By Allison Kent-Smith.
In 2017, if you’re a marketer, you’re also an organizational designer, change manager and perpetual student. Change is seemingly the only constant. The most obvious threat right now to the marketing C-suite is professional instability. A 2016 Accenture report states that “thirty-three percent of CEOs say Marketing will sit under Digital within the next five years. CMOs need to steer the digital ship not only for their own career advancement, but to avoid losing control of a key area of the organization.” Digital is fueling continual marketing change.
With each passing quarter, marketing leaders are forced to reevaluate internal capabilities faster than ever before. But efforts to evolve talent are slow. According to Didier Bonnet, senior VP and global practice leader, digital transformation at Capgemini Consulting, “we published in 2013 a study on ‘The Digital Talent Gap’ which showed that over 90 percent of companies lacked major digital skills to successfully execute their digital strategies. I’d be surprised if this figure has moved by more than a few percentage points in the last two years.” In 2017 BCG also released a report in partnership with Google that showed “a lack of demonstrable improvement in digital skills for advertisers over the last 18 months.” So how do we keep up? Many marketers are adopting agile practices, reorganizing departments, hosting technology partners, investing in startups, attending conferences, managing multiple agencies and hiring every expert they can afford – yet how are marketers truly evolving their own skillsets in support of continual change and digital technologies?
As digital culture becomes more integrated with marketing, skill sets such as organizational design, skill development and change management (improving the marketing organization by altering ways of working and the capabilities required) are increasingly critical. Unfortunately, those skills are often neither taught in college nor listed in job descriptions, and rarely included as a key measure for individual performance. Traditional upper-level brand marketing positions do not require transformation management capabilities. Marketingprofs, along with others, stated in an article the top skills for 2017 without mention of how to evolve and educate teams. Change is upon us, but without an agreed upon roadmap. Maybe, quite simply, learning is the way forward?
Learning requires committed time. Yet, for many marketers, days are filled with meetings. Calls replace lunch. Agency reviews take months and months. Monday becomes Friday, faster and faster. Despite busy schedules, marketing capabilities have an obvious expiration date. The shelf life of our skills grows shorter and subsequently the gaps between the haves and have nots grow wider. Without an ongoing commitment to formal staff education, marketers are falling years behind their competitors, with outdated skills and an over reliance on multiple agency partners or a few internal experts and departments.
Skill Gaps Grow Wider
Today it’s difficult to be an “expert,” and the agencies that marketers rely upon (and hire for their expertise) are no exception. In a 2016 report released by smith & beta on the “State of Advertising Talent”, the data confirms a lack of digital skills in marketing and advertising. In this report, more than 2,000 employees were anonymously surveyed to rate their skills in a variety of areas. The results were bleak. Across departments, tenure and seniority, employees admitted that they were behind in key areas, such as:
55% of employees rated themselves novice or lower in Mobile Marketing Strategy
50% of employees rated themselves novice or lower in Data/KPIs/Measurement
44% of employees rated themselves novice or lower in Social Media
34% of employees rated themselves novice or lower in Content Strategy
What To Do About It
Since the experts aren’t necessarily the experts anymore, it is imperative for learning to become part of everyday work for marketers. Rather than a singular workshop, video class or conference, marketing teams need to devote substantial time to learning, change, and organizational transformational efforts. Despite acknowledging the many areas for improvement, many recent marketing industry reports lack suggestions on how to do achieve these changes.
So, let’s get started.
Know The Talent
Begin by understanding your talent. Data about employees’ capabilities allows for smart decision making. Create a very simple quantitative skill assessment and share with each employee, across departments and tenure. Those talent insights will provide a roadmap for where to invest and what capabilities are truly deficient. Ask questions about hard skills such as content strategy and data analytics and softer skills such as empathy, adaptability and curiosity. Change-management efforts require people to change at equal pace as the organization, products, or services. Without true understanding of employees’ capability data; marketing leaders are shooting in the dark.