‘Good vibes’ stem the tide of talent turnover

The growing importance of interactive online marketing is causing some upheaval in the job market but companies that know how to keep workers happy should have no cause for worry.

“During the last Internet boom people talked a lot about salaries and perks. Today, it’s all about getting good vibes,” says Ken Schafer, vice-president of product management and marketing for Tucows Inc. of Toronto. Tucows began as a domain name registrar in the early 1990s but quickly transformed to a services and software vendor for Web hosting firms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The industry has awaken to the fact that interactive online marketing is the way business will be done but unfortunately there is a very limited pool of Web 2.0 proficient professionals, according to Schafer.

Around September this year, Tucows successfully capped a year-long hiring stretch to build-up its Internet team, he said.

“At the moment, it is very difficult to find people with high quality training and experience in Web design and Web 2.0,” Schafer said.

Companies are looking for professionals who are familiar with search marketing, search ads, Web optimization and the use of Internet analytics applications, he said.

“The focus is on getting good rankings in the search engines like Google and Yahoo. People who have the creative and analytical combo to deliver this are in high demand,” said the Tucows executive.

Schafer’s views are backed by statistics from Monster.ca, the Canadian online career resource portal. The company reported a 31 per cent increase in online recruitment during the third quarter of this year.

“Canadian online job demand clearly remains strong, indicating that employers intend to continue hiring through the fourth quarter,” said Gabriel Bouchard, vice-president and general manager for Monster Canada.

“For years we had hoped that online marketing would catch on. Now it has finally caught fire and it’s quickly exceeding traditional media,” said Michael Leblanc, director of marketing for The Shopping Channel.

While up to date online skills will be in demand, basic marketing know how will remain an essential, Leblanc said.

To keep existing talent from jumping ship, Tucows concentrates on keeping the excitement levels high in the workplace.

“These are very intelligent and creative people. They need exciting work and assignments that allow them to stretch their abilities and creativity.”

While salaries continue to be a vital consideration, marketing professionals are increasingly looking for companies that provide the ideal work-life balance, Schafer said.

The last eight months were a good indication of just how swiftly revolving doors were turning in marketing outfits, according to another marketing insider.

“This summer was especially crazy. A lot of people were being hit left and right with job opportunities,” said Adam Froman, president and CEO of Delvinia, a digital marketing agency based in Toronto.

Froman did not have any specific numbers but reported that during the first eight months of 2007; a lot of marketing professionals were receiving calls from recruiters offering positions at competing firms. Conversely, job agencies were also calling companies and pitching them talents.

He attributes the churn to the industry’s movement from traditional advertising to the interactive and online media. “Overall there is a demand for people who can navigate the Web.”

Froman said there are basically two sets of marketing professionals: Those who have been in the industry for sometime and are focused on maintaining a career and lifestyle balance; and newcomers “chasing the buck.”

“Because of the talent shortage a lot of firms are throwing money at the second type,” Froman said.

There is, however, bad news for this type of worker because when a labour market correction occurs they will be among the first ones to go, he warned.

Delvinia manages to keep a minus 10 per cent turnover rate by providing employees work-life balance, open communication and lots of development opportunities.

For instance, the company traditionally allowed staff members to keep summer hours but was flexible enough to switch strategies. When workload suddenly increased this year, Delvinia allowed employees to increase normal work hours in exchange for four-day weekends.

The company also fosters a culture of open communication where “employees are never too intimidated to discuss issues with their managers.”

The company uses its Internet data and polling technology to conduct twice-a-year company surveys on employee job satisfaction. “The important thing is we get feedback from our employees and make sure we act on them,” Froman said.

Delvinia also allocates a considerable budget staff training and development. Employees can always approach management and request for funding support on job related courses.

Workers are no longer just looking at the dollar value when it comes to compensation, according to Kathie Parker, senior manager of the human capital consulting practice of auditing and consultancy firm Deloitte.

She said her firm recommends a talent management strategy that “develop, deploys, and connects employees.”

According to her companies should encourage and support workers in developing their skill sets.

For one, employers must ensure that employees are given work or opportunity to practice their talents either in work-related or non-work tasks.

Workplaces must also encourage a sense of belonging among rank and file and management staff. To this end, companies can use corporate blogs and wikis to foster open communication and camaraderie, she said.

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