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Skills Gap: Yes, but not in the place you'd expect

By on 26.08.14 in News

It appears the UK Creative Industry (predominantly the agency world) has a skills gap. There are a number of articles and research pieces specifically identifying the key hot spots; from research and deriving key insights from data through digital strategy to simply up and coming talent just not having the confidence to apply as they feel they don't have the skills or ability. 

This is all quite sad, especially the last reason. The fact that up and coming talent lacks confidence is concerning. Why? What is it that has caused them to feel this way? I have a theory. 

Maybe, just maybe, the skills gap isn't in the obvious place. Maybe it's elsewhere. 

If you're familiar with The Law of Disruption, you may understand what I'm leading to. 

 graph aug 2014

Technology is moving at pace, social change lags behind, and business and political change lags behind even further. Technology is driving consumer behaviour, and agencies are doing their very best to keep up with both, but not necessarily succeeding. 

Hence, we regularly see businesses trying to recruit skills in the planning and strategy sphere aligned to specific technologies and fads e.g.

  • Senior Digital Strategist
  • Social Media Planner
  • Mobile Strategist
  • Content Strategist
  • And the list could go on 

The question is: Are we really lacking such skills? Or are we, as an industry, creating job titles, which are more convenient for us to understand? Making it easy for ourselves, putting people in boxes due to our perception of how creative communications is evolving? 

Another question: If people (let's call them consumers) are absorbing social and online content through their mobile device, where do we draw the divide of specific strategy expertise required to effectively communicate with them? 

In my mind, there isn't any. It's the combination, which makes it compelling. Understanding consumer motivation and behaviour, will leads us into the right areas, not the channel or technology. 

So where is the skills gap? 

Is it really the up and coming talent, who have grown up with this complex blend of communications and associated social culture; and not known a world prior to mobile, social, digital etc.? 

Or…is it the more established senior players within the industry? The ones in the positions to hire, to make the decisions about skills and expertise, who select and reject CV's, who carry out the interviews. The ones who have had to adapt over the years to understand today's and tomorrow's way of consumer communications; where the big 30 second TVC idea no longer cuts the mustard. 

For me, it's the latter. Which is a big concern for our industry, especially if this trend continues. Some have realised this and adapted accordingly, but unfortunately many haven't. 

I'm passionate about nurturing up and coming talent. 

In a planning and strategy role there are certain key ingredients needed, curiosity, a thirst for learning, a passion for understanding people, a degree of intellect, the confidence and balls to speak up and being prepared to get things wrong every now and again. Its then down to people like me to create the environment to nurture such talent, and to have the self-awareness that we're all learning together, and we adopt a rapid test and learn approach to achieve and share success. 

Mediocrity, never happened by making mistakes. 

As for job titles, Strategist and Planner will suffice. 

Karl Havard, CSO, STEEL London