- Investing in ‘top talent’ hailed as #1 business priority
- ‘Digital innovation’ key to weathering out economic downturn
- UX, CX and digital marketing now ‘crucial’ to business survival – yet skills shortages abound
- ‘Strong’ company culture proves biggest pull for retaining best workers
- High performers prioritise interesting work above pay
A new study of senior marketing leaders in the UK and US from marketing and creative recruiter, Aquent, has revealed how many are beating the odds to achieve financial growth during the global pandemic*.
The report, which polled some 322 senior execs, found that overwhelmingly, ‘hypergrowth companies’ are placing the hiring and retention of ‘top talent’ and a renewed focus on customer experience as their key priorities.
This comes in the wake of a tumultuous year for global businesses, who have found themselves having to adapt quickly to major changes in the marketplace. With e-commerce now a main driver of consumer spending habits, firms are now undertaking an ‘adapt or die’ approach to the way they do business. The result is that top execs want ‘the right people for the job’ and a concerted effort to retain or attract the right candidate has become crucial to their evolving strategies.
A clear trend amongst top business leaders is their ability to transform internal structures at speed in response to new challenges. In recent months, the UK economy has seen a boom in online shopping, accounting for 30 percent of all total retail sales, the highest to yet to date. In response, senior execs have recognised the growing need to improve online user and customer experience – placing it as a key driver to ensure future sales and provide an edge over competition.
In fact, improvements to UX have now become so crucial that of those polled, 81 percent stated that they are ‘banking on customer experience growth’ and 64 percent acknowledged that ‘CX has a strong or significant effect on new customer acquisition.’ Two-thirds of top leaders have also aligned their UX candidate hires with growth initiatives. As a result, staff retention remains low, as talented employees become highly sought after and find themselves with the option to pick and choose the most appealing roles.
What’s obvious is that the most successful companies are the ones placing ‘digital innovations’ at the forefront of their business models. Companies championing this approach aren’t going unnoticed either, as in Q2 of this year the shares of companies that introduced “product or service innovations that will outlast the current crisis” jumped from 22 to 47 percent.
To achieve these new digital transformations, leaders have identified UX, CX and digital marketing as the roles most needed to achieve financial recovery and growth. Yet one of the main hurdles they’re facing is sourcing candidates with the right experience levels. From those polled, 87 per cent of senior managers reported that ‘recruiting the right digital talent is a critical challenge’ and a whopping 53 per cent of digitally-related positions remained open for more than three months. Staff retention also remains problematic with roles in such high demand. 51 percent of mainstream employees working in CX, UX or digital marketing roles last just two to four years in a role whilst the number is only slightly lower for employees working for market leaders at 43 percent. With such long wait times on hiring, it’s clear that this strategic approach is proving the right route for other big businesses.
With recruiting being identified as a major hurdle, business gurus are now investing in heavily in a ‘strong’ work culture to help attract the best talent and retain key members of staff. Companies with positive cultural attributes are ten times more likely to fill open positions in critical growth areas within one month than competitors with a ‘poor’ work culture score. One of the key areas associated with a ‘strong’ growth culture’ are those that are creative, fast-moving and that value openness with staff. From the study, 80 percent of top leaders were more likely than the mainstream to be ‘open with employees about its strategy performance and strategy’. Those with a high culture score also have the ability to retain ‘key growth staff’, with 29 percent reporting that employees will stay in an organisation for six years or longer, compared to just 3 percent with those lacking a strong work culture.
When it comes to the type of cultural attributes that attract top talent, interestingly high performing employees are less motivated by compensation and more by personal and career fulfilment. Of those polled, ‘interesting work and career growth’ ranked the highest (32 percent), followed by ‘flexibility’ (29 percent) and then ‘total monetary compensation’ (27 percent). The stats help paint a thought-provoking picture, proving that the very best employees will need to see a strong work culture before they choose to take a role.
Yet despite the fundamental need for ‘digital innovators, top-level execs are clear on the skills they want joining their organisation and it requires more than just technical know-how. Soft skills, whilst notoriously undervalued, are becoming more important than ever to ensure the right transformation and long-term work future of a business. Employers are looking to invest in candidates that can display traits such as emotional intelligence and openness to change. They also want employees who can work together, across different functions and levels to help build a stronger work culture. As such, Critical thinking (48 percent), complex problem solving (33 per cent) and emotional intelligence (29 percent) ranked as the most sought after ‘soft skills’.
Another common trait amongst top-level execs is their ability to identify emerging skillsets early on, giving them time to build and establish relationships with top prospects before they’re needed. To do this, chief execs are now turning to turning to third party recruiters to ensure they can obtain the right talent in advance. By doing so, businesses can react quickly to the demands of a changing marketplace by leaning on services that can fill roles quickly and efficiently.
Aliza Sweiry, UK managing director, Aquent, comments: “The study has thrown up some key insights into how top business leaders are managing to thrive and achieve growth despite the economic climate. It’s obvious that having the right employees in place can make or break a business and we can see that throughout the report. It’s also clear that those who can reflect on ongoing changes and adjust accordingly will come out on top. What is promising to see is that a strong company culture is now being placed at the heart of a successful businesses. As this message becomes more widely accepted, it will only serve to improve the happiness and retention of prospective staff as well as help achieve the very best performance for companies in years to come.
The research was conducted with e-consultancy.