Why Digital Talent doesn’t want to work at your company?

I recently came across an article* that tries to address some of the issues both recruiters and clients are facing when it comes to attracting top digital talent into their companies.

In a candidate short market, where the very best talent can often be extremely particular in where they see themselves working next – making your company stand out among an increasingly saturated Digital Marketing industry is crucial.

Here are a few key points taken from the article that I feel really highlight common misconceptions, and the reality that prospective employers are now faced with.

Often more than not, the very best candidates, irrespective of specialism, will work almost anywhere, provided they’re given the opportunity to do something truly innovative and ground breaking – and to some extent “change the world”.


“The opportunity to do great things, to make a real difference, is what drives most digital talent–whether they’re developers, designers, producers, marketers or business folks. 

Most companies don’t offer this, so they skip your company and work somewhere that’s more innovative and exciting. End of story. But the good news is that you can offer them something exciting and great. The promise of changing a giant, behind-the-times organization into an Internet-savvy business is an incredibly exciting challenge and a big way for ambitious people to make an impact.  

But it takes more than lip service to make the sale. Job candidates and new hires with digital chops must truly believe in the company’s dedication to digital transformation and they must see that they are empowered to make this change. Trouble is, many big businesses aren’t structured to deliver on this type of opportunity. The attributes of a soul-crushing, Sisyphean, anti-digital workplace run deep”.


There is nothing more exact (from a recruitment perspective) than the very beginning of the aforementioned extract. Common questions from candidates often include “Who are their clients?!” “What’s the ethos and culture like?” and “What are they doing differently?”

“Digital talent won’t want to work at your company if:  

  • Every element of their work will be pored over by multiple layers of bureaucracy. Even if that’s how the rest of the company operates, it can’t spill into the digital department. In a technology environment, new products and businesses spring up daily and a new endeavour can go from conception to launch in a matter of months. Reining in the momentum will be read as inaction and a clear signal the company isn’t willing to grasp the new way of the world.  
  • Mediocre is good enough. While clocking out at 5 p.m. is attractive to some, it will discourage digital talent. They want to be expected to do something great. They want to be pushed. They care about their work. Their leadership, and those they rely on to get things done, must match their appetite for success.   
  • Trial and error is condemned. The freedom to try out new ideas allows employees to take initiative, make decisions, and learn from their mistakes. It also demonstrates an attractive and inspiring entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Your company is structured so it takes a lifetime to get to the top, and as such there are no digital experts in company-wide leadership positions. Digital talent–often in their 20s and 30s–need to see a clear path for uninhibited career development that’s based on merit, not years spent, and that’s beyond the confines of the digital department. If they don’t, they won’t see a reason to stay with the company in the long term.  
  • Your offices are cold, impersonal and downright stodgy. A traditional office layout is designed to communicate power among certain individuals and barriers between departments. This does not support the collaborative ethos which is intrinsic to the web. Companies should do everything possible to provide the digital team friendlier, open office space. A location in a hip, young neighbourhood (which surely exists in every mid- to large-sized city) is also a big plus.”

What companies need to remember is that when a recruitment need arises – “you need them more than they need you”.  In a market where top talent is scarce, and demand for their service is constantly increasing, they can afford to pick and choose where they want to work.  If they’re going to make a move from their current employer, a company with a more attractive culture and better opportunities will take priority over yours. Take a hard look at what your company could be doing to stand out as an attractive employer, and truly embrace and live up to those ambitions.

Audley Swain – Consultant