By Chris Warren
Amanda Moore, senior manager of integrated marketing and partnerships at the nonprofit Loggerhead Marinelife Center, knows what a challenge it can be to attract and retain younger marketing professionals. Moore can't afford hefty paychecks and annual bonuses to hire the types of scrappy marketing candidates she needs to raise awareness and boost funding for the center, which is dedicated to sea turtle and ocean conservation.
"Smaller nonprofits have to creatively incentivize new talent," Moore says. At the center, which hosts tours and allows supporters to "adopt" the injured and sick turtles it treats, that means providing plenty of opportunities to participate in professional development courses, workshops, and events.
For example, Moore helped one new public relations hire to take online Toastmasters International Courses and join the local chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America to burnish her public speaking skills at the group's events and for news interviews. Moore also encourages employees to spend 20 percent of their time working on a project of their choosing that they think will benefit the center, an approach Google takes with its employees.
While attracting, retaining, and growing marketing talent is particularly important for a nonprofit, it's a tough challenge for big brands and agencies as well.
As with most everything related to the business sector, the coronavirus has had a major impact on how companies recruit, onboard, and develop new talent. "In some cases, there is a redistribution of the workforce," says Yasmeen Coning, group director of employee engagement at Siegel+Gale. "The pandemic has created a fast, forced evolution of new behaviors across how we socialize, shop, [and] engage with friends and family. Most of these behaviors are now rooted in digital more than ever before."
Hopping the Fast Track
Marketers in hiring mode these days need to ensure that younger workers possess the digital savvy needed to reach and engage increasingly elusive consumers. Fortunately, the attitudes and expectations of millennial and generation Z workers mesh nicely with the underlying need for marketers to be perpetually innovative, adaptive, and digitally focused.
"Young talent is hungry to grow quickly," says Tracy Mathews, creative director and brand strategist for North America at APCO Worldwide. "They demand new opportunities and ownership over work streams or tasks." Plenty of statistics support her view. According to Execu|Search Group, 76 percent of millennials consider professional development opportunities to be an essential element of company culture.
At Siegel+Gale, training and development begins with a collaborative onboarding process, one designed to help new employees understand how their work and career goals contribute to the firm's overall mission. This conveys to employees that their individual work has a larger purpose. Onboarding also gives employees time to lay out a blueprint for their professional success.
To make those goals more tangible and less aspirational involves establishing clear objectives, a timeline, and the steps managers will take to help new employees achieve the goals.
For employers, onboarding is a critical period. It gives them a brief window to emphasize to new employees what is truly different about their brand. For many companies it's a lost opportunity, apparently. According to Gallup, less than half of employees strongly agree that their company has a "unique way of doing things."
Establishing the unique value a company provides is particularly important, because it helps build and perpetuate a resilient culture. This is especially helpful during a time of great uncertainty due to COVID-19. "Prospective employees find a strong culture appealing," Siegel+Gale's Coning says. "People want to find purpose in their work. Making a strong cultural component is key."
Giving Employees a Push
After onboarding, brands need to continuously mentor and cultivate new employees.
At Lionbridge, which provides localization and AI training data, Karen Dawson, VP of brand marketing, sets challenging goals that typically risk some level of failure. "Our junior copywriters and designers are new graduates and hungry to learn," she says. "Giving them stretch goals and constantly providing new opportunities is paramount to keeping them engaged." For one new employee, for example, that meant pushing her to go beyond knocking out blog posts and convincing her to write digital advertising copy and craft new email campaigns.
Employers can also help workers avoid stagnation by encouraging activities that don't fall under their specific job responsibilities. Marketing agency Firewood, which landed a spot on Ad Age's Best Places to Work 2020 list, encourages employees to use skills they may be developing outside the workplace to help the agency market itself.
"We offer opportunities for our employees to exercise their ancillary skills through our marketing communication efforts — marketing of the agency itself through every possible function, like strategy, content creation, graphic and video design, and more," says Vanessa Zucker, senior communications and marketing manager at Firewood. "A strategist with a flair for words may find herself writing a thought leadership article or a digital marketer with a passion for video may be able to direct a short film."
Though it's important to provide opportunities for marketers to flex their creative muscles, it's equally essential for managers to stay continuously engaged with the development and goals of younger workers. Unfortunately, chances are good that marketers are giving this part of the job short shrift.
A separate Gallup report found that while millennial workers crave routine feedback, only 19 percent say they receive it and only 17 percent say that the feedback they get is constructive.
At ad agency MUH-TAY-ZIK / HOF-FER, regular feedback is hardwired into the company's operations. "We have a structured mentorship program in place, with a regular cadence of meetings and topics to discuss, and follow-up to assure their needs are heard," says Tanya LeSieur, head of production. "We do quarterly goal setting and peer feedback."
Managers Play Hands-on Role
Like most brands, Intuit has had to adapt quickly to the challenges wrought by COVID-19. If anything, talent management and ensuring Intuit's marketing team continues to grow and learn and adapt is more important than ever.
But with so many people now working from home, Intuit is conducting most of its onboarding virtually. Intuit, which makes finance and accounting software like QuickBooks, TurboTax, and Mint, provides a steady stream of online seminars and workshops to onboard new marketing employees.
Marketing managers are expected to take a hands-on role in coaching and guiding employees to develop skills that contribute to Intuit's larger objectives. "We require the creation of personal goals along with business goals and expect employees to build and discuss their personal learning and development activities with their manager on a monthly basis," says Paula Kaufman, director of global marketing development and operations at Intuit.
Focusing on mentorship and skill development is an acknowledgement by Intuit that employees crave more than just an attractive financial package.
A key incentive for younger workers, Kaufman says, is the opportunity to work for a mission-driven company. Younger marketers want to see how their work directly impacts customers' lives.
But while younger employees are especially interested in working for mission-driven enterprises, they also want to make a significant contribution individually. Intuit taps into that desire through its "Horizon Innovation" program, which is designed to birth new businesses within the company.
"It provides dedicated funding for full-time innovation teams and a way to scale new offerings," Kaufman says. "If an employee has an idea for a new product or service and a team to create it, this program can make it happen. Being passionate and entrepreneurial are skills that are highly valued, especially as Intuit continues to develop financial products and services for future generations."