We are in the midst of a crucial moment for marketing. Change is fast paced and dynamic, leaving many businesses scrambling to get up to date with the latest tools and techniques to keep customers engaged.
However, whilst remaining up to date with customer expectations is certainly a concern for many a marketing department, businesses are increasingly looking to ensure they are also meeting the needs of their internal stakeholders.
It has been uncovered time and time again that training and development opportunities are crucial elements of what employers offer. This is equally true of those yet to enter the workplace; CIM’s 2018 survey of 500 16-18-year-old school leavers found that in order to guarantee their dream job, only 29% would give up training (as opposed to 48% who would sacrifice a company car, or 39% who would be prepared to work at the weekend).
However, it is certainly also the case that businesses haven’t always appreciated the value of investing in people, according to CIM’s associate director of people and organisational development, Sarah Lee-Boone. “The last decade has been a turbulent time for businesses both in the UK and internationally, with significant pressure on costs and profit margins. In these conditions personal development for employees is often viewed as a ‘nice to have’, especially at a time when the labour market was looser than it is at present. However, for businesses looking to solidify a position of resilience, the value of training cannot be underestimated.
Why it makes business sense
If learning is a priority for employees, why aren’t employers taking it seriously? Whilst training budgets can unfortunately be the first to be cut in many businesses, it has been proven that workforces that are developed work more productively and are more engaged with the business than those not afforded these opportunities. Indeed, revenue growth is 30% greater in organisations who invest in marketing capabilities. Cutting training budgets, therefore, is often a short-sighted move.
More education is also needed to ensure that training is seen as an investment, rather than a cost, according to Lee-Boone. With the cost of turning over staff high, retaining and upskilling employees can not only save costs in the short term, it can also help to build a team of advocates for your organisation. Lee-Boone says this is an error made all too often. “Businesses often put a lot of resource into attracting and recruiting talent but may overlook the cost benefits of retaining and upskilling existing employees. There’s undoubtedly a need to bring in new talent as and when it is required, but organisations can make a costly mistake if they fail to look at their current pool of people and develop their existing talent.”
Many a marketer will also be working on building an employer brand that attracts and retains talent. With businesses increasingly looking to differentiate themselves, employer brand is key. “The majority of organisations would probably state that they want to attract and retain the best talent,” says Lee-Boone, “but few recognise that a developed learning and development offer can be a crucial point of difference. Your brand isn’t just something that your customers talk about, it’s something that your employees and ex-employees talk about, too.
“If we’re looking at the employment market being tight at the moment – which it is – then you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors by providing employees with the development they’re asking for.”
We know that employees look for training as a crucial element of an employment offer, and we know that employers need the most up-to-date skills to ensure their business succeeds. So, what barriers still exist in this space, and why?
How training is perceived is largely a reflection on the culture of an organisation. If a business doesn’t embrace learning and development as a positive investment in its people, that can reflect in how employees view it, and how willing they’ll be to commit to upskilling themselves. At its heart, training is a top down process.
There is also a common misconception that training should be completed outside of working hours or put to one side if a meeting comes up. There are various methods to overcoming this, such as Google’s 20% time, but ultimately the issue of culture arises again and again. If the culture or management of a business perpetuate the idea that training is secondary to day-to-day tasks or that it becomes less important the further you move up the career ladder, it is unlikely that employees will feel comfortable dedicating meaningful time or effort to these initiatives.
It’s also important to remember that there are times when training is needed not as part of a fully integrated rewards strategy, but as a necessity. Upskilling staff and ensuring they have the capabilities they need to drive a business forward is paramount, but it’s often a challenge, particularly when dealing with employees who are less engaged.
Overcoming negativity in this way is largely about positioning your reward strategy, according to Lee-Boone. She continues, “It is important to involve people in their own learning journey and give them a chance to guide their own development.” It is also crucial, therefore, to recognise that learning needs are individual and will differ greatly depending on several factors, including the stage of an employee’s career or their level of progression thus far. For this reason, involving people from the first stage of the process is key – with advances in technology and learning options, training is now fully participative, rather than authoritative. Indeed, this can overcome perceptions that training is always needed to overcome a skills shortage. Rather, continuous learning and development can enable employees to enhance every aspect of their role by investing just a small amount of time in quality learning.
Mapping your skills
But where to start? “A key challenge facing organisations and teams looking to upskill their marketing capabilities is defining what great marketing looks like and then identifying what skills are needed to get there. Capturing these skills gaps can be a near impossible task,” acknowledges Lee-Boone.
Recognising this, CIM has this year launched an online diagnostic portal, which allows businesses to assess professional marketing capabilities across teams and departments. This Marketing Analysis Portal (MAP) will help organisations to fully understand their capability gaps against CIM’s Professional Marketing Competencies, as well as empowering marketing managers to make informed decisions on the critical training and development needs of their team. Once these capabilities are understood, organisations can also use this gap analysis against job descriptions to ensure they’re seeking the right talent.
Demonstrating return on investment with regards to training is an age-old challenge. When using MAP, participants get the opportunity to do a follow up assessment to track progress. This gap analysis – and the tools to show its decrease – gives an objective view of what skills are needed within your organisation and what training can help to address this.
With a multitude of training options available in today’s market, knowing what to upskill in and how to do it can feel unclear. What is more obvious, however, is that continuous professional development (CPD) is absolutely vital. With careers being more transient than ever before, those looking to succeed must push themselves to learn and be the most relevant they can be. Marketing, being as dynamic as it is, has this particular challenge more than most – and professional marketers, poised at the cliff edge of change, must be ready to adapt and thrive.