This week we are looking at jobs and the job climate in Market Research. Now, we have previously touched on the need to promote the industry to the youth of today in order to keep MR innovative and relevant. But what we are looking at today is the state of employment within the industry; in what are especially difficult economic times all over.
For some time there have been rumblings within the MR industry; a call if you like, for new blood. But it would seem to be that in all areas of employment, entry-level opportunities for those who are trying to establish a career are few and far between; with greater emphasis being placed on those who already have experience. Even graduate opportunities seem to be increasingly difficult to secure (discussed in last week’s blog here) due to the massive increase in competition for a more limited amount of roles. And at graduate level, experience is not only advantageous but, we are now told, mandatory. It would seem having a good work ethic counts for very little in today’s society. But how true is this of the MR industry?
I spoke to Simon Robertson (Director of Selective Talent) who identified two main problems within the industry; firstly, how the industry attracts new, young talent and secondly, how the industry retains this talent.
Simon argues that it isn’t so much that there aren’t entry level positions available; in fact quite the opposite is true. Rather, more companies are now asking for this level of qualification as there is a lot to be said for employing those without work experience; where bad habits haven’t been allowed to develop, a candidate is far more valuable.
Perhaps more important is the shift in which skillsets are considered most valuable. Simon highlighted that whilst originally psychology students etc. were the ‘typical’ research candidate, the last 3 years have seen other less traditional subjects such as computer studies become as, if not more, relevant (due to the rise of social media and the like).
Aside from the problems of initially attracting young, talented individuals into the MR industry (more details here), Simon argues, that there is also a need to retain talent. With long hours and an often negative attitude towards graduates and the work they carry out, the retention rate is low (a rate estimated to be 25-30%).
However it isn’t all as bleak as it sounds with some of the larger agencies such as GFK and the usual top 10 suspects trying to rectify this problem of retention and lack of longevity. In a bid to encourage and incentivise graduates, these agencies are petitioning lengthy and heavily supported graduate schemes, in an effort to improve the situation.
Finally, Simon highlights problems that are found at the very top of the industry. In addition to less new (young) talent being injected into the industry, the current economic times are seeing those at the top (those with the experience) leaving secure job roles. This is largely due to the popular European trend of freelancing; which involves far less financial investment and is often a cheaper recruitment option. This leaves a dwindling pool of talent within the MR industry, with neither new skills nor experience the industry is guilty of quickly becoming stale.
We all know the industry is often regarded as traditional and at times old fashioned. However, now more than ever the MR industry is in danger of becoming irrelevant and so perhaps it is time that some youthful enthusiasm was injected in. And whilst this is the case, this talent needs to be nurtured and encouraged. Most importantly this needs to happen at the frontline, from the bottom-up, where the industry’s life line is at. The whole recruiting process needs to be revised and those external to the industry need to be re-educated as to the relevance and importance of MR. If not the industry is likely to dry up and become stagnant; which would be disappointing and dangerous in such a fast paced world, where information is now freer and more important than ever.
Special thanks to Simon Robertson for his wise words.
What do you think of the employment situation in the MR industry? Is there such a problem?
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