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Building a digital talent revolution

To help address the digital skills gap in the UK, in 2015 the Google Digital Academy partnered with the Boston Consulting Group to launch the Talent Revolution Survey. The survey looks at the skills gaps within marketing across all industries and aims to create a digital skills health check for businesses based on standards of best practice.

With the survey in its second year, EMR recently teamed up with the Google Digital Academy to discuss the latest findings from the 2016 edition alongside 20 senior marketing leaders from a wide range of businesses.

Led by Sarah Logan, Head of Marketing & Industry Partnerships at Google Digital Academy, the session began with a quick look at some of the key headlines and findings.

Overall, the results from the 2016 survey were not as favourable as expected when compared to the first edition of the report. Firstly the 100-point Digital Capabilities Index (DCI), a measure for how a company is performing against industry averages, showed a slight decrease year-on-year, down from an average of 57% in 2015 to 56.3% in 2016. 

Whilst industry averages in how businesses felt they were performing across key areas such as mobile, video and marketing technology witnessed small increases year-on-year, these were still significantly lower in the UK compared to global averages.

The session moved on to discuss these finding in depth and while the criteria of those completing the survey had changed from 2015 and so may have impacted the findings to some extent; the belief was still culpable that these levels were not acceptable within a country that claims to be leading the world in e-commerce.

There were 3 particular areas that showed a drop in scores from 2015: digital content, digital marketing and testing.

The feeling around the table was that the drop in testing and potentially not “closing the feedback loop” could have been a key contributor to a drop in digital content and digital marketing best practice. Not knowing if what you’re doing is truly working, is never going to mean you maximise your digital usage.

Yet, businesses seem hesitant to adopt a robust approach to testing, possibly due to the production time and costs that come with investing in new technologies. All marketing leaders agreed that this ‘test and learn’ method is in fact a valuable tool for companies to better understand their target audience and gain deeper insight into the consumer’s behaviour. 

Discussions quickly moved to the reasons why the UK results were not as progressive as they should be and whether businesses are still separating digital marketing from core marketing. One argument put forward was that companies tend to over-analyse digital and isolate it from the general marketing mix, when in fact it should be part of a company’s broader marketing strategy in order to grow their success.

However, just having a digital marketing strategy in place is not enough to guarantee success. A well-crafted digital strategy combined with data analytics and testing allows marketers to adjust campaigns and content accordingly.

The conversation moved to learning and development with a unanimous agreement that companies need to reform their approach to training and the culture that surrounds it. 

Findings from the survey reflect this, showing a lack of investment towards L&D programmes. Only 18% believed their company have a very effective and impactful L&D programme and only 21% felt their learning programmes allowed for different styles of learning. 

But is there a struggle to keep digital learning engaging? Even in this digital age and the fast rate at which things change, businesses must ensure they’re embracing new technologies and keeping up to date with the latest digital platforms.  

So what’s stopping companies investing more in developing their digital talent? 

The most obvious barrier highlighted was a lack of budget. Digital training is often perceived by the board as a secondary cost element, rather than a driving pillar of the business. The room agreed that perhaps educating others in the business about the benefits of L&D and approaching the board in conjunction with other departments may push votes in favour of up-skilling digital talent. 

Another possible solution is having the foresight to eliminate your own personal skills gap. There are various ways in which digital marketers can improve and develop their own areas, such as taking on a new course or learning through online tutorials. 

Having a pro-active approach towards developing new skills and sharing this learning experience can therefore motivate others around you to follow the same initiative. 

The report not only reflected a stagnant view of digital capabilities, but the challenges many marketing teams had when it came to budget for development. Up-skilling staff already in the business allows companies to retain their most talented team members. However, if companies aren’t doing this, then there’s a risk that their digital experts may move on.  

The digital skills gap isn’t going away and those businesses that best solve the issue of sourcing, growing and maintaining top talent will be best placed to succeed in this rapidly moving space.

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