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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The New Realities

By Jerry Bernhart
Published in DM News, October 20, 2008

In the most recent Bernhart Associates quarterly survey on direct marketing trends, only about one-third of those companies responding said they plan to add to headcount the rest of 2008. Another one-third said they have imposed a hiring freeze. Not exactly a cheery outlook for direct marketing job seekers. But there was another interesting revelation. When asked to describe the degree of difficulty they are experiencing finding qualified candidates, two-thirds of the employers said they were still having challenges attracting the right people for some of their positions.

If it's challenging now, just wait until the economy rebounds and direct marketers start scrambling to fill critical positions.

The rules of the game have changed. New technologies, the impact of competition, the growing propensity for workers to switch from one company to another and the shifting power of customers and marketers are the strategic inflection points that will reshape and
transform the direct marketing workplace. Talent is now the critical driver of corporate performance and the differential value of highly talented people continues to increase.
I hear examples of it every day. A highly talented circulation analyst, for example, can easily improve the return on a catalog's marketing spend 10-20% compared with someone who possesses only mediocre skills.

Many direct marketing companies still struggle with talent management. Even fewer have a well-defined recruiting strategy. For many direct marketers, winning the battle to attract the best and brightest will require a total change in mindset. Capital is no longer the competitive advantage. Rather, talented people will make the difference. No longer can you think of your employees as loyal subjects who think their jobs are secure. Everyone now thinks short-term. No longer can you treat everyone as equally capable. You should identify your A, B and C employees and invest in them accordingly. Finally, it will take more than just standard compensation packages to attract A players. To attract the best you must break the rules because talented people will demand much more.

The business landscape is changing and tremendous opportunity awaits those who adapt to these new realities and make talent priority number one. It will be the determining factor in your company's long-term success. I can practically guarantee it.

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