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Digital skills fall short

Australia is facing a major digital skills-shortage.

A new study suggests Australian employers are under-investing in the skills development of current employees, as well as struggling to find new digital talent. With the growing importance of digital in today’s business landscape, a lag in digital expertise in Australia is a major concern – one that has the potential to hinder the ability for growth and innovation.

First alert of a digital skills shortfall, highlighted in Quizzed About Digital on The Slade Report, came when we reported the findings of a US survey of 750 Fortune 500 and ad agency execs, The State of Digital Marketing Talent conducted by The Online Marketing Institute. The US report found that when asked about the expertise in their digital teams, company executives revealed that only 8% were strong across all digital areas.

Commissioned in response to the US study, The Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey, undertaken by Sweeney Research for the Slade Group Digital Practice and NET:101, was conducted across 150 small to large Australian businesses from a range of sectors.

We know the need for digital talent in Australia is widespread. Now it’s revealed that Australian companies find it difficult to identify and develop talent because of both subjectivity in the hiring process and the lack of on-going training and development.

So how did we compare with the US? Amongst brands and agencies alike, there appears to be insufficient focus on grooming talent, training and formally assessing skills. In the US study 75% of companies relied on referrals from their peers to meet their hiring needs. Comparatively, in Australia only 66% of respondents relied on employee referrals. Considering formal assessment during the recruitment process, just 10% of US respondents used some form of testing to measure employee’s skills or knowledge, compared to Australia’s marginally improved 12%.

The study also reveals leading companies digitise more business practices and processes. Therefore, opportunities for investment in digital specific skill-based assessment and training represent a significant opportunity for external providers to provide high-level education to the workforce.

Other key survey findings were:

  • A quarter of the businesses surveyed found it difficult to source digital employees because they thought not enough talent was available (25%); they could not compete with high salaries offered elsewhere (22%); or they lacked the funds and specialist recruitment expertise to source the right candidate (18%).
  • Just over 30% of respondents had brought in digital staff from overseas and would do so again, despite higher costs associated with sponsorship and relocation. Another 26% would consider it.
  • Over half (56%) of businesses surveyed anticipated hiring more digital specialists over the coming 12 months.
  • Whilst over two thirds of respondents said it was critical that new employees were able to demonstrate digital expertise, only 12% conducted internal or external testing during recruiting.
  • Only 9% thought recent university graduates were equipped to undertake digital role requirements.
  • 80% of managers described staff as being weak in some or several areas of digital expertise; 70% thought a digital skills gap was taking a moderate or heavy toll on their business.
  • Mobile devices took over PCs for the first time in 20141, but only 9% of organisations believed they were ahead of the competition in mobile/SMS marketing today.
  • 98% of respondents thought it was important to continually train their digital staff, yet over 60% relied on employee feedback and ‘observation’ to identify areas requiring development.
  • Respondents believed that 40% of senior managers in their organisations had ‘only a moderate understanding of the importance of digital skills’ while 20% had ‘little understanding’ at all.

The majority of comments that emerged from the survey focused on the urgent need for increased staff training, however the skills gap is magnified by the inability of businesses to source the talent they need from the talent pool. Alarmingly, very few in industry currently use digital skills assessments as part of the recruitment process and on-going training, leading to the downward spiral of digital skills.

High competition for good digital professionals has seen 22% of respondents indicate that they unable to compete with the cash incentives of larger companies – they’re missing out on talent as a result. A quarter (25%) believe there is not enough experience and skill in the market, and 18% feel they are not equipped with the expertise to find the right candidate. Australian organisations should heed these figures; there is an opportunity for talent finders.

If you would like to receive a copy of the full survey report, please contact Slade Executive Recruitment on (03) 9235 5100.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Off Balance. On Integration.

WORK life integration. Instead of trying to balance the two separate spheres in our lives, our professional and personal lives are now deeply personal and inextricably linked – and we want to see value in all we do. Organisations aware of this can focus on creating a more conscious culture.

When I returned to the Slade offices in January, our new agile workspace beckoned. Bright, white and light, the choices were endless – was it a window seat, cosy corner or lounge chair today? Walking past our lockers now housing our precious belongings that no longer took pride of place on the desk, and with my cloud-based Chromebook in hand, I had a moment to reflect on this time last year: the rigidity of our office environment had dramatically changed and no one was watching the clock.

The advent of technology and more flexible working arrangements has highlighted that the bricks and mortar of traditional workplaces are no longer required for people to do their jobs effectively in our hyper-connected world. Whilst the office environs at Slade had changed, what hadn’t changed was the focus on creating a positive, friendly, empowering and supportive culture that leads to productivity and high performance.

The mood was set on day one. Geoff Slade, Chairman and Founder of Slade Group, called a company-wide meeting inviting all of us to see the New Year as a fresh start. “Our relationship with our customers is formed strongly on trust; an ideal that is fortunately consistent with our family owned business. The key point here is that we need to focus on creativity. We need to be creative in adapting to changes in our industry.” He spoke of the importance of creating that enviable culture, but swiftly reminded us to focus on business development, delivery and customer service which is key to our business, “You need to be clear about the market you are in and what you know about it.”

