The start of the year saw the team at Resources Group catch up with key market research agency employers across the APAC region to hear their views on the recruitment marketplace and the skills that are in greatest demand.
We heard that 2017 was a challenging year for most companies when it came to attracting and retaining experienced research and insight professionals. The comments revealed a persistent need for top talent at almost all levels, specialisations, and sectors, which is not being matched by applicant supply. This was despite a number of mergers, restructures, and business closures which led to a perceived influx of applicants in the market.
In previous years, we have commented on how the growth of the sector has exceeded the rate at which junior recruits could be trained, with the knock-on effect being a shortage of market researchers with 2 to 5+ years’ experience. This is a trend that remains true today, and one which we are seeing further exacerbated by a draining of talent out of market research into the rapidly growing ‘hot’ areas of brand and innovation strategy, big data/customer analytics, CX, and service design.
Pleasingly, a number of employers commented that they had more success with graduate recruitment in the past 12 months. Singapore in particular seems to be enjoying a new breed of graduate: those with innate curiosity, a solid work ethic, and excellent creative, digital, and technical skills in the areas of video editing, digital media, and design packages. In Hong Kong, we heard how a number of agencies have clubbed together to attend graduate fairs and pitch market research as an exciting and desirable career path to aspiring graduates, with successful results.
At all levels, we found that agencies are looking for candidates who can deliver real insights from the research. Employers are becoming more discerning as their markets become more competitive and complex. This requires people who can bring to life the ‘story’ behind the research, understand the cultural nuances in each market, and offer true consultancy to their clients. This applies to both qualitative and quantitative specialisations.
Local continues to be ‘king’ and we are seeing an increased demand for local market experience, with local languages being very sought after, especially for quallies.
Finally, our discussions revealed much frustration from many employers who reported an increase in candidates reneging on accepted job offers at the last minute, even when a contract was in place, most notably in the Chinese market. This is symptomatic of a talent-short market, with current employers making significant efforts to retain their staff and avoiding the greater cost to replace them.
As we go further into 2018, the demand for market research talent in Asia shows no sign of abating and the market remains highly competitive. So what can we do?
In the short term, it has to be about flexibility: sure, it would be great to have an applicant who ticks every box, but the more open the job spec can be (whether in salary, level, or local vs foreign hire), the easier it will be to fill the gap in the team. How about exploring candidates from overlapping data industries with excellent core skills in data strategy and client engagement, who can bring a different perspective, and who we can quickly up-skill in market research industry specifics?
As for the long term, solutions can only come from more entry-level recruitment and training today, to have ready the research managers and directors of tomorrow. In addition, we need the continuing training and engagement of staff to retain good people within the industry. Employers should not underestimate the importance of an attractive benefits package, positive team culture, and workplace flexibility.
By: Gemma Lewis
APAC Director at Resources Group, celebrating 10 years recruiting in insights, analytics, and strategy