Michael Page Digital hosted a breakfast event in Melbourne recently, where we invited employers to discuss trends we have seen in 2016 and our predictions for 2017.

The biggest trend discussed in terms of digital jobs and hiring was the shift away from the digital generalist, and a move towards the digital specialist. In-house teams are now beginning to mimic the traditional digital agency.

So, what does this mean for you, your business and the wider market?

From getting the right balance of skillsets needed to achieve your business goals, to push back from senior stakeholders, there is clearly no ‘one-size-fits-all’ digital solution that can be prescribed to all companies. However, something that can be agreed upon is the need for a robust digital strategy to compete within a rapidly changing market.

Making the change: how and when?

Firstly, what does that investment of skills look like? From the conversation, it’s clear that generalists are the obvious first step in establishing a digital team – the kind of staff who can ‘wear multiple hats’, and dip into different projects at any one time. The need for specialists naturally evolves as task complexity grows and a deeper expertise is needed.

We established that content and social media roles are among the first roles to consider moving in-house. Having staff at hand who have a deeper understanding of the wider business can be of real benefit. Content becomes more meaningful, and is rooted to the inner workings of an organisation– not just the customer facing layer.

Similarly, web developers and graphic designers are also roles which can generate ROI when brought in-house. To have somebody on hand to fix immediate needs helps dramatically with speed to market, crucial in fast moving environments.

Over time, digital agencies have evolved to deal with the ever expanding number of digital channels that now make up a BAU marketing strategy. They advise on best practice, and lead the clients in their digital strategy. There is no doubt however, that this digital capability is increasingly being brought in-house. In some cases there is still shared responsibility between client and third party.

Many of our attendees agreed that search marketing was something they still felt confident in allowing agencies to handle on their behalf. SEO and SEM require consistent, long-term and increasingly specialised attention. With the right client brief, it’s clear that talented agencies can help to transform an online presence. That being said, when budget allows, a talented in-house specialist will pick up on phrases and keywords through their ground-level exposure to the industry, which will help decrease bidding expenditure through clever searches and organic tweaks - something that may never be achieved through an agency briefing.

Another approach was to introduce an independent ‘innovations’ team, separate to other areas of the business, who can look at translating business goals into workable projects, by aligning specialised in-house teams, along with external resources – a scrum team approach on a broader level.

The journey to your perfected digital team is a long (and potentially never-ending one). Goalposts are always moving and innovation brings new challenges yearly, but with every change comes a new opportunity.

Options on the table

Permanent staff? Fixed contract workers? Freelancers? Businesses are continually becoming more flexible in their headcount. As organisations grow leaner, decisions grounded in fact (and open to less risk) will naturally be favoured. Many digital roles are in their infancy stages, and as such there is an element of trial and error to getting them right. You can bet your bottom dollar that marketing automation will look drastically distant in five years’ time, so how are we to know what the right hire looks like today?

One way to stay on-trend (while limiting investment risk) is to use contractors. Temporary staff are increasingly being used to justify the value of a particular position in a ‘proof of concept’ approach to market. Once the ROI is evident, it is much easier to justify making that head a permanent one.

Having to justify the value of digital is something that many of our attendees had experienced. The “well you have an iPhone, can’t YOU just make my video content?” was an all too familiar scenario when brought up. While agencies can sell their way into deploying cutting-edge strategies (backed by strong budgets), investment behind ‘in-house’ digital staff can be a bit more restrained. Following restructures, it seems that senior stakeholders can sometimes view certain digital marketing channels as non-essential. Having permanent staff on board, with a proven track record and in-depth knowledge of the business, could potentially help with this problem – this influence on budget is something that a contract worker would always be missing compared to their permanent counterpart.

Some attendees alluded to using freelancers to complete work on a project by project basis. Returning to the same small group of contractors allows them to build a better understanding of their business, while offering their business all the benefits of headcount flexibility. This agile way of bringing staff on, is becoming more and more common in the Melbourne market. Contractors who can move between projects remain engaged, challenged and more importantly, continually gain a breadth of market insights and exposure to different digital strategies. This constant movement in the market allows them to have their finger firmly on the digital pulse and highlight the latest digital trends.

Millennials, retention and career progression

It’s an age group that gets a lot of stick, but they’re bringing a fresh outlook to the workplace. Recruiting the right staff isn’t just about a salary figure – work-life balance is now equally important for candidates, which means it is in an employer’s interest to nurture a culture that will attract the best staff for them. For millennial jobseekers, the general consensus was that the two most attractive qualities in a workplace were the opportunity to feel valued (and part of a bigger picture), and the chance to build their professional skillset.

So with so many potential ‘specialists’ under one roof, how can there be room for progression? Well, from the discussion it seems that the answer could be ‘sideways’. If your business can offer employees the chance to learn more skills, the challenge and opportunity for personal growth may retain your staff. Career progression no longer has to mean promotion, and for that reason a stunted and repetitive role will quickly lose the engagement of staff, who are becoming increasingly aware of their value, and also of the skill shortages in certain areas of the market.

If you’re looking for your next digital job or you’re an employer in Melbourne in need of top digital talent, get in touch with Dan today: [email protected]. Or, find out more about digital jobs and recruitment with Michael Page.

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