This January has seen more jobs advertised than in any month since September 2023
The Talent Manager is in a unique position to spot trends in work patterns. Used by more than 85% of the top 150 Indies, the major broadcasters and over 120,000 freelancers, we get a ‘birds eye’ view of recruiting in the industry.
In April last year, before the beginnings of the slowdown were widely recognised, we reported there’d been a work drought dating back to October 2022. In Q1 2023, we flagged that job posts were down 40.1% compared to the same period the previous year. Across 2023 that picture worsened, with the number of TV jobs advertised down a staggering 47.2% compared to 2022.
At TM, we’ve been trying to mitigate this by sourcing jobs from digital, brands and other sectors – roles where members of our community could use their transferrable skills.
But, as discussed in Broadcast’s recent freelancer roundtable exploring potential solutions to the crisis, the impact on freelancers has been devastating. For the first time I can remember, there simply hasn’t been enough work to go round.
Now, there is encouraging news – there are signs of life. This January has seen more jobs advertised than in any month since September 2023. This follows on from what we saw in the final quarter of 2023: jobs were substantially down on Q4 of 2022 but the decline was less than the annual average (37.1% vs 47.2%).
It’s too soon to announce a bounce-back but the data suggests the market bottomed out in late autumn.
Significantly too, we can see companies’ recruitment is becoming more inclusive and progressive. Usage of our ‘Diversity Search Engine’, helps recruiters find brilliant talent from under-represented groups, was up 21% last year on 2022. This runs counter to the conventional wisdom that, in a downturn, freelancers from less represented communities are most readily marginalised.
Producers taking a more forward-thinking, pro-active approach to recruitment is crucial for the sustainability of freelancers’ careers, for companies, the industry and creative diversity, and The Talent Manager was founded to help them do this. So it’s been reassuring to see an 85.9% growth in companies using our Talent Tracking functionality in 2023, as well as a 43% increase in the Diversity report usage of those lists.
What this means is that recruiters are actively headhunting talent, and thinking about the make-up of those people, in order to understand how representative they are of the audience at large. Interestingly too, we’ve seen a 44.4% rise in the number of companies using our Equal Merit tools when reviewing shortlisted candidates.
Although general talent searching in 2023 was down 19% year-on-year, data shows that the larger organisations and super Indies have been using the downturn to talent-spot more actively in preparation for things picking up agarin. But there’s been a 68% drop in searching or job posting by the micro-Indies, who simply haven’t had the work or capacity.
In terms of the year ahead, obviously the first thing freelancers need is more work.
The broadcasters’ additional financial support for the FTVC is both welcome and needed. But the industry should not be reliant on handouts, and we need to be wary of schemes that divert broadcasters’ money from the creation of jobs. Into that category falls the idea that the broadcasters fund building a ‘jobs board’ or new networking hub.
Another jobs board won’t magic up more jobs. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid wasting resources trying to reinvent the wheel. Indeed, research by the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality has shown this could be actively counter-productive for freelancers, especially when there is so much truly impactful work that can be done for free.
Job-sharing, for example, a simple and highly effective way of supporting career sustainability and spreading work opportunities, must now become embedded across every production, and company. (The work of ReelTime, formerly ShareMyTellyJob, is invaluable here.)
The need to address the sense of isolation many freelancers have experienced this year is also paramount.
In November, we launched the new Talent Manager App to do just this. The app enables freelancers to network and share advice and experiences, and we hope will strengthen that sense of community. It builds on the off-line networking The Talent Manager has been running in recent years - and we’re delighted to be partnering again with BBC Studios and Bectu on in-person events across the UK, with Glasgow, Birmingham and Cardiff added to this year’s roster alongside Salford and Bristol – as well as our ongoing work with the FTVC and ScreenSkills.
After the worst year in industry memory, it’s crucial that established, trusted organisations work together and use their respective expertise and resources to ensure freelancers are better insulated from the boom and bust of commissioning cycles.
Sarah Lee is creative director & founder of The Talent Manager