Fernando Fischmann

Capabilities Matter: Marketers Need To Invest In Talent Development

25 February, 2019 / Articles

Capabilities matter. Now more than ever, talent drives success, or lack of, within marketing departments. Having the right skillsets is the fight many leaders hope to win. Conversely, anaemic, under-supported or stale talent signals trouble for any brand. Despite “talent” being a very popular buzzword at conferences and keynotes, training budgets remain a small percentage of overall talent investment. Having the right talent with an armory of desirable skillsets is ideal, but to achieve this many companies are continuing to utilize outdated approaches which prioritize hiring instead of upskilling existing talent. Marketing leaders are seemingly not convinced that investing in a learning culture impacts the bottom line. Why the disconnect?

Upskilling employees has direct business and cultural impacts. Employees who feel invested in, are more engaged, loyal and productive. Millennials, in particular, put significant emphasis on the value of learning above other perks. Learning also improves workplace culture and promotes connectivity and creativity across previously siloed disciplines. Education is the business strategy that is often overlooked.

Ongoing changes in the workplace – from the ways we work, to the  tools we use, to the tech we rely on – pose significant threats to outdated business practices. Companies that do not keep up with the latest innovations, best practices and new tech may fall irreparably behind. No invention, service or product is created without employees and their capabilities, so investment in talent development should be at the top of every CMO’s list.

In a recent Fast Company article, Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, said in response to AI taking over jobs in the future, “I want to know what the commitment is of the organization to ‘upskill’ me so that I continue to have a job.” The possibilities for AI in business are nearly limitless, but so are the opportunities for employees to utilize new technologies to complement their work. It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people who understand the technology. Simply put, employees’ skillsets are not evolving in pace with technology and that has to change.

What to Do

To convince leaders that learning matters, companies should conduct an assessment of employees’ current capabilities. Particularly when evaluating digital skillsets and new ways of working to support organizational change. An anonymous survey sent to all employees will give leaders a sense where to invest and why. Include in the survey a list of the most important skillsets for your industry, company or department. Leaders are consistently surprised at the results and feedback from employees. Employees will often openly share what they are capable of and what skillsets they need to elevate or improve. The challenge is to get leaders to listen.

The truth about employees’ capabilities can be a hard pill to swallow. A recent report, 2018 State of Talent and Digital Transformation, released by smith & beta, contains self-reported skillsets of over 1,000 employees at top agencies in North America. The data tells a compelling story. This insider report on agency capabilities demonstrates the need for more investment in learning. A few top findings from the report:

  • 96% of employees believe they need to evolve their skillsets
  • 92% of employees believe they are not exceeding clients’ expectations
  • 57% of employees believe their company does not have the right processes that involve the right people48% of employees do not know the type of digital work their company wants to do
  • 52% of employees believe their company is not fast and iterative
  • 55% of employees believe they do not hire the best talent in the industry

This report, covered in an article in Adweek, also includes self-reported data about the reality of digital skillsets. The bottom line is that agencies and brands alike need to start putting more investment in evolving internal capabilities vs hiring, rehiring and replacing the talent that is needed. In 2019, we often assume that employees have digital skillsets required to do their jobs but that is often not the case. Give employees an opportunity to share what they know or don’t know with leaders. Without this knowledge, a spiral of inefficiencies and decline in overall competitiveness occurs.

The key is take action this year. Think about how to deliver training and development in a new modern way using tools that follow the learner, allowing for greater flexibility for learning at work. Employees aren’t spending hours in workshops nor do they have time to watch online videos that lack interaction and application required to learn more about a topic or build skills. Think in terms of delivering modern learning that fits the employee’s lifestyle. Learning needs to be reshaped to fit our work lives.

What if, on Monday morning, your company’s leadership stopped to consider what skillsets are actually in the building? Not what they think is in the building, but what employees are truly capable of doing this year. How would those answers change your strategy and talent investment for 2019? Do you have untapped opportunities? Or critical deficiencies?

Successful leaders know their teams and skillsets. Do you know yours?

The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.



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