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The Digital Debate Continues: To upskill internal staff or buy in new talent?


Why it’s crucial to merge insider knowledge with outside digital capabilities

There are two sides of the coin when considering how to close the digital skills gap. Businesses must ask themselves if it’s more worthwhile to introduce training programmes and build up digital capabilities internally or whether they’d be better off bringing in new talent with existing skills.

Time and cost are primary considerations for the latter argument and they are, of course, difficult to ignore. Introducing outside capabilities to a marketing team provides a quick fix to fill a skills gap with little hidden costs. Not to mention the added benefit that bringing in fresh eyes and experience will offer new ideas. 

It is, however, important to ensure that marketing leaders are not being driven by the fear of investing in training staff members who then move on and take their newly acquired skills elsewhere.

When considering talent attraction and retention, the argument leans in favour of investing internally. EMR’s 2016 Salary Survey and Market Trend Report demonstrated that almost a third of marketing professionals move jobs for a new challenge/more interesting work. Perhaps it’s time for companies to provide the new challenge themselves. By investing in improving digital capabilities, a business is not only more likely to retain existing staff, but will also appeal to top talent in the industry.

Reinforcing this approach are the undeniable advantages of existing staff knowing the ins and outs of their business. Even if their marketing skills may now be considered outdated, their value lies in a more in-depth understanding of the business and its customers.

Bringing in the talent is also only a temporary solution. With the digital landscape changing at such a rapid pace, it is only a matter of time before there are new channels to explore and the skills that were hired in fall behind or become redundant. These rapid changes do, however, encourage businesses to look to external talent as they will likely learn the workings of that business faster than a person might fully develop digital capabilities. 

Whether a company prioritises the building of the team with outside capabilities or improving the digital skills of their existing team members, there needs to be investment from the top. Consumers and businesses alike are moving online and becoming increasingly mobile (at a rapid pace) making it all the more crucial for the capabilities of marketers to keep up. As technological advancements are made daily, it’s likely that even those with today’s digital know-how will need additional training for tomorrow’s digital landscape.


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