Photo with the text "It's time to change the way we work"
By Erin Peralta Dec 7 2015

Want to Determine the Fate of Our Industry? Focus on Our People

Richard Branson once said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” Our industry in particular has always been – and will continue to be – a service industry, a people focused business. One that relies on distinctly human contributions: ideas, creativity, connection, story-telling. As a result, we need to be asking ourselves this: are we setting our talent up for success? Are we giving them good reasons to stay and even greater skills when they decide to go? If the answers are no, then let’s consider this possibility: it’s time to change the way we work.

Given Centro’s intense focus on employee happiness and well-being, we decided to survey the digital labor force to assess what the state of our people tell us about the fate of our industry. Partnering with Digiday, we surveyed nearly 400 professionals from both the buy and sell-side, across all functions and levels of seniority. More than 40 percent said they would leave their current positions in the next year – or less. Considering the cost (both time and money) it takes to recruit, hire and ramp our talent, this is pretty alarming. The pessimist would say we’re not giving our talent a reason to stay at a company for meaningful lengths of time. The optimist point-of-view? In this hot job market it is way too easy for people to jump to (presumably) greener pastures elsewhere. But there are some bright spots. In fact, 35 percent of respondents said they’re satisfied with their current jobs, and 22 percent said they’re very satisfied. More significantly, 65 percent said their jobs absolutely meaningfully contribute to their companies. If this is the case, why would people consider leaving? And short of a unilateral pay hike, what can we do about it?

To start, think about how we can make our employees’ jobs more meaningful. Studies have shown that feelings of contribution have actually been linked to employee engagement. When asked about their greatest challenges, respondents focused on insufficient resources and the tools to do their job. This is especially ironic given that we work in an industry that reveres the shiny new object, app, and tool. And, understandable that asking employees to do their jobs with antiquated or inadequate platforms and technology solutions would lead to frustration. Although we have seen consolidation in this industry, it hasn’t led to consolidation of systems and logins. In other words, the rising tide of mergers and acquisitions has yet to impact our people on the front lines. Nearly half of respondents say they have to log in to four to six different software platforms to do their job, and 30 percent say they use seven or more. With technology so closely linked to employee productivity, we must seize opportunities to consolidate data and functionality into a single system of record that gives a holistic view across media channels.

Here’s another wakeup call: a full quarter of survey respondents said ad tech vendors are “not too helpful” or “not helpful” at all in easing their workload burdens. An additional 52 percent said they’re only “somewhat helpful.” Said differently, 75 percent indicate their ad tech partners are somewhat helpful – or worse! Damned by faint praise, indeed. This problem is especially acute for media buyers and planners, 80 percent of whom rely on outside ad tech vendors to accomplish their jobs. By the numbers, 56 percent of buyers and planners work with one to three partners during a typical campaign, while 31 percent are juggling four to seven. Considering that these outside vendors’ sole reason for being is to offer services that make media professionals’ lives easier and campaigns more effective, this is a wake-up call to vendors: give greater value and utility – and quickly.

We also took a deeper look at media planners and buyers specifically to get a sense of where, exactly, needs the most improvement. Not surprisingly, analysis and optimization were identified as the areas that need the most training, followed by planning and buying. We asked these same workers to choose the two tasks that occupied the most time in their day-to-day, and these same areas continued to dominate. Additionally, reporting was conveyed as requiring relatively little training (under ten percent), but that it takes a significant amount of time to do (44 percent). This makes sense because it’s a task dependent on data and other output from multiple sources, which includes the often messy task of reconciling information received from many different partners. It’s easy to see how this could be a sore point.

No one is calling for a workplace revolution quite yet, but clearly, we can do better. It’s time to give our talent one of the most critical tools for success – and that’s time back in their day. Time for creativity, time for strategic thinking, or even time to have less work in their life – or more life in their work. It’s time to change the way we work. To use technology not just to make our media dollars go farther and our campaigns more effective, but to better the lives of everyone in our business.

What an exciting and compelling mission. I can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring.

To learn more about what the state of our peoples tells us about the fate of our industry, download the entire Digiday report here.