NEW YORK: Clients and agencies face a major “talent disconnect” as millennials look to other industries that they perceive as being more attractive to pursue their careers, a study from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has warned.

The research, entitled “Bridging the Talent Disconnect: Charting the Pathways to Future Growth,” was commissioned by the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF), a division of the ANA, and conducted by research firm GfK.

“Marketers, and the agencies that work with them, are facing an unprecedented talent challenge, or ‘talent disconnect’, as millennials look to other, seemingly more appealing fields to build careers,” the study asserted. (For more details, read WARC’s in-depth report: ANA identifies “crisis” of young advertising talent.)

“This is driven in large measure by a lack of common vision, vocabulary, and perceived relevance among marketers, young professionals, and the schools that are expected to educate them.”

In reaching this conclusion, the AEF investigation drew on the views of the three main stakeholder groups making up the talent pipeline: students and new hires, academics, and practitioners in the industry.

Based on these insights, it indicated that agencies will struggle to engage the type of smart, savvy, digital native who can help them tackle the seismic shifts currently reshaping the communications industry.

“Our research suggests that there are multiple disconnects – skills, hiring and retention, and expectations – that threaten to erode the talent development ecosystem,” the AEF report said.

In identifying the reasons for the industry’s problems in colleges, the analysis pointed to courses that often lag behind the dynamic industry reality, and a frustration among employers that students are not more ready for actual jobs.

On their part, the widespread habit of brands and agencies of only hiring staff as needed, rather than having set graduate recruitment policies, undermined their chance of in securing the best prospects – especially when coupled with low pay.

“This channels many students away from either industry and into more structured programs like banking, consulting, and technology because, they need more security to pay off students loans or placate nervous parents,” the study said.

Among the study’s other recommendations were that the industry must endeavour to enhance its reputation. “Overall, there is a negative bias toward the professions of marketing and advertising today,” the study said.

“That lingering perception carries over to the student population, which is looking for more purpose in what they want to do and don’t often put marketing and advertising into their consideration set.”

In starting to address these concerns, the ANA/AEF have launched Pathways 2020, which seeks to deepen the bond between academics and practitioners, give the industry a greater presence on campus, and offer more opportunities for students.

Data sourced from ANA; additional content by WARC staff