While on the surface the media industry has never looked so healthy, underneath a number of cracks are appearing among media companies suffering the worst recruitment recession to date.
Blame for the current crisis is mostly attributed to the advent of new media, which has prompted a wave of new jobs and rejuvenated other sectors such as public relations, exhibitions, IT, telecoms, direct marketing and even the recruitment sector itself.
“New media is exploding. We haven’t seen recruitment pages as thick as this for quite some time,” says Paul Farrer, managing director at Phee Farrer Jones.
While the recruitment market has never been so buoyant and recruitment consultants never been busier, the other side of the coin is that media owners have never had so many gaps in their sales forces.
Paul Sissons, director of recruitment at Reed Business Information, admits to having hit problems when trying to find 50 people to staff up TotalJobs.com. He says he managed to fill some places only after putting 11 recruitment agencies on the case and spending more on recruitment ads.
Executives with around 18 months experience have become very hot commodities and are being snap-ped up by media owners offering salaries in excess of market value. Where sales trainees expected to start at around £14,000 basic just over a year ago, some are now being offered salaries normally reserved for those with more experience.
According to one recruitment consultant, sales trainees can now get offered anything up to £22,000 basic, and can expect to take home around £30,000 in their first year in commissions and bonuses.
“A career in media is even more attractive than it used to be,” says Farrer. “Companies are now offering very good training packages and trainees can reap many rewards. The chance for promotion is also coming around much quicker than previously.”
So what can media companies do to relieve the chronic shortage of staff? Farrer is a strong advocate of solving the problem by placing graduates in these roles, and runs The Graduate Recruitment Company out of Phee Farrer Jones. He says companies are now recognising the problem is not going to disappear unless they do something about it at base level.
“People are starting to ask themselves how long do they have to wait to fill the job with the ‘right’ candidate. Most employers are now resigning themselves to a long wait. Others are realising that by the time it normally takes to fill the role, they could have got a trainee on board who would have already learnt the ropes,” says Farrer.
Another benefit of upping the scale of graduate recruitment is the issue of staff loyalty, andmore importantly, the opportunity to anticipate staff movement. Shirlie Nelson, joint managing director at The Davis Company, explains: “Given that more training programmes are being put in place, it’s easy for a company to take on five trainees to fill one vacancy. Having this staff surplus means it can allow for people moving on.”
Even if training new staff reaches the top of the agenda it is debatable whether this alone can plug the gaps in the media recruitment market. Interestingly it is clear that there is no agreement amongst recruitment consultants as to how long the problem will last. While Farrer says the situation will get tighter, Nelson sees light at the end of the tunnel.
She thinks steps being taken now will ensure a return to prosperity. “It won’t last too long because it’s being recognised as a problem now and companies are solving it by growing their own talent to stop the problem perpetuating,”
The other side of the equationis “the feel good factor” where, because of current market buoyancy, execs are reluctant to move. The fact that companies are now offering lucrative packages, stemming from bonuses, company cars, pension and health schemes to sabbaticals for long service, means employees are increasingly incentivised to stay with a company.