Research employers, stop looking for a unicorn

123392318Editor’s note: Karen Morgan is president of Morgan Search, a Santa Monica, Calif., recruitment firm specializing in the marketing research industry.

There’s frustration all around when it comes to hiring in the marketing research industry and beyond. Companies complain they cannot find “the right talent” and potential employees feel they can never meet all the requirements.

As a recruiter for this industry, I’ve been listening to this circular frustration for months now and feel that it’s time for some change. We have great minds in this business and we need to bring them together to start really talking about what’s going on.

More responsibility needs to be put back on the companies doing the hiring. Everyone wants people who can hit the ground running. What this really means is the majority of companies are no longer demonstrating a commitment to training and investing in developing and growing their talent.

Departments are leaner than ever before, so everyone feels stretched already. However, if companies don’t invest in their employees, how can they expect to gain their trust and loyalty and keep them motivated? Turnover is costly on so many levels. Why are we not looking ahead and investing in our talent?

Companies want an unprecedented combination of skills in one individual and yet they aren’t paying enough to attract talent. People are literally leaving the industry or choosing not to pursue research as a career because other professions pay more competitively (e.g., marketing, strategy). We already have a so-called shortage of talent in research so there is an urgent need to focus on training and development and to start being more creative in our approach. That means looking for talent that can be developed rather than expecting to find the “perfect” person to do the work of two or more.

Employers need to identify their must-haves in terms of qualifications and experience and then be willing to teach the rest. (We fully acknowledge, of course, that you can’t teach enthusiasm, passion and drive.)

Even though the economy is improving, many U.S. companies are still hanging onto record amounts of cash, something they usually do in times of economic turmoil. U.S. companies held $1.45 trillion in cash in 2012, up 10 percent from the $1.32 trillion they held in 2011 – which at that time was a record level, according to a report from Moody’s Investors Service. So there’s no excuse not to hire.

I believe we are at a crisis point. If we are truly committed to the research industry, we need to take drastic action. This is a call to action!

This entry was posted in Corporate Researchers, Employment Trends, For Employers, Research Vendors, The Business of Research. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Research employers, stop looking for a unicorn

  1. Amy says:

    Thanks for posting this article/call to action, Karen. I recently relocated to a new state after my partner got a new job opportunity, and this is something I have encountered while looking for employment for myself (in market research and research positions in other industries). I often don’t submit applications for positions that I’m interested in because they seem to want the whole shebang, and I walk away thinking my skills are inadequate. Even entry level positions seem to have more requirements these days.

    I agree that it’s good to have a variety of tools, skills, and experiences under your belt, but there is a threshold beyond which even stellar researchers cannot transcend. It can be rather discouraging when job descriptions list an inordinate number of requirements, especially if I meet most of them except for one or two. I feel that I have an excellent background and an array of experiences in different research contexts, yet I am finding nothing. I am also willing (and eager!) to learn new skills on the job in order to meet an employer’s needs and my own professional development goals, yet never see any language in job descriptions noting such an interest on the employer’s behalf.

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