Over a lunch session with some senior management executives, I was asked if they should hire more digital marketing talent for their respective companies. I promptly said no.
Naturally, they were flabbergasted at my response having expected me to encourage more investments into digital talent to future proof an organisation. Carefully, I explained that they should train their own in-house digital marketer instead.
I gave them 3 reasons not to hire a digital marketer as follows:
1. There is insufficient digital marketing talent to be hired
Current tertiary institutions have yet to train sufficient talent pool from which organisations can easily hire at a fair price. Even now, highly relevant digital and social media marketing subjects form only a small fraction of the entire tertiary communications syllabus. So most fresh graduates, hired for digital marketing positions, require re-training with valuable industry skills (often at the company's expense).
Back in 1999, only a rare breed of select individuals recognised the potential of social media marketing at its nascent stage, and started investing in building the required experience. As a result, current demand for experienced digital marketing talent far outstrips available supply. Companies often get into bidding wars to "win experienced talent" from a very limited pool for a business competitive edge.
2. Fresh graduates needs six months to master the basics of digital marketing
While fresh graduates may be digital natives, consuming and using social media are however two very vastly different skills. Mastery of any valuable skill takes both head knowledge as well as "battle" experience. In reality, most fresh graduates learn from personal experience than from a structured transfer of professional knowledge. Even a systematic transfer would have easily taken 6 months for the talent to be fully effective and productive.
3. Retaining digital marketing talent is a challenge
Once your fresh digital marketing talent is productive and reasonably experienced, your competitors and others in the business will attempt to poach them. Moreover, the average life-in-company for millennials is about 2.5 years according to some reports. Realistically, it makes little sense to keep worrying about losing your digital marketing talent. There will come a time when they will be offered something that cannot be refused. The effort in replacement can be a constant struggle if the accumulated professional knowledge is not sustained in-house.
So perhaps an investment in an existing training program may be a better choice. Training talent instead of hiring existing marketers will vastly open the available talent pool. Any new hire can be quickly and professionally guided to be productive competent digital marketers with the shortest possible runway. Moreover, losing the digital talent may no longer be such a painful experience.
Just train another digital marketer.
The writer is Ryan Lim is the Founder and Principal Consultant of QED Consulting