversity as part of our work human, people centric ethos, to win the global war for talent.
To talk to us about the outlook for 2017 or to access the best customer centric talent, please give us a call. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +3531 6618889.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alternatives has pioneered flexible marketing talent solutions since our inception in 2000. Looking at business models from an alternative perspective has always been part of our ethos- hence our name. Today as leaders in the Irish market, we have built a successful specialist marketing, digital and customer centric talent solutions business.
And our track record speaks for itself. We work with Ireland Inc’s leading companies and have been recognised by a number of awards, including being selected as finalists for EY Entrepreneur of the Year.