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The reasons why we look for talent over experience when recruiting for our teams

Emma Dean - SMG Capability & People Development Director - uncovers why we look for talent over experience when recruiting for our teams at Threefold and our sister agencies.

SMG is founded on a desire to give opportunity to people based on talent over and above experience. This is something that has served our people, our business, our partners and our clients incredibly well and is a premise that remains at our heart.

By focussing on finding brilliant talent and then investing in the time and development of these people, we are able to build strong and sustainable teams.

So, what do we look for in a Threefold recruit? Firstly, we believe that brilliant people should be able to work across the breadth of agencies in our group – whether it be on partnership marketing within Threefold, with a focus on our technology in Lobster or through the lens of our FMCG brand clients on Capture, all agencies are working towards a common objective of transforming shopper media.

When looking for new recruits, particularly at a junior level, we place much of our attention on finding someone that demonstrates our values. We find these are best identified through understanding an individual's behaviours and core skills; so rather than expecting a deep understanding of what we do, we are looking for how they would approach a task. Our values and how these manifest as behaviours are:

Stay hungry:

We want to see passion and drive and a desire to always improve and learn. A good sense of commerciality will usually come hand in hand with this which is (as for all businesses) something absolutely fundamental.

Stay honest:

We know that what we do is not always easy and that not everything will always go to plan but what we look for is an ability to mitigate risks, own the challenges when they arise and be part of a solution. This should be evident in someone’s ability to be straight talking.

Stay foolish:

We want our people to challenge the status quo and we love it when questioned on our approach for something. We know that through creating cognitive diversity in our work force we will have the advantage of many perspectives which will enable and fuel our growth. We can only do this through putting D&I front and centre; and with a working group and D&I strategy in place, this is an area for which we are seeing real and meaningful change.

Have fun:

Although this may seem light-hearted, it is a critical factor in our ability to attract and retain the best employees. Ultimately, if our people are having fun then they are more motivated and engaged, therefore providing high quality work and the best experience for everyone.

Unlike many other agencies, our central teams are relatively small, this is purposeful as it puts a focus on upskilling our client teams to become fully rounded and capable in creating the work for our clients – from building planning responses through to analysing results. For this to be successful, we combine our philosophy of providing opportunity early, along with extensive on the job training through the likes of our in house ‘apprenticeship’ training programmes focussing on our core central skills. We look for people that are not afraid to move out of their comfort zone to learn things that may be less familiar.

This approach means that there is often a steep learning curve for employees but provided this is supported and acknowledged, we find that the results are better for everyone. Clients and partners get brilliant people who become upskilled in their world, and our people and our business are empowered to make decisions and have real impact from early on.

To be a great partnership marketeer, we are looking for people that can navigate and balance the needs of multiple stakeholders to create a ‘win, win, win’ situation for partner, brand and business. The best people demonstrate this ability through having an acute focus on understanding the intrinsic needs of multiple parties and finding the sweet spot between them all. Threefold employees ultimately need to be able to balance multiple needs in a fast-paced environment whilst maintaining a high level of attention to detail.

Finally, the best individuals will show an ability to be agile – something all our employees have demonstrated at large over the past year in particular – and to not only be ready for change but to thrive on change. We encourage and enable movement of talent across teams to ensure our clients benefit from a diverse pool of knowledge. It is through this agility that the biggest opportunities for growth arise, both for our people as well as our business with clients and partners. This can be seen through:

  • The development and retention of our people: over 50% of our senior leadership team started here in their first job.

  • The engagement of our employees: in our recent engagement survey, 98% of all employees stated they were proud to work here.

  • Our business growth: in what was in many ways a challenging year, we gained 2 new partnerships in 2020.

And while we will always be looking to develop and evolve our recruitment practices, one thing will always remain true; we look for talent over experience when building brilliant teams.


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