Talent Shortage? We’re Calling Bullsh*t!

Talent Shortage? We’re Calling Bullsh*t!

In this guest post, Mike Hill, CEO and co-founder of Puffling, argues the reason women rarely rise to the top in the advertising industry isn’t from a shortage of suitable candidates…

Two of the biggest issues plaguing the global advertising industry are a so-called talent shortage and abysmal gender diversity, particularly at the senior level.


Just think… How many times have you heard the line, “There’s just not enough good talent out there,” bandied about? And how many times has the question of senior female representation reared its ugly head in our industry? Too many, is the answer to both those questions. But we have the opportunity to do something about it.

I spoke about this at the recent 3% Conference, a celebration of women in advertising, and think it’s time for advertising agencies to take a stand.

Gender diversity is not a woman’s problem – it’s everyone’s problem. And guess what? There’s no talent shortage. What we have is a flexibility shortage. Understanding this is key to unlocking a pool of highly skilled and experienced talent that’s been sitting untapped. How do I know this? Because I was part of that latent talent pool – I was a return-to-work “mum” myself.

After selling Holler, one of the best digital agencies in the industry to spend more time with family, I faced the daunting task of seeking part time work and it was anything but easy. Finding a part-time role  as a senior professional is nigh on impossible, unless you want to settle for a job where you’re overqualified and underpaid.

A solution to this that is growing in popularity is job-sharing – hiring two candidates to fill a single position – getting double the experience and breadth of skill in one role. But there’s still a stigma attached to job-sharing and most agencies haven’t fully come around the idea of flexibility.

Flexibility gives agencies the opportunity to increase productivity, attract new and more senior talent, improve their retention rates within teams and most importantly unlocks access to a largely untapped and senior talent pool.

That’s why I co-founded Puffling – a platform that pairs return-to-work mums (and dads and really anyone looking for a flexibility) to interview for job-sharing or part-time roles in the industry.

Many parents feel the only way to get the flexibility they crave is to forfeit their careers or a promotion. Our Puffling back-to-work survey revealed that 28 per cent of women took a step back in salary on returning from maternity leave. Three in four (74 per cent) respondents admitted to stress and anxiety around discussing a flexible arrangement upon their return to work.

Yet Australians are calling out for better work-life balance. Recent research from Randstad revealed that work-life balance was the top priority for workers, though employers ranked it number eight. There’s a gap in expectations and this arises from not having walked a mile in our shoes.

To truly understand the issue, you first need to experience it. So my challenge to hiring managers in agencies is to pick up a phone and try it for themselves:

  1. Call up a recruiter.
  2. Tell them you are a C suite executive. Tell them that due to some life circumstances you are looking for a role as a senior marketer and you’d like 3 days a week (listen out for the sound of eyes rolling).
  3. Now wait. See how many responses you get.

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Mike Hill Puffling

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