There is no bench for digital teams to draw from when hiring. If you’ve had to make hires in the digital world especially in the NGO and political campaign world you probably know this too well. There just isn’t much depth or at times any depth to hire from. Or when there is depth folks don’t have rounded enough skills or much experience. But don’t worry you aren’t alone, it’s an issue for almost everyone.
Why is there no bench?
There are several factors combining to create this lack of a pool of folks with digital skills. The first problem is the skillset everyone is looking for. Almost everyone is looking for someone who is both some sort of creator and manager at the same time. Let’s be honest the skills are neither taught together and rarely do the exists. Think about it, most people in the arts to writing world are taught to be self creators not managers of a team and process. Also people traditionally and still often do special. People are often a writer, video editor, web developer, social media writer, designer, etc. but not a combination and even in those buckets sometimes a person is even more niche. But almost everyone is looking for people with some diversity in skill except for teams with people in the range of 7 or more.
The second problem is we are still just getting going at this. Think about the reality the ‘08 Obama campaign was just six years ago and very few other campaigns had any new media team. By the 2010 cycle I was still talking to Gubernatorial campaigns that didn’t have a dedicated new media staffer and Senate races that had one. Both even then should have had three to four. So when we got around to hiring digital directors for states in 2012 we wanted people with rounded skills and some political experience. The reality was we had to bring people in from other fields or NGOs and train them with additional skills.
Lastly, everyone is hiring. Digital shops for NGOs and corporations continue to scale up. This means that digital fellows and interns that started with us on the 2012 campaign are running digital teams in 2014. It’s lead to people being swept into the better paying corporate world. So those that have any experience are being pulled higher and faster than those in other fields. It’s still a bit like a vacuum.
What can we do?
It’s all about training. For many of the folks we brought into the Obama 2012 and Organizing for Action teams we trained them. Either starting as interns, specializing in digital for the fellowships, or with digital staff development that I lead. The New Organizing Institute has been running it’s New Media Bootcamp for years. And as I left Organizing for Action I helped them get their inaugural digital fellowship off of the ground. So if you can you should support programs like this. If your shop is big enough you should host programs like this.
If you are hiring digital staff don’t be afraid to train the right people. Since the pool isn’t deep you might not find someone with the right skills day one. But if they have aptitude and attitude you need then make that investment in them. Then invest in their training, find that budget to get your team growing and learning. Build your bench and build the progressive movements bench at large.