Jo Bayley, the Auckland-based senior talent agent for recruitment shop Firebrand, says the shortages are mainly in account management, creative and media.
“People I’ve spoken to about this issue see a number of possible reasons,” she says. “The first relates to the significant reduction in graduates being taken on during the economic downturn. Those people would now be experienced AEs and junior AMs, but simply don’t exist in the workforce because they didn’t get the break.
“While we’re seeing great use of graduate programmes now in some of the larger agencies, it’s still a hard ask to take on a graduate for a small to medium agency who are in consolidation mode.
“A number of people also left the industry after being made redundant, and those that kept their jobs were sometimes left without the mentoring and training required at a junior level. This has resulted in some account managers lacking the skills you’d expect at that level.
“Yet because of the shortage, they are being shoulder-tapped and hired without the usual due diligence you would expect, including a reference from their last manager.
“We have also seen a large number of our young staffers leave NZ for the greener grass of Australia and further afield. As agency recruiters, we have certainly seen our Melbourne and Sydney offices pick up faster than they have in Auckland, and of course New Zealanders have the advantage of not requiring visas to join the Australian job market.
“Another observation has been that intermediates who’ve left to do their OE aren’t coming back after two years. They’re staying five or six years and are coming back for lifestyle decisions with children in tow, or are heading to Australia as seniors rather than returning home. Of course there are exceptions, but it is still a relevant concern.
“The other concern that goes with a tight talent market is salary expectations. For those who remember 2006, there was a real shortage of good candidates, especially in the advertising sector. Intermediate mac ops were moving jobs for a senior title and salary package, despite not having the years of experience that determines a senior. The increase in salaries across the board was significant and in many cases unjustified.
“When you combine the issues of people being promoted too quickly and the dumbing down of roles, there is a real cause for concern. Where a few years ago an account director would have day-to-day responsibility for an account, these days that expectation falls on senior account managers.
“While there will always be stars in this industry and young people who will grab the ball and run with it, the reality is they don’t know what they don’t know. It takes time to learn to trouble shoot, pick up on opportunities to grow accounts and develop strategic thinking.
“As an industry it’s going to be important to look outside of the square for these junior and intermediate roles rather than promoting people too quickly. There are marketing coordinators dying to get into the creative industry. There are those with relevant degrees who have had to do other roles for the last three years, but still have the personality and passion to succeed.
“Let’s face it, you often know within five minutes of meeting a candidate if they’re going to make it or not in your business, and that often has nothing to do with what they’ve been doing for the last couple of years.”
Jo Bayley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.