The changing nature of the relationships with our end users and customers requires a workforce able to engage with customers in different ways, to think outside the box, collaborate, experiment and test ideas as well as challenge workflows and adapt to changing business models. As data, coding and analysis requirements start to define the capabilities required for the future, digital project management is becoming increasingly complex. To this end, we have seen an increase in business development, technology, design, change, and process roles within publishing, alongside changing expectations of individuals in traditional publishing roles.
A recent panel debate at London Book Fair explored how publishers were altering their recruitment processes and developing employees skills in response to consumer wants and market developments. The panelists, John Athanasiou, Director of People at Harper Collins, Sanne Vliegnethart, Digital and Social Media Manager at Hot Key Books and myself were asked By Emma House, Director of Publisher Relations at The Publishers Association whether publishers were doing enough to promote publishing as a career to students, who may have the skills we need for the future, but may not necessarily have an understanding of what publishing now involves.
While there may be opportunities to present the broad range of roles and activities within our organizations, how well are companies reaching new graduates from non-traditional routes? It is clearly not enough to post job vacancies in social networks; companies must present individuals with a sense of their organization’s culture, its activities and people. Employers have to show up and participate in the online groups and communities that these individuals inhabit, in addition to reviewingtheir engagement strategies with universities and schools. If publishers are serious about attracting new talent and capturing the interest of the graduate population, then this requires investment, acknowledging that ‘unpaid’ work experience, for example, can be a turn off for the very individuals we need for the future. With renewed focus on diversity within our sector, our organizations need a visible position on diversity, to demonstrate where we are taking positive action and to present the opportunities available.
So how might students demonstrate the required skills in application as well as stand out from the crowd? The response from our panel was to think creatively and experiment with different approaches. Sanne Vliegnethart offered a prime example when she spoke of her own experience sending potential employers a video of herself talking to her resume, rather than submitting a traditional paper-based copy. While there is onus on employers to support development of skills once individuals are through the door, prospective students should consider how they can demonstrate they have the necessary aptitude and ability. If there is an expectation for publishing professionals to be more ‘commercially aware’, an applicant can at least be expected to present an understanding of the industry and the current context through their own research.
Content remains at the heart of what we do as publishers, but it was interesting to hear from some of our audience that students with a desire to work with content may be intimidated by the continual reference to technology. A familiarity with digital technology doesn’t necessarily mean an understanding of it and publishers have a role in helping individuals navigate through the various technologies, functionalities and the opportunities that they bring. If Publishers are now expecting a workforce to be innovative, to challenge the status quo and to find new ways to engage with our audiences, they too have a role in creating environments which are conducive to experimentation and risk, for example, and allow individuals to realize their potential.
With a publishing industry in transformation, and the landscape shifting with more and more speed and complexity, it’s clear that publishing professionals can no longer limit their focus to their own functional areas of expertise. They must be agile, comfortable with complexity and able to respond quickly to apply solutions. In return publishing organizations need to ensure they are not getting in their way.