‘We have to compete hard’: AA launches talent ‘taskforce’ to tackle skills shortage and diversity

A renewed look at talent is “vital” for the future success of the industry as brands, agencies and media owners “struggle” to attract and retain staff, says AA president and Tesco chief customer officer Alessandra Bellini.

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The Advertising Association (AA) is launching a taskforce to address the “major” talent shortage in marketing and advertising and improve the competitiveness of the industry as a career choice.

The new taskforce will review the strategy of brands, agencies, media owners and tech companies to attract and retain talent, and will also work to understand how the advertising workforce can better represent the diversity of its audience.

“We face a major challenge: a shortage of talent,” said AA president and Tesco chief customer officer Alessandra Bellini as she launched the taskforce at today’s Renew2022 conference.

“In my conversations with people as I took on the role [of president], talent came up time and time again as the issue that we need to get hold of… We are struggling to recruit from a truly diverse talent pool, and we are also struggling to retain.”

Bellini added that the challenge of attracting and retaining talent “cannot be underestimated”.

“We will only ever be as good as the people that work in our industry. This renewed look at talent is vital for our future success,” she said. “We are going to have to compete hard for the best people now and in the future.”The 2022 Agenda: The need for upskilling rises as the war for talent intensifies

As its first action, the Talent Taskforce has commissioned UK advertising’s think tank Credos to produce a report assessing the industry’s competitiveness as a career choice.

The report will reveal how the industry compares to other industries in the UK job market on measures including salaries, as well as look at the challenges across businesses to develop and retain necessary skills. Research will also be conducted to better understand what is driving job satisfaction among the industry’s current workforce.

After reviewing the findings, the taskforce will present options to the AA’s council this summer to form a three-year strategy.

“We want to be competitive as we emerge from the pandemic and the battle for talent intensifies. We want to be clear on how to compete successfully to attract the best creative, strategic and technical talent for the decades ahead,” Bellini said.

The taskforce will also work to raise Government awareness about the value and importance of supporting and investing in skills training provided by industry trade bodies and professional associations.

Making our industry [one] where everyone feels they belong is vital. We have to have every leader’s support for this.

Alessandra Bellini, Advertising Association

In October, the AA, Market Research Society and Data & Marketing Association criticised the Government for failing to see the “missed opportunity” to resolve the digital skills gap by backing industry-led training programmes, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled his autumn budget.

“We want to build the case to the government that professional advertising and marketing bodies play a key role in equipping the workforce across the country with strategic business and digital skills. This deserves support through the wider government skills agenda,” Bellini reaffirmed today.

New diversity action points

The work of the talent taskforce will be aligned with the work of All In, the AA’s initiative to improve the diversity and inclusivity of the marketing and advertising workforce, backed by data from last year’s industry-wide census.

“It is vital we make our industry one where everyone feels they belong,” Bellini said.

“To truly deliver on its full potential in terms of financial contribution, creativity and career prospects, this industry needs to look beyond stage of life or even state of life when recruiting, retaining and nurturing its employees.”

Today the AA also revealed the next three action points for the All In Action Plan, focusing on addressing gender diversity and inclusivity, Asian talent, and ageism.

According to the census, which surveyed 16,000 people across the industry, 10 times more women than men believed parental leave negatively impacted their career progression (53% of women versus 5% of men), while 27% of Asian respondents reported they are likely to leave the industry due to a lack of inclusion. Ad industry faces exodus of diverse talent if inclusion efforts aren’t improved

Meanwhile, only 4% of respondents were aged 55 to 64 compared to 17% of the UK working population, and 43% of that bracket reported feeling age limited their career.

The AA will be asking businesses to implement checklists, policies and guides across all three areas, with those companies that evidence completion of these actions to be awarded ‘All In Champion’ status in summer 2022. All In is running a series of free sessions providing guidance on how to complete each action.

These three new actions were developed by the AA’s Inclusion Working Group, in partnership with industry groups Media for All (MEFA), 40 Over Forty, and Women in Advertising & Communication Leadership (WACL).

They join three existing action points covering black, disabled and working class talent. A third phase will be revealed in the spring with three final actions covering LGBTQ+ inclusion, mental health and physical disability.

“I want us to look for talent where the talent is today. I want us to be an industry which is open, understandable, non-elitist and fun,” Bellini said.

“Making our industry [one] where everyone feels they belong is vital and essential. We have to have every leader’s support for this.”

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