This post was written as a response to the Jan 9 post on boagworld: The recruitment crisis. During my procrastination to hit publish Paul has since written How to change your company to be digital first which addressed many of the sentiments I express here.


I see where Paul Boag is going with this post and admittedly I would love to find a company who is willing to change their structure and culture to better suit the typically hard to employ web professional that I am. Digital is essential, Boag says, “[w]hether you are selling kitchens or raising money for cancer research” but I think it’s the disbelief in that statement that is going to make retainment of talent so difficult during this mass agency exodus.

It’s not just web professionals who crave these working environments. All employees want more control, flexibility and trust from their employers. They all want a bright and colorful office with the latest technology, an espresso machine and a few hours a week reserved for paid training or self-directed learning.

If a company gears their culture towards a small group of employees then they will alienate the rest. This creates resentment between employees and your newly hired web workers will jump ship to find more accepting coworkers or just take you up on the offer to work from home rendering all previous investments wasted.

Upon reading Boag’s post I immediately thought of a recent Slate article about creativity being rejected when it seeks to change the status quo. I imagined many a middle manager squashing a creative and potentially successful idea because they felt threatened. Threatened by the employee(s) who had the idea but mostly threatened by someone’s ability to see a solution that they didn’t. This is part of the resistance to bringing digital in-house. Employees and managers alike are wondering: if digital is the answer, does that make me obsolete?

Perhaps an improved long term strategy would be to start educating your existing staff on the importance that the web and digital hold for the future of the company. Maybe you have a few weekend geeks in your ranks already who would be cheerleaders for bringing this work in-house and who may reveal themselves to be ready for recruitment first.

If you’re serious about investing in digital and pointing your business towards success in the digital space then think about what other areas of the company can benefit from a step towards that goal. Does your accounting department like the idea of a FreshBooks-type product? Allowing them to work from home on Fridays or when the kids are sick? Maybe new iPads for your sales people will get them excited about presenting reports and product demos to potential clients again? The whole company needs to see a benefit from the shift to digital for it to be welcomed and successful.

Recruiting and retaining web professionals is easy when everyone within the company sees the value in what we do. All the items that Boag listed allow you to recruit but it’s a company-wide belief that digital and the web is important, meaningful and should be supported that will keep employees happy and loyal. That and a foosball table of course.