This is no different to the way our clients are viewing culture in their workplaces. Cultural fit and character are now taking the front seat for employers when assessing potential candidates, with many adopting the ‘hire character, train skill’ approach. With Millennials and Baby Boomers working alongside each other, making sure there is strong alignment to the values and vision of the company is critical in bridging that generation gap in today’s diverse workforce.

The importance of getting the culture right, was highlighted in recent articles published on The Slade Report Work is a thing we do, not a place we go and We’re curious: What’s your experience with Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and Hot Desking, where readers agreed moving to an agile environment was beneficial provided key rules were followed. One Slade Report reader stated “I am a big believer in agile work practices and the benefit they provide employees and businesses alike. We recently undertook a similar process… We transformed our 450 person traditional office space to an agile hot-desking environment with great success.” The reader goes on to describe how they made it happen in five simple points:

  1. Redesigning our office space to drive what we do, not where we sit.
  2. Introducing and encouraging flexible working patterns that gives us more control over the way we work.
  3. Ensuring our IT tools improve communication and collaboration.
  4. Maintaining a greater focus on measuring performance by outcomes.
  5. Facilitating a process of culture change across the organisation which was in line with our cultural statement – this included significant employee and leader training particularly around the notion of presentee-ism and managing performance by outcomes.

Olivia Holmes, HR Business Partner, M&K Lawyers

Certainly Geoff’s aim when he addressed our team was to ensure that Slade’s world @work means continued respect to engagement, trust, flexibility and productivity – all underpinned by that elusive, enviable culture. Slade Group Executive Director, Anita Ziemer, agrees the changes are positive: “We already have a range of different employee arrangements, and yet time related language, as in full-time and part-time seems to be old school and unrelated to productivity, culture and performance. So agile seems much more appropriate offering the flexibility we’re seeking in managing our professional and personal lives.”

What Anita is describing is a culture term we will definitely be hearing more of in 2015: work life integration.

What is your view?

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Quizzed about digital

Earlier this year we addressed the increasing concern that a “digital talent gap” existed between the digital expertise needed by companies and the digital talent available.

Findings in a US survey of 750 Fortune 500 and ad agency execs, The State of Digital Marketing Talent conducted by The Online Marketing Institute, revealed a wide discrepancy between the digital marketing expertise required by organisations and the talent actually available to them, at every level. When quizzed about their digital teams, company executives revealed that only 8% were strong across all digital areas.

These startling revelations got us thinking: the need for digital talent in Australia is widespread, but are Australian companies also finding it difficult to identify and develop talent because of subjectivity in hiring?

What if we could understand more about the way Australian companies deal with the development, training and hiring of digital talent? In the US, companies across the board were unhappy with their own level of training and assessment. Amongst brands and agencies alike, there appeared to be insufficient focus on grooming talent, training and formally assessing skills with 75% relying on referrals from their peers to meet their hiring needs. Just 10% of respondents used some form of testing to measure employee’s skills or knowledge.

With these considerations in mind, Slade Partners teamed up with NET:101 and Sweeney Research to conduct the Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey about digital employees in Australian organisations. The survey, which launched last week, focuses on the current skill-levels of digital talent; the acquisition, development and retention of digital employees and the salary levels in line with responsibilities of digital talent in Australian organisations.

The results will allow us to see if Australians share similar sentiment to the US regarding the overall skill levels of those in their digital teams, and if Australian organisations have been impacted by a digital skills gap. Certainly as the digital recruitment lead at Slade Partners I have noticed an increased demand for digital talent in the area of analytics, content marketing, digital copywriting and communications, and digital design and development – yet very few in the industry currently use their own digital assessments as part of the recruitment process.

We’d really like you to have your say:  Click on the image below to take part in the survey.


Participate or share the Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey with those colleagues who would be interested in receiving the results. The survey will take about 10 minutes to complete and is completely confidential and anonymous. Results will be sent to all respondents who complete the survey and a Digital Talent Pack may be awarded to one respondent at the completion of the survey process.

So what’s your view on digital talent in Australian organisations?

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Playing for keeps

Think back to your last recruitment project. It probably involved telephone screening, interviewing face-to-face and some form of psychometric testing. But I bet you didn’t consider inviting your candidates to compete in a World of Warcraft like simulation? No matter which of those elements your company utilises, Gamification is becoming a serious tool to consider when it comes to designing a recruitment process that’s more than just child’s play.

Like many emerging talent sourcing trends, confusion and hype surround Gamification. As the focus on gaming for recruitment purposes continues to grow, what exactly is the practical application for assessment activities that are based on game playing?

First, let’s get a clear understanding of the opportunities and limitations. As reported this month in The Wall Street Journalenterprise architecture expert Brian Burke explains, “Games primarily engage players on a whimsical level to entertain them; Gamification engages players on an emotional level to motivate them.”

