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It’s Time To Look To Other Industries To Attract Top Talent


Two weeks ago, Searchlight had the privilege of attending Broadcast Tech Fest, which provided in-depth insights into our constantly changing industry. The focuses of the event were the recruitment crisis, diversity in the industry and most importantly – beginning to look outside of the media industry itself to attract and retain top talent. 

Entertainment and media companies can no longer rely on their industry’s ‘cool’ employer brand to win over and keep the talent they need. For decades entertainment and media companies have based their approach to talent recruitment and retention on their employees’ ‘psychic income’. The term economists use for the non-monetary sense of wellbeing that people get from having a ‘cool’ job that they can tell their friends about. 

As the barriers between entertainment and media and formerly distinct sectors such as technology and communications continue to blur, the industries former appeal in the employee marketplace is eroding. And this change is coinciding with a dramatic rise in the importance of digital technologies and data insights in industry business models, as consumers demand ever greater relevance and personalisation from the content services they consume.

Businesses are facing two key talent challenges:

These changes mean businesses across the industry are now facing two parallel and interrelated challenges. Firstly, a need to recruit and retain new skillsets from adjacent industries – specifically top-end talent in data analytics. Meaning businesses can make sense of a mass of customers and enable more targeted and tailored services. 

The rising demand for these skills across an array of sectors from financial services to technology to retail – means competition for them in the recruitment market is intense. Yet as digital migration gathers pace, attracting and keeping them on board is crucial to the success of entertainment and media companies. 

The second challenge around talent is deeper and arguably harder to address: the workplace culture of many entertainment and media companies. Partly because of the ‘psychic income’ previously offered, businesses in the sector have traditionally not had to invest as heavily in formal HR processes and retention strategies as their counterparts in other industries.

Recruitment and promotion decisions have often been based on ‘similarity attraction’ among the existing workforce and management. Resulting in a tendency to fill vacant posts either from within or from employees’ networks, thus building a limited workforce characterised by a single dominant culture and long tenures at senior levels. 

The area where entertainment and media companies have historically focused on investing in talent retention is with high-profile stars. These individuals have commonly been regarded as irreplaceable – meaning companies have prioritised keeping them on board over attracting different skillsets or fostering diversity. 

Breaking The Mould:

For the media industry to find success in this new digital world, much of their approach towards talent will need to change – fast. In terms of recruiting new technical talent – companies have two options. Grow talent internally or buy it from outside. 

Either way using informal networks or relying on those already in the industry is a thing of the past. Instead, a business needs to undertake a formal benchmarking of its current talent against the current market challenges – to identify the gaps between its talent pool today and what it will need in the future. 

Once a business has conducted a review, they can assess whether the required skills can be taught to existing colleagues – perhaps there are hidden pockets of talent that could be developed. If this potential doesn’t exist, there will be a need to buy the skills from elsewhere.

A business will often find that the better option is to bring in technical talent from outside. Recruiting and promoting within a business leaves many companies in the sector dominated by people who are creative and intuitive. Now is the time to complement this creativity with logical and analytical personalities. The newer digital media companies have a head-start in striking this balance – and the incumbents now need to catch up.

Retooling the industry for new talent: 

What steps should entertainment and media companies consider to equip themselves to gain the skills needed and keep them on board? The answer lies in looking not only to acquire new talent from adjacent industries but also to emulate some of their ways of managing that talent and keeping it happy. 

Martin Richards, Head of Broadcast Technologies at Sky, spoke of this at Broadcast Tech Festival: “We can no longer compete with massive fintech businesses when it comes to salary, we need to explore other options in retaining top talent once trained.” Martin and the other panellists suggested that a different approach is needed – thereby fostering a working environment talent would not want to leave.  

Specific Actions to Take:

Elevate HR and Research functions to a higher status in an organisation, with more resources, capabilities and influence. This will help provide a deeper understanding of how external changes affect skills requirements, together with the ability to meet those evolving requirements with the right talent at the right time from whatever source.

All businesses should invest in the type of social enterprise technology and collaboration tools that younger and more technically skilled recruits now expect as the core of their workplace experience. Older and senior employees should also be actively encouraged to use these tools. This will not only increase productivity and escalate collaboration and innovation across individuals, business units and geographies but will also boost employee engagement and the free flow of ideas and information at all levels

Finally, talent management should appreciate the growing power and importance of trust and integrity. Especially important in the media sector, where several scandals have resulted in breaches of trust and severe reputational damage. By setting the right tone from the top and embedding a culture of doing the right thing at all levels, leaders can rebuild trust, boost employee engagement, and forge closer and more profitable business relationships.

In this ever-changing digital landscape, entertainment companies need new digital talent. But to recruit and – more importantly – retain it, they’ll also need a new culture. And that is the hard part.