Richard Robinson reflects on a rewarding diversity debate at the IPA Talent Adaptathon and how we can all shape the future.

Our industry is facing a challenge like never before: how to attract, develop and retain the best and the brightest without the pay of the City or the glitter of Silicon Roundabout.

This has never been tougher, and promises to get tougher still. Today 60% of Millennials leave their jobs within three years while many companies cling to old ways of hiring (and working) – incompatible to Millennials and future post-Millennials alike who are the biggest generation of talent and customers ever seen.

Failure to take action is simply not an option. As Dr Max Blumberg succinctly said, “the cost of doing nothing will be your demise.”

Hearing Blumberg’s assertion at the IPA’s recent Adaptathon on Talent came as no surprise. We hear time and time again from senior marketing leaders that their greatest stress-point is knowing where their future talent will come from, both within the brand and within the agency.

Where are the people going to come from who will deliver the intelligent insights to power their brands, connect with their digitally native customers and unlock their innovation to safeguard their business future?

This is the question we should all be focused on if the UK commercial creative industry is to continue to enjoy over £16 billion of client investment in paid media, and more in owned and earned, every year.

Brands invest in the UK because of our historical reputation of being able to attract and nurture the very best talent, but what happens when this talent is no longer attracted to Adland, or, sees London as the poor relation to opportunities in New York, Beijing or Rio de Janeiro?

My take is that we need to look beyond traditional graduate recruitment programmes to hire (and create) a new breed of quasi strategic leader – quasi-creative – quasi-techno consultant.

A new guard of talent with a mindset to put a new generation of customers in the driving seat to harness the realities of disintermediation, digitally native purchase behaviour, voice command, smart homes and accelerated mobility that will become the norm for brands and their customers within just a few years.

To excite and entice future talent we need to start the conversation much earlier and younger than we do right now, and encourage a significantly greater diversity of people to consider joining our industry.

  • We need to search in the schools, colleges and pupil referral units that are currently all-to-often ignored to find the creatively gifted who struggle in mainstream education.
  • We need to recognise that we must talk not just to our potential talent but also to their parents, to convince them that advertising is a powerful career choice worthy of their child’s future.
  • We need to understand that this talent will not be beholden to our outdated expectation that they will come to us, and we need to embrace the reality that we must go to them if we are genuinely committed to hiring the very best.
  • We need to partner with experts, charities and youth workers.
  • Ultimately, we need to need to advertise advertising.

It’s great to see organisations like The Ideas Foundation pioneering creative school programmes – actively showing that advertising welcomes diverse talent, and giving children a chance to develop real-life skills with industry leaders such as Sir John Hegarty, Robin Wight, Rory Sutherland and many more.

As trustee, I’m delighted to see great results as big brands like Barclays, HSBC, E-ON and News International collaborate with their agencies to inspire the next generation of talent and kick-start recruitment at the best possible age.

Magnificent Generation, led by the inspirational David McQueen, offer opportunities to be reverse-mentored by Year 11 students in some of London’s most diverse catchment areas. The questions from the floor are razor sharp and, if you’re willing to open up and listen, will show you just how optimistic we should all be about the next generation of British talent.

So the challenge is set. The war for Talent has begun and every one of us needs to step up and collectively come together to seek out and inspire the most diverse range of future heroes.

If we don’t, my fear is that Blumberg’s prophecy will prevail and we will all be guilty of doing nothing while watching our demise.

Richard Robinson is Managing Partner at Oystercatchers.

It’s all about people stupid: IPA