Bought, owned and earned talent – what is the right balance? | M&M Global

Bought, owned and earned talent – what is the right balance?

Media businesses should be as careful with the blend of talent they assemble as they are with clients’ media budgets, writes Ivor Falvey, global talent planning director at Dentsu Aegis.

Ivor Falvey

For a number of years now, and as we have seen the various marketing functions scramble to claim the middle ground, we have all debated the value and hierarchy of bought versus owned versus earned media – and of course, the perfect mix.

Just as important and interesting is the talent in our industry, which of our leaders fall into these streams – and, of course, what’s the perfect mix?

‘Bought talent’ is the leadership talent in our organisations that is highly coveted in the industry and extremely transient. They are highly ‘mobile’ visionaries and disruptors, and they are landed into a business to ‘shake things up’, and make a difference. They command hefty compensation packages and they always have a price.

‘Owned talent’ is the leadership talent that has grown up through the business. They are loyal, and have lived through much change, and survived. They understand the history and genesis of the business and often have a certain expertise born out of experience and ‘on-the-job’ training. Although not necessarily ‘lifers’, they have reached a certain level, and are comfortable with their surroundings – and compensation packages, often where a large number of shares is a consideration – meaning they are more inclined to remain within the business.

‘Earned talent’ is the leadership talent that are attracted to, and have joined a business, because they just really want to be part of that business. They respect and admire some of the other leaders in that business. They believe in its purpose, and share its vision and values. And they want to, and believe they can, make a difference in that business. They join a business as willing converts. But how long they remain with the business can often be determined by the other great talent around them also staying put.

A balanced mix?

There is an argument to have a balanced mix of all of these streams of talent in every business but some newer technology-based businesses would disagree.

Why do we need ‘owned talent’ and what is their real value? Some of the media businesses we encounter each day don’t necessarily have a ‘heritage’ and don’t need one to trade on. Most of these businesses, however, are disruptors and not necessarily innovators. And there is a difference because businesses that do have a heritage need innovators as well as disruption. They need consistency of service and product as well as inspiration.

There is also a question around ‘bought talent’. They are brilliant but there is no loyalty, and they move to the next challenge as quickly as they arrived.

“A culture that attracts more ‘earned talent’ is surely what every media business is looking for.”

How can that be any good when we are increasingly working in global organisations that need strong and dependable leadership to establish and implement an amazing culture? A culture that attracts more ‘earned talent’ is surely what every media business is looking for.

There is an amazing media head hunter I know who frequently asks the board of directors that they are working with this question:

“If you could have the best person in the industry that you know in your own business for 12 to 18months, and you knew they would then leave and join another media business, potentially even a competitor, would you employ them?”

There is no formula, or right or wrong answer, because every business is different and on its own specific journey. Looking around you, what is the ideal mix of senior ‘bought, owned and earned talent’ in your business?

Ivor Falvey

Global talent planning director, Dentsu Aegis

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