The talent shortage in agencies – why it’s not going away, and what MDs need to do about it

17 Apr 2018

When we took a closer look at the 85% of corporate and financial communications professionals who will not consider a move to an agency, we found that 9% of them want a clean break from the comms industry, 6% want to set up their own agency, and 5% want to become freelance /self-employed; if nothing else, there clearly isn’t a shortage of entrepreneurial spirit.

But what of the remaining 65%? Where do they want to move? In-house corporate communications teams, of course!

65% is a significant proportion – a strong reflection of the allure of in-house roles for professionals considering a job move; it’s worth noting that we see this is at every level, not just the senior end of the scale.

Where does this leave corporate and financial agencies?

Where indeed, when only 15% of the market will consider an agency in their next move? Short of great talent is the answer. The appeal of moving to shiny, super cool agencies is no longer enough, instead the pull is towards working for a major corporate like Amazon, Aviva, Sainsbury’s, KPMG or Barclays.

We have seen this growing increase in desire for in-house roles for years; however, it now feels more heightened than ever. We have frequently talked about the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome and those professionals who are curious as to whether they are missing something, and have gained experience on both sides of the fence. (Read more here:

In a nutshell, there is a strong desire to represent one brand instead of several, have more of a say with regards to the comms strategy, a new challenge, more control over hours, perceived shorter hours, more pay and better company benefits.

Struggling to hire the right mix of talent, secure high performers who are able to handle global mandates, and hire in a timely manner, we have seen many comms agencies with very specific roles left open for months on end (some over six months), simply because they are unable to find the right professionals. Agencies are ‘fighting for talent’ and the trend is set to only get worse.

What have agencies done about their approach to hiring?

In all honesty, from what we have seen, only the larger agencies have dedicated recruitment teams and only a few mid and smaller agencies have invested in an HR/recruitment professional. It’s frequently left to the MDs, Partners and CEOs to muddle through, hoping that their network, recruitment agencies or advertising will give them the answer.

We have felt the effects too in executive search; we now need to approach hundreds of agency professionals to get a great shortlist together for our clients, as so few are interested in moving to another agency.

Perhaps it’s time PR agencies approached hiring in a different way. Over the years, in search, we have changed the way we source our candidates and fill roles. The days of advertising and filling roles are over. The days of giving briefs to multiple recruitment agencies are over. They no longer work in this market.

Perhaps it’s time to talk to a search agency that thinks and works a little differently. We guarantee results. If you would like to talk in greater depth about how you can make your agency hiring process a lot more effective, do get in touch on 0207 903 9290 or email

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