In the first agency study of the North West's digital marketing sector, we quizzed dozens of industry professionals across a variety of positions and levels of seniority.
Our findings show that there is more to the skills shortage than just money. A series of structural factors linked to training, recruitment processes and higher education challenges play out, causing a major headache for agencies and candidates alike.
At the heart of the problem lies the disconnect between many digital native marketers, often graduates of specialist vocational courses holding junior agency positions and senior staff, two-thirds of whom graduated from redbrick universities and without specialist digital marketing backgrounds.
The research proved incredibly enlightening. Whilst we hoped it would help identify some of the reasons behind the skills shortage, what we didn't expect to discover were essentially two separate cultures - one predominantly redbrick, the other, graduates of specialist digital marketing courses, both with their own sets of values and motivations and both failing to fully appreciate the needs of the other.
The divide revealed itself in a variety of ways throughout the research. For instance, 100% of senior respondents saw strong interpersonal, client handling and negotiation skills as more important than computing or internet related skills. By contrast, more than a third of junior respondents believed creative and technical skills were the most important.
Another example was the marked contrast in salary outlooks. 50% of junior digital marketers believing that salaries would increase by 5-10% over the next twelve months compared to the majority of senior management who see salaries increasing in line with inflation.
The closer we looked at the data the more obvious the gap appeared. For example, junior graduates place such a high priority on training that it came out as the single biggest reason that they left their first role. Office location and social factors are also important again outweighing salary as priorities, issues that barely ranked for more senior staff,
If agencies don't clearly understand candidates, then how can they expect to appeal to them? On the other hand, if candidates fail to appreciate how an agency thinks, how it prioritises then, there will inevitably be frustrations.
What's clear from our research is that addressing the skills shortage requires a form of realignment - for agencies and candidates to sync better. Not only do agency management call the recruitment shots but it's clearly in their interests to start developing a better, more nuanced candidate understanding. Candidates too, particularly vocational graduates would be wise to put themselves in the shoes of potential employers and consider the kinds of non-technical skills and that their prospective employer valuables.
For the full survey presentation including current salary and projected salary findings and analysis click through The Candidate Slideshare above.
And don't forget to sign up to our Twitter account: @thecandidateuk