Why aren’t companies hiring dedicated, experienced digital staff?

Many businesses rely on outside agencies to provide web services, but with the web becoming increasingly business critical, perhaps it is now time to bring some of that function in-house?

As somebody who runs a web agency you would expect me to be a champion of outsourcing web services, but increasingly that is not what I am recommending.

I passionately believe that most organisations are under utilising the potential of the web and that is not going to change as long as it is seen as something that can be entirely outsourced.

I am not suggesting that every aspect of digital needs to be brought in house, as it is unlikely you have enough work to keep some of the more specialist web roles busy.

However, I do believe you need at least one person fully committed to digital. It is not enough for somebody to have digital ‘tagged onto’ their job description.

Until you have somebody fully committed to enhancing the companies digital offering, it will always be a poor relation.

That first person you dedicate to digital cannot just be working on digital, they need to own it too. They need to be responsible for making digital work, for setting strategy and direction. They cannot just be a code monkey who implements the ideas of others. If they are, then you still lack anybody who is responsible for making digital work. It is still an after thought.

The reason you need digital to be owned in-house is because you need a digital strategy. You need somebody driving its adoption and looking for opportunities where digital can make a difference. This is not a junior role.

But we don’t have enough work

Some will argue that they do not have enough digital work to employ somebody full-time, but that is a flawed argument. Like marketing, digital will expand to take up as much time as you are willing to invest in it. The more time you put into digital, the greater the returns.

We cannot afford a full-time digital employee

Others will argue that they cannot afford a full time digital member of staff, but again this doesn’t make sense in most situations. A member of staff dedicated to enhancing a companies digital offering should more than pay for their own salary in new leads, increased efficiency and improved customer satisfaction.

What is holding you back

The question is – what is holding so many companies back from making that first digital hire and why when they do finally take somebody on, it tends to be a junior position who has no authority to improve digital adoption?

The subject of how digital is handled by companies is something I would like to explore in the comments. I would really like to hear what different setups you have seen. Am I right in the assumption that many companies are hesitant to hire digital staff and when they do they tend to be junior? I would also love to hear your thoughts on why this might be.

  • Yeah I was thinking of small and mid-sized businesses. And maybe I’ve been recently listening to some podcasts heavily focused on delegation when I wrote that. :)

    You did say “FIRST digital hire” though so is there a chance that there simply still a technology related uncertainty/comfort factor here even with a larger company? Where they may see the value and understand the value of other senior level positions, is there a chance that when it comes to digital they don’t fully see the benefits and value that that position would add? And maybe, if there is uncertainty, hiring a “junior” position instead of a “senior” position would be a less risk/expense?

    In your article above, I see companies that are not fully sold on the value that someone in that position could bring to the table. “We don’t have enough work for…” or “we can not afford…” indicate that they see the position more as an expense, not an investment.

    I had someone the other day ask me what percent of gross they should spend on advertising. No strategy, no plan, not looking for a rule of thumb, just a flat percent that should be spent on advertising as if that was all they needed to know. An expense that they’ve been told will bring them results vs a tool that they need to learn at least a little bit about to get a return on their investment. It’s like buying a hammer because you know you need a hammer but then proceed to use the handle to hit the nail. You MIGHT eventually get the nail into the wood or wall but if you learn to use the tool properly it would go better and faster. Right tool, improper use. I could probably hit the nail with a shoe and get about the same results as the hammer handle…

    I think I’m close to mixing metaphors here and should probably stop… :)