Marketing professionals have long acknowledged the skills gap in terms of digital marketing capabilities. Despite this industry-wide recognition, consumer behaviour in the digital space is still accelerating much faster than the skills of marketers. A group of senior marketing professionals recently sat down with Google and EMR to discuss this disparity.
A conversation began around several key questions. What challenges do businesses face when addressing the skills gap? What solutions have been found to effectively remedy this? In true Google style, a life-size mind map quickly began to take shape on the meeting room walls. As the colourful post-its from each senior marketer were posted up, a number of clear trends emerged.
One common frustration felt around the room was with the lack of action from the top. Leaders are talking the talk but where is the evidence of commitment and investment in developing digital capabilities? There were two primary reasons identified by the group as to why addressing the skills gap is still largely reactive.
The first and most obvious of these is lack of budget and investment. However, as stated by the group, improving the digital expertise within a business is an inevitable and worthwhile investment that needs to be recognised by those most senior and influential. For the greatest chance of change, the push for development has to come from the top.
What’s more, while industry leaders may recognise the problem, do they understand it? A distinction needs to be made between acknowledging a lack of digital capabilities within a business and understanding what these specific capabilities are and what impact this is having, both internally and across the industry. Once these finer concepts are grasped, the next step is for those in leadership roles to play an active part in bridging the gap.
It is becoming increasingly important for companies not to see themselves, and their talents, in isolation. Too often a business will take an inward look when reviewing their marketing capabilities. The time has come to identify how the gaps in their company align with those of the industry as a whole. A holistic understanding will eventually lead to an industry benchmark of digital capabilities. With a benchmark in place, companies can more accurately recognise where the specific gaps are within their marketing team and assess how these measure up against those in their competitive environment.
With a relative consensus across the group as to the challenges faced, there were differing views as to how to address the skills gap.
The debate stemmed around the question of whether to grow or buy your talent. Is it more valuable to invest in up-skilling the staff already within the business? Or it is better to hire external capabilities? Choosing to digitise the skills of current staff ensures you retain the insider understanding of the business and is likely to help retain talented staff members. The opposing argument, however, would proclaim it’s faster to hire external talent and the business avoids investing in staff who then take their newly acquired skills elsewhere. The room conceded that different approaches might be needed for different levels.
While the skills gap has long been recognised by marketing professionals, it needs to be understood from the perspective of the individual, the business, and the industry as a whole. This holistic appreciation is something that Google’s Talent Revolution Survey looks to encourage. As an increasing number of businesses take part in this extensive survey, a model structure for digital marketing practices is forming, and with it an industry benchmark can be set. The Talent Revolution’s second annual report will be released in September enabling businesses to better understand where they lack digital capabilities and consequently work to closing the skills gap.