Companies have evolved from initially using these Gamification platforms as branding vehicles to leveraging them across the entire HR value chain — attracting, engaging, onboarding, training and retaining candidates. This is where Gamification can add value.

As the name suggests, the concept selectively engages the brain mechanics that bring out people’s natural desires for achievement, status, self-expression, humanity and competition when faced with a real life situation in the form of a game. Specifically designed to elicit a range of behavioural characteristics, analysing the way candidate’s play a game can help hiring managers gain valuable insights similar to more traditional forms of candidate assessment, such as when group activities are used as part of the recruitment process.

While Gamification can make a task more fun, an entertaining user experience still requires purpose. To be successful, Gamification needs to consider how to engage people in meaningful activity, which is dependent on factors such as site usability, design and invariably human psychology. One company who has successfully utilised Gamification for recruitment purposes is cosmetic and beauty giant L’Oréal, whose online selection program secured a number of industry awards including the UK National Graduate Recruitment Award for the Most Innovative Way of Attracting Graduates.

L’Oréal partnered with communications specialists TMP Worldwide and Cubiks, an international online assessments consultancy, to develop Reveal — a web 2.0 multi-site game that allows global candidates to experience a number of scenarios in a virtual L’Oréal office. Prospective candidates are given the opportunity to learn about various aspects of the business, then match themselves to the company’s requirements by completing a series of online tests and compete with other prospective candidates by sharing their scores via social media.


L’Oréal’s Reveal

Gamification may seem gimmicky right now. However, forward thinking organisations realise that existing HR practices based on the ‘one size fits all’ approach may be preventing their business from improving its quality of hire. I predict innovative companies looking for new ways to aid the institutionalisation of their corporate culture, enhance employee productivity and ultimately grow customer satisfaction will incorporate Gamification, if they haven’t begun so already.

Beyond the hype and confusion, Gamification in an HR context is about humans. So the next time you’re deeply emerged in a multi-player online fantasy universe, battling Orcs for the Frozen Throne, you may well be practising the skills that will take to closer your next professional appointment.

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Bridging the digital talent gap

In Digital we are nail-bitingly aware of an increasing labour-hire shortage in Australia. Yet, at a time when university graduates are fiercely competing to secure their first jobs, a wide discrepancy exists between the digital expertise needed by companies and the digital talent available.

In a survey of nearly 750 Fortune 500 ad agency execs conducted by The Online Marketing Institute, The State of Digital Marketing Talent, the results are revealing. There appears to be a wide gap between the digital marketing expertise required by organisations and the talent actually available to them, at every level. When quizzed about their digital marketing teams, company execs say only 8% are strong across all digital areas. That might seem a great opportunity for recent university graduates looking for work. But buyer beware: 70% of respondents say young hires expect to be promoted or elevated to higher-level positions before proving themselves.

The need for digital talent is widespread. Companies have trouble finding talent because of subjectivity in hiring and the lingering effects of the GFC. More than one-third of all respondents haven’t hired in the past year because they can’t work out who to go to for talent. Almost a quarter of the respondents haven’t hired in the past year due to a lack of funds. 54% of marketing and agency respondents have trouble distinguishing between candidates with the right skills and those without.

Companies across the board are unhappy with their own level of training and assessment. Across brands and agencies alike, there’s insufficient focus on grooming talent, training and formally assessing skills with 75% relying on referrals from their peers to meet their hiring needs. There are talent gaps in all areas, with the biggest gap in analytics. Just 10% of respondents use some form of testing to measure employee’s skills or knowledge.

As a digital recruitment specialist, I assess candidate expertise through analysis of competency-based skills prior to presenting any shortlist. My clients receive detailed reports on candidate capabilities, highlighting their development areas upfront prior to hiring. Practical work sample assessments give candidates an opportunity to distinguish themselves from the competition, as well as some insight as to what may be involved in the job itself, allowing them to make a more informed decision about the role.

History of placements proves this is a critical step in the recruitment process to ensure a higher ‘stick rate’. Let’s also not overlook the importance of cultural fit: a qualified candidate may or may not succeed – it really depends on both parties. We will never obtain, nor should we look to acquire, a glove fit: 100% role fit leaves no room to grow, to be challenged or motivated.

Bridging the digital talent gap is simple: spend the time to create bespoke digital assessments that involve practical examples during the recruitment process, but don’t stop there. Continue to invest in your digital team through appropriate training and coaching, plan for career progression and be flexible about sourcing talented people from outside traditional channels.

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Podcast interview: The evolution of the Social Media Marketer

Elizabeth Ebeli, Practice Manger of Digital Media at Slade Partners Executive Search, talks with Tim Martin from NET:101 about the evolving Australian digital and social media landscape. Particular focus on social media marketing and social media management roles including remuneration bench-marking from what was once considered a graduate only role to executive positions driving social commercial outcomes.

Posted in The world @work