Digital design – Sue Pilgrim

Interaction design has held out well during the recession, positioned as it is at the forefront of a seismic technological shift. However, 2010 could be the year when digital comes of age even more fully, urging us along into another online dimension

Well, the collective sigh of relief is audible, as we head out of the thrills and spills of 2009 and into 2010 and a brand new decade. The year 2009 has certainly been one of the toughest and most demanding years in recent times, but it is clear that it has proved a transformational year in the digital arena. You only have to look back to the start of the past decade to appreciate how much has changed and recognise that we are living through a seismic shift, both technologically and culturally.

Land of opportunity
Despite the current economic climate, the digital arena has, as predicted at the end of 2008, remained robust, providing a stimulating platform in which opportunities for growth and development abound.

The expectations a year ago that brands and companies faced with having to reduce costs would drive an increase in digital expenditure at the expense of traditional media, have, indeed, been realised. Meanwhile, the rise of social networking, especially in recruitment, has catapulted the concept of communication into another dimension.

During 2009 we experienced a significant increase in demand for both digital freelances and digital permanent positions, so our digital brand expanded threefold over the past 12 months. Permanent vacancies in the digital arena have increased consistently and freelance, as we anticipated, remained strong last year. Despite the recession, the impact of supply and demand means that we saw rates held at 2008 levels.

Fully integrated consultancies have blossomed in this environment, as their understanding of the power of a contagious idea and how to connect directly with consumers sets them apart. We have also seen, as projected in 2008, the continued growth of integrated digital projects. When you combine this with the ascent of pioneering digital developments in mobile apps, which are now big business and rapidly shifting from gimmick status to ‘must haves’, you have a powerful mix of opportunity and unparalleled growth.

The challenge ahead
The challenge for digital recruiters is not only to maintain an extensive, skilled talent pool to satisfy the ever-spiralling demand for new and emerging digital expertise, but also to operate confidently and at speed within the social networking arena.

Any developing market or technology generates a temporary skills shortage, while the talent pool is nurtured and developed sufficiently to meet the demands of the new environment. The current speed of digital technological advance – combined with the youthful demographic influence – has exacerbated the shortage of skilled candidates in the digital arena.

Indeed, there were times last year when, despite being in a recession, we had to be incredibly innovative and proactive to keep up with the demand for digital freelances with the skillsets requested by our clients. Throughout 2010 we will continue to collaborate with our clients and candidates to develop creative techniques and ensure that the best talent is captured and retained.

We believe that the recruitment model itself is changing, moving beyond traditional recruitment practices to more proactively driven methods of effectively accessing the digital community. Competition for talent will become ever more intense and fragmented, incorporating in-house recruiters and social media to a far greater degree than before.

Set against this background, recruitment agencies will still be able to differentiate and add value to the recruitment process, where candidate attraction, selection and accurate matching remain fundamental. Recruiters in 2010 will also find they have a key role to play by engaging in activities designed to expand and engage the talent pool.

Training provision, which is often one of the first areas to be cut during recessionary times, will become even more critical as we progress through the year. In particular, customised training will become an increasingly important tool in retaining a healthy, well-skilled freelance base, which also offers flexibility and value to the permanent market.

The human touch
Finally, much is being made of the dominance of online networking in the recruitment arena, but we strongly believe that the need for human contact and relationship development remains paramount.

While social media enable people to interact extensively and communicate quickly, social networking events are flourishing as people still want to engage with each other on a face-to-face basis. We are finding that clients still appreciate the value of a fully consultative recruitment service that maximises on emerging technologies while it fulfils their recruitment agenda.

The year 2010 promises to be another challenging year economically, but there are signs of optimism, and the expansion of the digital market will remain at the forefront of recovery. We welcome 2010 and look forward to a stimulating and encouraging year.

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