How to Recruit & Retain Your Digital Staff

We reported back in November on research released by e-skills UK and SAS – leader in business analytics – who predict around a third of the UK’s larger organisations will implement big data analytics programs within the next five years, pushing the demand for big data specialists up by 243 per cent to 69,000.

Also predicted is an extensive skills gap for those with the sophisticated technical expertise required to populate organisations in this massively growing digital market. The range of skills required is also vast – from the people who generate and give life to ideas: developers, programers; graphic designers and software engineers, to the data analysts, and those who ensure that effective SEO is combined with the content written by authors communicating the digital message – crucially without offending the almighty Google.

So as we move out of the industrial economy and rapidly into the digital era, in order to maintain a competitive advantage you will need to recruit digital specialists who are self-motivated, experienced and highly skilled in their field. However, until the skills market catches up, attracting the very best talent operating at higher levels, with more and more complex systems, it is going to prove increasingly difficult for the medium to large, more competitive organisations. A great deal of this work is currently outsourced via agencies, but this is very expensive and not best practice as a long-term solution.


Adam D’arcy left his graduate role at Logica (now CGI) in 2011, to join seven-year mobile money start-up Monitise.  Over the last three years, Monitise has been a Deloitte Fast 50 company and is now valued at an impressive $1 billion on the London Stock Exchange. However, Adam tells me it was a tough decision at the time.

“Although Logica had a very good smart-working scheme, their solutions were very technology centric with little focus on the user experience.”

“It was important for me to move to a company that could attract exciting projects with large reputable organisations”, Adam explained, “and Monitse had just won contracts with Visa and RBSG, who effectively outsourced all of their mobile innovation to the company.”

“There were great opportunities to work on new projects like BBM Money in Indonesia.” (Monitise was the first company to turn a social messaging network into a payment network.)

“What we do now impacts on literally millions of people’s lives as we all become ever more reliant on our mobile devices. Our team really have a sense of ownership of the product and I get to work with some exceptionally talented people. It’s great to work in an energetic culture with everyone on the same journey, excited to take the company to the next level.”

This illustrates exactly why now is the time to bite the bullet and build your in-house digital team; those companies with excellent staff are going to have a significant competitive advantage. However, it is important to understand that recruiting and retaining your quality digital team is less about money, more about their environment and other work benefits. Here are a few tips.

How to steal the very best talent from your competition

Culture and the ‘A Team’: Examine the practices of those who are already leading the field with their digital teams. Organisations both large, such as Google and Apple, and small, like British-based King and Unruly Media, foster a culture of innovation and problem solving, stimulating and continuously encouraging their people to be creative, giving them a finite amount of time to work on their own ideas, along with their colleagues, to ensure they do not stagnate.

Should you need to scale your team, always focus on quality. If you cannot find the exact profile you need externally, see if you can identify internal talent – your HR social recruiter will be able to assist as quite often staff LinkedIn profile pages hold far more detail than company records. Spotting a keen member of staff, who with training will rise to the challenge, is always a bonus and great for morale.

Development and Knowledge: Passion and engagement, camaraderie and competitive spirit are all contagious; nurturing this kind of working environment is important to keep your teams fresh so they remain your ‘A players’, fulfilling their ambitions with you, continuing to work hard for you. Otherwise, of course they will be off taking their passion, ideas and talent elsewhere to someone who really appreciates it.

It is also crucial that your digital professionals received regular development and investment in their knowledge. Standing still in this fast moving industry means they will rapidly fall behind, which is bad news for both parties.

Environment and Equipment: This is one of the most important aspects of keeping your digital staff happy. Web professionals are used to working in environments that allow them to ‘work hard and play hard’. They typically put in long hours and so expect a work place that they are happy to be in.

Hardware is important too; offering the identical 15-inch monitor used by your administrators will not suffice when they have to toggle between designing in Photoshop, a PDF containing wireframes, an email from a client with amendments, the company intranet, etc. A clean, well lit, Mac environment; dual monitors; high-speed Internet connection along with an ergonomic workstation, will all result in an improvement in productivity.

Working Hours: Flexibility is key. It is common for digital professionals to combine home working with project working, trusted to take responsibility for their own workload. Naturally, this type of flexibility depends on the needs of the organisation.

It is important to set realistic deadlines to ensure you are not putting too much strain on your staff. While it is fairly rare for digital staff to work a standard 9-5 day, driving staff to work long hours to deliver on time is bad for morale. Many of the larger organisations encourage a healthy work-life balance as in reality it means their people are twice as effective when they are at work – ‘work hard, play hard’ culture is one thing, but this should not be abused; exhausted, demoralised staff is bad for business.

Mike Sandiford
Head of Partnerships
0207 193 9931

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