More Challenges Lie Ahead for Agency Talent Management

The Pressure is on for HR and Recruiters, as Agencies Race to the Bottom Line

After a turbulent year of layoffs, turnover, and assorted HR complexities, advertising agencies that had healthy fiscal years have relaxed their grip and started hiring at pre-2020 levels. Staff that had been operating with skeleton teams have been able to expand.

Many of us in the advertising industry are stretched thin, but as business continues to pick up, demands on internal recruitment teams, in particular, are increasing. Internal recruitment specialists are suddenly handling searches across a wide spectrum – from freelancers to full-time staffers, creative to account, remote to local. It’s a formidable task to expect internal recruiters to become instant experts across such diverse areas. HR staffers are also having to figure out how and when agency employees can return to the office.

Adding to the pressure, many agencies have alternately embraced and abandoned the practice of remote hiring, seemingly torn between the desire to staff up wherever possible and the reluctance to invest in talent they won’t see in person.  Less flexible management seems intent on making remote unviable, citing a litany of reasons why remote work should be avoided.

These drastic swings are no way to maintain current staff or build relationships for the future. Leadership cannot afford to ignore internal recruiting teams until there’s an emergency. Effective talent searches take time and require ongoing collaboration.  Ultimately, keeping a steady investment is more efficient than a cycle of slashing costs and rebuilding. Employees sense the lack of investment and that has pushed many people into the arms of the growing in-house ad agencies. Not because the work is better, but because they believe there will be a better work/life balance.

In terms of direct hits on the industry, the economic fallout in the advertising sector has been much softer than in 2008, when agencies were in real danger. But the effects are still being felt deeply with network holding companies. The last year has accelerated agency consolidation, and certainly there will be more to come. Newer ad agencies, which are less beholden to entrenched business models, seem to be growing faster and that is a good thing all around for the health of the industry. Established agencies need to adapt in a way that provides consistency and stability to their employees in order to keep good talent and become better prepared for future ebbs and flows.

By Sasha Martens