Not everything bad was caused by the pandemic...

The talent shortage is strangling just about every sector of the New Zealand economy, including marketing and its related services and disciplines. It’s easy to be myopic and think it’s a Covid-19 problem (so will soon go away) or more specifically a closed borders problem (so vaccines will free us from that burden).

But not everything bad was caused by the pandemic.

The origins of the talent shortage

The talent shortage was heating up back in 2019 - the halcyon days of cheap travel, booming economies and low inflation.

At the same time, marketing and associated disciplines were expanding their reach. Customer-centric strategies, increased access to powerful data, growing demand for creative content (in parallel to traditional broadcast comms), a focus on CX and UX, alongside e-mail commerce and apps as new distribution and engagement channels, have all increased the need for marketing capabilities and capacity.

Corporate responsibility strategies, demanding programmes of work, need teams to deliver them. A plethora of start-ups being advised that marketing and brand building is to the key to success is growing the demand for marketers. And last, but by no means least, the rise of the value of the employer brand. Which is, of course, related to a talent shortage.

Looking ahead

Predictions vary but the consensus is that there will be a global talent shortage for several years, so this won’t be solved in 2022, even if we no longer have the constraints of closed borders. So, what are we to do and what will be the impact on marketing?

Marketing is a complex mix of art and science, both of which are fuelled by creativity. Therefore, we should be well served to solve our own problems. Of course, there is no easy fix. If we don’t start thinking more creatively, it’s going to be a frustrating few years ahead, as we are swept up in a feeding frenzy for talent – people hop jobs every 18 months.

We need to do something. Here are some potential solutions

Build knowledge through marketing training

How many roles in your organisation will eventually disappear due to automation or changes in demand? What about creating opportunities for people in those roles to gradually build knowledge through marketing training, leading to a ready trained workforce able to eventually transition to marketing roles.

Diversify marketing teams

The industry is shockingly underrepresented by Māori and Pacifica marketers both in organisations and agencies. The reasons are clear, so let’s fix this.

And if currently there are not enough Māori people trained in marketing, aside from providing training, there are roles that are not dependent on specific marketing qualifications. Consider knowledge of what customers care about, how they want to be represented or spoken to, what cultural signals are emerging, how teams can work more collaboratively by adopting Māori principles.

Work more flexibly with agencies

Companies and their agencies could work more flexibly to align competencies and capacity. Work could be shared as capacity varies and specialist competencies can be decoupled from more operational tasks, so that not all tasks have to be undertaken solely by the company or by its agency. It will require trust and an open-minded approach – but who knows, it could even be fun.

Team leaders and managers will become mentors

There is a view in some quarters that the function of HR that has traditionally be responsible for managing people’s careers will shrink.

Instead, team leaders and managers will shoulder the responsibility for managing, mentoring and coaching their reports. Everyone in the organisation will share the role of developing people they work with, for and alongside.

What if marketing became everyone's responsibility, not just the marketing team. What if the whole workforce received basic marketing skills trading. What if in agencies, everyone moved across disciplines and instead had an overarching marketing perspective?

Roles may not need to be full time

We can’t create knowledgeable and experienced senior markers overnight. But do we need those rare-as-hens-teeth people to work full time or exclusively? What if they did the heavy lifting by writing the strategy, briefing in the plan and periodically checking in. That’s a role they could play across two (or more?) companies if those companies were enlightened enough to accept a non-competitive shared role. And they could be located anywhere.

Written By Colleen Ryan, Partner, TRA
This article was published in the latest issue of Frame magazine.