The shortage of digital skills in the MENA market place is unprecedented and it is easy to identify the factors behind the shortage in skills. The use of social, search, mobile, digital and analytics services in global companies is high especially in western countries that are leading the market in the use of such tools. However, the MENA region – as an emerging market – is still playing catch up largely due the need for clients to learn and realize that the ROI of such tools is high, albeit lengthy.
The unhealthy lack of digital skills is very unhealthy as it is creating a digital talent way where agencies are facing competition from a host companies outside their domain, such as publishers, tech and new emerging companies who are all vying for the same talent. The big gorillas such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are magnets for digitally savvy candidates and can tempt even the most loyal employees to their regional operations.
As marketers demand more services especially more content, agencies are hard pressed to find the right talent at the right time. Not only is finding the right talent a problem but also offering competitive salaries is posing to be a challenge as candidates’ expectations rise and agencies margins get squeezed.
The current approach to developing staff’s skills is disjointed and alarmingly the training efforts are not aligned to the overall digital strategy. If agencies wish to stay relevant in the fast changing digital environment, they need to undertake a huge training programme and continue these efforts on a periodic. However, at the moment the industry is falling short.
Digital is beginning to dominate the field so it’s time agencies as well as clients improve their training efforts significantly from internal and external training such as seminars to educational programs. To put it simply, for the agency this translates into more business and improving their client retention rates, retaining their talent, growing and improving their culture. For the employee it will mean broadening of their knowledge base, improving their career opportunities, job satisfaction and salary.
Throughout the region, HR professionals are not driving the digital skills development of the senior leadership – whose time already is at a premium. Hiring a digital ambassador who can plug the developmental gap is a proactive initiative and a significant step forward in the right direction.
Another important step to plug the gap is to develop and create stronger alliances and partnerships at grass roots level especially with universities. The education system needs to address and introduce more courses and qualifications around media, digital and social right from the secondary school level up until the university level to encourage a new breed of talent for years to come. Agencies should also look at potentially funding and investing in students in return for 4 to 5 years’ of their service with the company upon graduation.
In Silicon Valley, you will be surprised to learn that all the top firms are offering more internships at the freshman year of college. While not every company can be like the big guns of Silicon Valley – nor should it try – but if it can focus on internships, training programs, bespoke courses, an innovative hiring process, such as gamification while being transparent with its employees, this should lead to an easier time in hiring talent.
Talent is drawn to organisations that are willing to invest, develop, nurture, promote and reward appropriately.
Hiring digital talent across the board is not easy; our clients know this and so do we. We are trying to stay ahead of the curve when tapping passive talent globally with the most in demands skills required in the region, by staying abreast of the latest trends and insights from the US and Europe so we know we can anticipate what the next big thing regionally will be.
Umran Mehmood is the partner and head of media & digital communication at HR Source Consulting, a human resources consultancy in the IT, Media and FMCG sectors.
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