The Trade Desk’s James Bayes Talks Attracting Talent In A Post-Pandemic Market

The Trade Desk’s James Bayes Talks Attracting Talent In A Post-Pandemic Market
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Multinational tech company, The Trade Desk recently launched a new digital campaign “Because what you do maters” to attract and hire Australia’s best digital talent.

The campaign was the result of a tech industry talent shortage which, according to IAB, is due to strong market growth, visa changes limiting skilled migrants in Australia, and record low unemployment which has, in turn, surged talent demand and hiked up their cost too. The pandemic giveth and the pandemic taketh away.

In light of this frustrating talent market, and The Trade Desk’s fun new campaign to attract the very best and the very brightest, we chatted with James Bayes (featured image), who is the ANZ general manager at The Trade Desk, about the lingering effects of the pandemic, why employees nowadays prefer workplace culture over wages, and what The Trade Desk is offering potential employees that their competitors aren’t.

B&T: Hi James. When did the Trade Desk first start to notice a growing employment shortage?

Bayes: Like a lot of companies, we’ve experienced challenges in our recruitment for the better part of the last two years. It’s been compounded by border closures, record low unemployment, and hyper-growth in our sector of data-driven marketing. It’s something that’s been spoken about at length at conferences and board rooms. It’s not a unique challenge to us. Fortunately, in recent weeks we’ve seen some easing of visa restrictions on skilled migrants in the country, which is great, but we still need to see a lot more flexibility.

We’ve always had an incredibly strong employer brand, and really low staff turnover. We’ve had really strong word-of-mouth and advocacy from existing staff, and our clients and partners across the industry. The campaign we’ve just launched aims to tell that story to potential candidates a little more directly, because we’ve got some pretty aggressive growth targets as a business, which need to be underpinned by our ability to attract incredible talent into the company. 

Was this employment shortage the direct result of the pandemic, or had it been building prior?

It’s certainly something that was starting to become prevalent pre-pandemic, but all those things that I just mentioned – particularly border closures and visa restrictions, that were implemented throughout the pandemic – consolidated some of the challenges that we were seeing. 

The market for great talent across our industry has always been incredibly aggressive. The pandemic has certainly accelerated those issues that we [The Trade Desk] and everybody else are witnessing.

How long has this current campaign been in the pipeline?

Probably the better part of six months, or so. We have strong growth aspirations at the company. In Australia, we’ll probably add around 50 or 60 heads into our ANZ business, to underpin the growth we’re seeing in the market. We’re off to a really good start with that across the first two or three months of the year. We made the decision a number of years ago to invest relatively uniquely in our industry in Australia. We’re one of the few companies in our sector that have local engineering, data science, and technical account management on top of our business teams here.

Our commitment to our clients is being able to bring some amazing talent to boardrooms to help them solve really complex problems. That means you have to find phenomenally talented people who execute on that vision and commitment to our client. The biggest thing we can do to realise our ambition at the company is to hire well [and] hire quickly.

Is the campaign purely digital, or will you be rolling it out on other platforms?

My understanding at this point is that it is purely digital.

You mentioned jobseekers nowadays prefer a solid workplace culture over lucrative wages. What is this based on?

We’re constantly surveying the market to understand the needs of talent, both externally and with our own internal teams. The reality is, it’s a balance. Internally, we’ve done a whole range of things. We’ve upgraded our parental leave policies, [and] we’ve sharpened our onboarding processes to ensure we’re supporting people in their transition to the business. Like a lot of companies, we’ve maintained a flexible approach to work that recognises the change in people’s lives [after] the pandemic. We’ve also partnered with higher education institutions to create new pathways into the industry.

There’s a whole range of internal programs [including] mental health programs, training and mentoring programs, and ESG initiatives. The reality is that people want to work for organisations where they have a shared or common set of values, and [where] they believe in the mission of the business. Monetary rewards are important and it’s always been our mission to pay at, or above, the industry level, but that needs to be balanced with a strong sense of cultural alignment and values alignment as well.

Do you think upholding these cultural and values alignments is how business leaders can begin to attract the right talent?

It’s a blend. Like I said, financial incentives are important, so are values, cultural alignment, [and] the metaphysical space which our teams work in. It’s an employee’s market at the moment. As employers, we need to step up to the plate and recognise that.

What is The Trade Desk offering potential employees that they wouldn’t find at competitor businesses?

Our parental leave policies, mental health programs, training and mentorship programs. There’s a range of ESG initiatives that [connect with] that values based alignment we’re looking for. We have a really generous equity and incentives program that reward people for both performance and length of tenure. 

It’s not enough to just say it, you need to measure it and get feedback on it. Like a lot of companies, we measure ourselves through the ‘Great Place to Work’ survey. We also measure ourselves through Media Eye. We consistently perform well above the industry benchmark, so we’re really confident in the programs we have. Measuring what you do, is just as important as what you say in a policy.

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