People are a company’s greatest asset. It’s not the structure, processes, or departments – it’s the human beings. Individuals who walk in the door and ride up the elevators each day represent a distinct competitive advantage. Businesses operate at a deficit without great talent. Although most agree that having the right talent is everything, some businesses underinvest in talent development (particularly when it comes to embedded, long-term programming). When leaders focus the majority of their talent efforts in hiring, the result is lack of distributed and scalable skill sets. Training is the fastest way to evolve internal capabilities. Learning is the new skill for marketers. 

Changing consumer behavior and shifting technology preferences requires marketers to evolve how they market. Digital is at the crux of these changes. The recent acquisition by S4 Capital of MediaMonks demonstrates the value put on digital skills. Making and producing digital work is now fundamental. Capabilities such as analytics, programmatic and mobile have shifted staffing models and generated new talent, training and partner opportunities. Large consultancies are busier than ever, but are they transforming capabilities or just moving the same furniture around the room?

Marketers are owning capabilities once reserved for agency partners. A recent ANA reportcited that more than 35 percent of companies surveyed have reduced the role of external agencies as a result of the expansion of their in-house capabilities for programmatic buying. As discussed in Digiday (2018) Marc Speichert, Chief Digital Officer at GSK, saidWe have to make sure we push hardas we elevated our own internal capabilities, we are asking much tougher questions of agencies. We have much higher expectations.” Skill building for both marketers and agencies is more important than ever.

For many companies, systematic ongoing investment in Learning and Development (L&D) is secondary to hiring. This lack of investment conflicts with employees stated interests and pedagogical desires. According to the 2018 Millenials at Work Report by Udemy, “42% of Millenials say L&D is the most important benefit when deciding where to work.” That is compelling data given the Millenial footprint in today’s workforce. Undervaluing the power of learning for marketing transformation efforts is short-cited. Marketers need to quickly evolve what they know, from automation to Blockchain (and the list is growing) and most employees are ready to learn.

To reshape training practices, leadership should begin with a talent assessment, a mapping exerciseto determine the employees’ actual capabilities. This assessment should be a simple survey that includes desired skillsets by role and department. Employees are often candid about what they know and what they need. The assessment data allow leaders to take action and rethink talent strategies. Employees often know the best path forward, businesses just need to ask them. 

The next step is to design learning experiences that are connected to employees’ daily work lives. Design for back at the desk and not an unrealistic ideal state that occurs in the classroom or online video platform. Finding tools that allow employees to learn on their own time is important. Vary the delivery method for learning (from pop-ups to field trips), the content should be challenging. Most employees respond well to self-directed learning methods and exploratory formats. Hire industry practitioners as instructors. Teachers and facilitators need to have no agenda other than teaching.

To build internal capabilities at speed, L&D needs to sit at the same table as the CMO and other executives. Starting with the few steps abbreviated here, marketing can transform faster. After all, it’s the people and the learning that matter.


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