The fact that the media sector is experiencing a period of intense upheaval is hardly up for debate. However, for most commentators, that upheaval appears mainly in the front office – focusing on content, channels and customers.
But just as important is the effect on the back office in talent management and resourcing.
In fact, the digitisation of the media sector value chain now forces a reassessment of the skills required to be successful within media – and that’s going to mean a whole host of changes.
For starters, I believe we will see a real increase in poaching and acquisition of key staff from other organisations. The explosion in skill requirements (think data, devices, channels) combined with the pace of change within the sector means that many existing workforces won’t able to cope.
Traditional, in-house training won’t be able to keep up so expect to see the head-hunters out in force. Failing that, partnering with third party skills specialists, who are likely ‘micro-entrepreneurs’ or enterprising freelancers, will be used to fill the gaps.
Both routes will deliver people who are immediately effective in their new roles – and time is of the essence, after all.
This diversification of skill requirements will also have an effect at the most senior leadership level. In the past, media magnates rose to prominence on the back of their mastery of a single component of the media offering, such as content, channel, advertising and so on.
I don’t think we shall see their like again. No media outlet can afford to be one-dimensional and neither can their leaders.
Whisper it quietly but content may no longer be king. It may not be the single biggest factor determining where most money is to be made from a digitised media. If that is the case, then leaders need to have an in-depth strategic and commercial understanding of all components of digital media, both content and delivery.
The breadth of perspective required makes you wonder whether a single person, even surrounded by the most capable of advisors, can provide the blend of entrepreneurialism and hard-nosed commerciality that modern media companies are going to need.
One individual who will rise to prominence is the Lead Innovator. These super-gurus may not have the desire to lead whole companies but their expertise and vision in their particular specialist area will bring other talented individuals onboard.
In an era of reduced employee loyalty to the media brand – and with poaching likely to increase – Lead Innovators will have a role to play in helping anchor key staff to the organisation.
Of course, how you anchor the Lead Innovator themselves is quite a conundrum. Getting the employee proposition absolutely right will be so important as it could make all the difference in securing these talented individuals, whether permanent or contract-based.
Media companies will have to accept that people, especially graduates, will no longer beg to come and work in the sector. In the old days, such was the cultural kudos attached to working for iconic media brands that people would almost work for nothing. The sector knew this – and exploited that fact.
That practice will now end as a result of skills diversification. Previously for example, the media wanted writers and the writers wanted to be in the media. Where else would a writer go?
Now, the media needs technologists, data analysts and project managers – but they don’t necessarily have to work in the media. The industry is now in need of skills which are in just as much demand elsewhere so the days of getting talent on the cheap are gone.
What much of this boils down to is the need for media companies to be clear on their employee proposition, for permanent, contractors and temporary staff. They will also need to identify the parts of the business where top talent has a disproportionate impact on the bottom line.
That’s not going to be easy in an industry which appears to be in such a constant state of flux. Any HR model is going to have to be flexible enough to move with any future shifts.
But if you accept that media profitability is no longer just about content, then you also have to accept that the skills which drive profitability may reside in parts of the business which have lain undisturbed for years. Those dark corners of the organisation have suddenly become much more important.