Why is it so hard to find digital talent?

In the last week there has been a lot of noise in the press about the size and scale of the digital industry.  The National Institute for Economic Research estimates that digital companies are growing 25% faster than traditional firms and that there are almost 100,000 more digital companies than the Government previously estimated.

It is great to see the digital world having such a positive impact on the economy and the report got me thinking about talent within our sector.  Here at affilinet we’re pretty unique in the depth and breadth of experience of our team. Per employee we average five years’ experience, which is almost unheard of.  There are a lot of smart people doing some great work and in recent months we’ve been looking to bring some new recruits on board to add to the great pool of talent we already have. During the process of meeting with people I’ve been struck by a couple of things.

The first is that many people don’t understand the role of affiliate marketing within the broader marketing landscape. For affiliate marketing to make a real impact it needs to co-exist and be integrated with other marketing disciplines. We know how hard affiliate programmes have to fight for their slice of the budget so this understanding is core to demonstrating value, not just at the last click, but also further up the purchasing funnel. I’ve found that a lot of people with affiliate marketing experience have a very narrow view of what affiliate marketing is and as a result not many people are seeing the bigger picture and opportunities.

Which may well lend itself to my second observation and that is that people don’t tend to view affiliate marketing as a long-term career. Personally I find this astounding as I have been in affiliate marketing for 11 years and made a successful career from it. Instead I fear that it’s viewed as a stepping-stone to landing a plum job within an agency or advertiser.

It is this second realisation that really got me thinking about the responsibility that networks have to retain and develop good staff.  It’s simple but to retain staff you need to ensure that people are passionate about what they do and that they can see that the company supports their career development.  I worry that networks may have become a conveyor belt of young staff using it to propel them to other roles outside of the sector. I recently was told that a HR manager in a company in our sector had said that training and development was a waste of time as people would leave anyway; well no wonder if that is the attitude!

I may be somewhat biased but I think the affiliate marketing sector is one of the most diverse and exciting within the digital space.  There is no other channel that provides such a broad depth and understanding of all the marketing disciplines. Perhaps as an Industry we need to think harder about how we not only recruit great talent but also keep it within the sector?

People will leave. Of course they will, but this isn’t a reason to not invest in training and development and harness a culture of development, innovation and passion, where people have ownership and responsibility. By developing people you get the best out of them and that can only be good all round for our industry, our advertisers and our publishers.

Helen Southgate

Helen Southgate

Helen Southgate joins affilinet from BSkyB, where she was responsible for the broadcaster’s online marketing planning and strategy. Southgate has eleven years experience in performance marketing and in 2011 was the IAB Affiliate Marketing Council Chair. Her primary focus is to grow business in the UK, but she will also work alongside other country managers to grow the network at a European level.
Helen Southgate

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