How To Solve The Programmatic Skills Gap

Written by Danielle Stewart, Senior Programmatic Consultant

Senior Programmatic Consultant Daniel Stewart


While this industry is fixated on the notion of targeting the right person, at the right time, with the right message, this can’t always be said for its recruitment. With a limited talent pool, and often a time sensitive role to fill, the need to relax and broaden your search criteria is inevitableThis applies to all realms of programmatic recruitment, whether brands, agencies, tech vendors or suppliers – not only do we need to focus on increasing this talent pool, but also how we can nurture talent to help minimise the infamous advertising churnIn this blog we’ll take a closer look at sourcing new and experienced recruits, as well as what we can do to retain this talent once onboard.  

Sourcing Talent 

Before anything else, whether you’re looking for experience or fresh talent, be mindful of your job descriptionIcan be too easy for the technicalities of a programmatic role to come across as dull on paper – when the reality is much more dynamic and fast paced. Make sure the real essence of the role is clear 

With UK programmatic on track to be a £6 billion industry this year, I’d say it’s earned a seat at the Graduate tableConnecting with Universities, hosting guest lectures and attending careers fairs are great ways of getting programmatic into the consciousness of the next generation. By catering this to relevant courses, you’re able to get yourself in front of the most appropriate and interested minds. Beyond formal “Grad Schemes”, finding entry level work can be daunting for students; by advertising your entry level roles on University Careers Portals you’re cutting the guess work and confirming this job is relevant and attainable for their level – helping to increase application rates.  

Alternatively, there is the opportunity to hire placement studentsPlacement students are undergrads on a 4-year course, where their 3rd year is spent in industry. These roles are best advertised through University Career Portals as undergrad work placements. This would require a fixed term contract but tapping into this talent pool provides access to individuals eager for experience and hungry to learn. The need for yearly rotation might seem an inconvenience, but the predictable scheduling of the process makes it simple to factor in. If, once graduated, they opt for a different career path, then programmatic still benefits through increased awareness of the industry and its potential. If they return to programmatic, then the talent pool increases, and you might get an applicant with experience 

Experienced Talent 

It can be difficult and competitive to hire experience, given the limited candidates and speed at which theyre snapped up elsewhere. If you’re looking for particular skillsthis could be a lengthy process that you need to be prepared to wait out. During this process, expanding your options by reaching candidates that aren’t actively looking for roles is vitalit can be beneficial to enlist the help of recruiters here. It can also be difficult for an applicant to understand how their current level of seniority translates to other job titles in the market, the clearer you make this the more confident a relevant individual will feel to apply.  

The perfect candidate that can “hit the ground running” rarely exists, even when they have a great CV/experience. This is where it’s important to test soft skills such as problem solving, communication and adaptability to ensure they’re able to transfer their knowledge to your organisation and are willing to learn.  

Finally, once you find the right candidate, don’t hold them back with a poor onboarding process…  

Retaining Talent 

Individuals often leave their previous roles due to feeling overlooked and undervalued, so it’s important to get off on the right foot. If you’re hiring, then the odds are that you’re currently understaffed and over stretched with little time to spare to train a new recruitDependant on the role and the tasks at hand, it might be possible to outsource this to increase efficiency. Investing in and committing to staff training from the offset sends a strong message about employee development.  

Moreover, be upfront about progression paths and what success looks like. plan that will be respected and worked towards will help to emphasise the long-term benefits of staying onboard. It also makes sure everyone is on the same page, helping to avoid surprises and frustrations. Continue to invest in development beyond onboarding, even when it’s not directly relevant to day to day work. Whether this is management training, internal mentoring or industry events outside of their remit, both parties are benefitting from a well-rounded member of staff. Enabling this could really boost passions and interests to keep employees motivated. It’s important to encourage knowledge sharing across teams as well, as a common complaint for leaving is employees’ feelings they are no longer learning.  

Often, individuals are over stretched by their day to day roles and only have time to focus on the skills required today, rather than skills for the future. Factoring personal development time into workload and objectives will go a long way in encouraging engagement and interest in the programmatic ecosystemThis is particularly important as programmatic roles can be nichelooking more broadly can be inspiring and leave staff feeling less pigeonholed and eager to move on  

Considering the pace that programmatic moves, processes are always changing. It’s crucial that employers are demonstrating the same agility they expect of their staff in this respect. For example, outdated legacy systems can be a real pain point, especially when there are lengthy processes to even change them. Being open to new, more efficient workflows is crucial so that employees don’t feel their productivity is stunted.   

So, there isn’t one quick fix to the Programmatic Skills Gap. But, if we collectively do our bit to raise the awareness of programmatic to entice talent, and look after the talent we do have, then we should be on the path to a larger talent pool and reduced churn.