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How BMW is dealing with the talent crunch

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Ad veteran and BMW’s global brand director, Steven Althaus, discusses the issues of talent shortages and the role of agencies with Elizabeth Low

“Talent crunch? It’s not a problem.”

It is our first meeting, but the conversation with BMW’s global director of brand management and marketing services, Steven Althaus shifts quickly.

The outspoken marketer starts off by quizzing me on the current trends we’ve been seeing in Asia’s agency landscape. Coming shortly after meetings with several agency leads bemoaning talent issues, this comes up in our conversation. How agencies are finding their footing for their business models is another.

The German national had his early days in advertising leading ad agency Springer & Jacoby; before heading client side at German finance and insurance firm Allianz; then moving on to lead Publicis’ German and Austrian operations; before making a high profile move to his current role at BMW in January 2013. At Publicis, under his reign as CEO and chairman, the agency was streamlined, together with the management board.

It seems Althaus’ penchant for pushing for change continues now in his role at BMW.

Firstly, in his outlook on hiring. Continuing on the issue of talent shortage, he says: “There’s no such thing as a talent crunch if you are looking beyond the obvious. If you are always looking for the same kind of talent – like a square peg in a square hole, looking to recreate the marketer from the 80s and 90s then yes, you would have that.”

Every company would have a number of topics it needs to have a voice, an opinion on. Then the company needs to find the right people it needs to have a seat at the table of that discussion, he adds.

“CMOs are simply looking for the best people – we are searching for great ideas, and these can come from anywhere. I can only ask everyone to go beyond the traditional silo of thinking,” he adds.

The same goes for his approach with agency partners. One other trend in recent years is the blurring of agency roles – for example, PR or media buying agencies looking to be more like ad agencies and vice versa. To Althaus, this is good progress. A convergence of ideas, just the way industries are going, is a good thing.

“In the automotive industry we are influenced by trends from consumer electronics. What holds true for individuals also holds true for industries. There are a great number of individuals, no matter what age they are, who are looking for this “cross fertilisation” of industries. I find this approach more robust,” he says.

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This article first appeared on Marketing Magazine.  



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