Hiring: How to attract the ‘Utility Players’

Robert Clark, Vice President, Ugam,

The current state of the market research industry is both exhilarating and terrifying. Increasing pressure from clients to integrate more data into reports faster and cheaper while providing even more insight creates seemingly overwhelming challenges.

However, these challenges allow for even greater opportunities for MR and consulting firms. We can provide paradigm-shifting services, tools and guidance to clients faster and more cost-effectively via technology integration, process refinement and the implementation of best practices.

So, what’s one of, if not the best way to stay ahead of your competition and take advantage of the opportunity ahead? Hiring. Not just to fill a role or vacancy, but hiring the best person to evolve with your company, your clients and prospects and the profession. I’ll call them the “utility player.”

The hiring process can often be a tedious, time-consuming task. You circulate a job requisition through various mediums that profiles the company, role, key traits of an ideal candidate, educational requirements, etc. You get a number of resumes and mostly nonsensical emails from interested parties ranging from good potential candidates to recruiters. But for the most part, a majority of the “leads” for prospective candidates for open positions are garbage.

Once you weed through these options to find the legitimate candidates and set up times for initial discussions (mostly via phone or Skype), you follow up with in-person interviews, reference checking, job offers, negotiations, and eventually (hopefully) hire of the right candidate. Then, just when the contracts are signed and the new employee’s start date approaches, you’ve got to hope that the onboarding of the new employee goes smoothly and that they are a good fit culturally.

There are lots of steps to this process and it takes lots of time to fill a specific role within any organization, let alone one in an industry undergoing massive shifts in the way business is done.

With the demands currently shaping the MR and consulting fields, including the interest in integration of data from multiple sources, perhaps the better approach might be to create a culture that attracts “utility players”. These are individuals who can come into a company and – while respecting the history and existing culture – push the organization to think differently and question the status quo in a way that helps evolve the company. Utility player hires possess characteristics of entrepreneurs, project managers, data scientists, financial officers, consultants, etc.

So what do we do to attract utility players, and where/how do we find them?

As hiring managers, we might want to first take a look around our respective organizations to see if we already have colleagues who qualify as utility players. Do they possess the characteristics outlined earlier? If you’re fortunate enough to have one or more, be sure to spend time with them developing the messaging about your firm’s culture, work environment, and goals. Try to assess what it is or was that attracted them to your organization:

  • What is keeping them there?
  • Where would they look for a new position?
  • What messaging would they look for that would make a company interesting?
Learning answers to these questions is key to attracting qualified candidates with the right profile.

Prospective candidates may network with employees of firms that match their interests (i.e., subject matter being researched, industry focus, etc.) via LinkedIn and events. Make sure your organization is participating in these activities to increase exposure to top talent.

With the market research industry constantly evolving and clients’ needs constantly changing as a result, having a team of flexible go-getters who can roll with the punches will be the key to surviving. If you’re planning on being in this industry in a decade, attracting and retaining critical utility players who can adapt and deliver should be a top priority.

Some of the content in this article originally appeared in Green Book on December 4, 2015.

The Author:
Robert leads the sales and marketing efforts for Ugam’s market research offerings. He brings over 30 years of industry experience and prior to joining Ugam, he served as a Senior Vice President at Nielsen, where he led research and consulting projects from inception through delivery.


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