IAB Europe’s flagship conference, Interact 2018 took place in Milan at the end of last month. Taking part were over 600 senior executives and professionals in digital advertising spanning the breadth of Europe and indeed the industry. Advertisers, ad agencies, measurement companies, data and ad technology suppliers, media owners and policymakers took part in debating, discussing and brainstorming ideas for the hottest (and thorniest) topics from the field of digital.
One such area of interest was the professional development of current and future generations of employees in digital, a discussion which coalesced into a dedicated panel, entitled Optimising the human, re-engineering roles for the new digital ecosystem.
Hossein Houssaini, Global Head Programmatic Solutions, Havas Group and Ken Brook, CEO and Founder, MetaX, were joined by Richard Dunmall, President, MiQ. The panel was moderated by Neslihan Olcay, CEO of Wavemaker Turkey and Chair of the IAB Europe Education and Training Committee. Together they explored the talent development strategies that are securing a role for intuition, empathy and humanity in the media supply chain.
An undeniable fact of todays’ digital advertising landscape is that technology develops at breakneck speed with organisations being left to constantly play a chasing game when it comes to having a full complement of employees up to scratch with the latest innovations in the field. This issue is compounded by what Ken Brooks identifies as a propensity of many organisations to become entrenched and slow to adopt new technologies, be they AI or blockchain. Therefore, when it comes to keeping up with innovation, training efforts have to contend on the one hand with external challenges – the pace of said innovation, and internal hurdles – the reluctance to take the leap and embrace the new.
This generates a sense of discomfort when it comes to the digital acumen of employees in many organisations. For one, leaders feel uncomfortable because they believe their employees don’t have sufficient command of the latest technological breakthroughs. What’s more, they live with the uneasiness of having to step out of the comfort zone and integrate revolutionary technologies which require training, and an investment of finances and time. Struggling with the uncomfortableness that the pace of innovation in the field of digital advertising generates is counterproductive, however. Richard Dunmall crystalized the idea that leaders need to accept, nay, embrace this reality in one brief statement: "We need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable."
Accepting the fact that an organisation’s human resource will perhaps never be fully up to date with all emergent and revolutionary technologies at any given point in time does not mean that efforts should not be made to keep abreast of the innovation wave. In fact, according to the same Richard Dunmall, his company, MiQ made significant investments in the training and education of their employees. This particular sentiment, of how critical training your staffers is, was echoed by the other panellists.
While acquiescing that, from a knowledge standpoint, keeping up with innovation in the field of digital is a monumental endeavour, Hossein Houssaini talked about the efforts undertaken at Havas to offset the skill gap and keep on the bleeding edge of training in digital. Their dedicated programmatic platform saw “over 15,000 enrolments and in excess of 6,000 certificates in programmatic being issued,” he said. This quick response to what was once a ground-breaking technology – and whose various offshoots are still revolutionising the industry today – is a key point in tackling the training and education of human resources. According to the Havas executive, the most important skill the industry lacks, however, is “the transparency regarding what you know and finding solutions to cover what you do not.” The MetaX CEO, Ken Brooks, also believes that “being honest with our partners” and upfront about what we can and can not do is a vital skill that needs to be injected into the ecosystem, alongside the technological proficiencies required for the smooth operation of any given organisation.
Further along this train of thought covering those skills which are intrinsic to a well-rounded and mature industry was the observation of the MiQ President who noted that emotional intelligence is perhaps the skill most direly needed in the industry today. This generated a reaction from another high-profile executive in the audience, Andrew Buckman, MD EMEA, Sublime Skinz, who applauded the fact that this particular skill was identified as key component of a well-functioning ecosystem and who called for a closer collaboration within the industry in a bid to overcome the challenges posed by the pace of technological breakthrough.
The formula for success, therefore, seems straightforward enough: identify the most pressing training needs and act on them swiftly; accept any shortcomings generated by the blazing pace of innovation, be open and upfront about them, and take steps to address them; instil and train emotional intelligence in your employees. Always the optimist, Hossein Houssaini concluded on an even more positive note: “The industry says we don’t have enough talent. We do; we just need to find it!”