Published: 5 July, 2023

No signs of an end to the fight for talent

Andrea Talreja, Head of HR at QiH Group, says there is strong competition when it comes to hiring good talent, while outlining some of the biggest issues in the market and how the company looks to overcome them

  Like many companies in the gambling industry, we are currently facing challenges when it comes to recruiting the right staff to help our company continue its fast-paced growth. Affiliates are obviously not unique in this respect as news reports suggest hiring has been problematic for all sorts of companies since the pandemic.However, like many other businesses in the industry, we have staff in more than one country and this adds to the complexity. We have our headquarters in the UK and an operations centre in Skopje, North Macedonia, and the issues we face vary considerably between these centres.
  In our UK office, we are currently looking to hire people with expertise in paid media and, as it is such a highly valued skillset, it comes with a high price and strong competition. It is a candidate’s market at the moment and jobseekers can pick and choose where they go, as there are multiple jobs available for every specialist in this field. The shortage of performance marketing specialists in the marketplace is the biggest challenge we face in the UK. We aren’t just competing against other affiliates: every company with a product or service to sell is doing it via paid search or paid media. It’s worth noting that we don’t just look within the industry for employees; we also look at large affiliates outside iGaming and other businesses where the knowledge and skills are transferable when seeking strong talent.
  But because a lot of companies are looking for the same type of people, employers are proactive in trying to retain their staff. It is almost guaranteed that any potential hire’s current employer will counter any offer they receive to leave the company. Many people value a sense of security so will consider staying where they are when that happens. Another hurdle for us is that less experienced candidates may favour agencies. There are a lot of big companies that outsource all of their performance marketing to agencies and, from a junior standpoint, it is quite attractive to go somewhere where you will gain exposure to multiple companies and be able to learn from colleagues who are more experienced. We don’t yet have a large paid media team that can train someone who only has limited experience.
  On the other hand, for more senior candidates, a company like ours may be more attractive than an agency. We have really good foundations in place and there is a lot of autonomy on offer. Unlike an agency, we’re not client-facing so there’s no time spent managing client expectations and more time to just get on with the job.Outside of paid media, the UK environment is less challenging from a recruitment perspective. For example, we have made two great hires in the last 12 months in data and analytics, an area I’d initially thought we’d struggle to hire in.

A world away on hiring front
  On the North Macedonia front, our challenges are completely different. There, we are typically recruiting anything from account management roles to sales and design. By and large we have been able to recruit a lot of great people in the country over the years; however this is largely because outsourcing is relatively new in North Macedonia; it’s not like Romania where the trend has been in place for many years.
  Candidates are attracted to the idea of working for an overseas company and, as a UK-headquartered company with a reputation for having a positive and engaging work environment, we are seen as an especially attractive employer in Skopje. But we are increasingly competing with other overseas firms, particularly tech companies. The foreign businesses moving into North Macedonia are typically tech offshoots and we have had some potential hires turn us down in favour of these companies. We don’t have an engineering team or a product team and that is where a lot of people in the country see growth in the future – they know tech is growing and think it will continue to grow.
  And the appeal of tech firms reaches beyond those directly involved in that area. We lost one potential candidate to a tech firm as they were in design, and they felt the other company would help them broaden their skillset from a UX perspective. We also lost a prospective finance hire, who simply thought a tech environment would be more exciting. On the positive side, we’ve never had anyone turn us down or express concerns about the fact we’re involved in gambling in the Skopje office. While this may be a concern for some candidates in the UK, it’s clear the appeal of a foreign employer is far stronger in North Macedonia.
  Another growing issue is that as the country attracts more and more overseas employers, salary expectations become higher. Each time we recruit for any particular position, the figures listed by applicants are consistently higher than the previous time we hired for that role. Therefore, we have to continuously monitor the market to make sure we are in line with market expectations. In my previous role at Yum! Brands, I recruited tech talent in Vietnam, so I know that it’s common for emerging regions to see more rampant wage inflation than more established countries.
  Across both our locations there is a lot of competition for the best talent. However, now that QiH Group has moved firmly past the start-up phase but continues to be a company that is growing very quickly, it is becoming easier for us to come out ahead in the recruitment race.

Andrea Talreja has more than 15 years’ experience in human resources. She joined QiH Group as its Head of HR in September 2021, having previously worked at Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut, for more than 14 years.