From education to employment

Why bridging the digital skills gap in marketing requires training at every level

Mischa McInerney on the FE News Exclusive background

The marketing industry is facing a skills crisis that extends far beyond just a shortage for junior talent. Our latest research found that over half (58%) of marketers admit their roles are fundamentally changing due to new technologies such as AI. In fact, AI tops the list of topics marketers say that they need to upskill in, followed by analytics and automation.

The reality is, the skills gap isn’t limited to graduates and junior marketers entering the workforce. It’s present at almost every step on the corporate ladder. New technologies are reshaping the way we work and the capabilities needed. This is especially true in marketing, where AI is shaking up the sector for all – from CMOs to marketing executives.

Our Corporate Digital Skills Gap & Training report – which surveyed Marketing, Sales, L&D, and HR leaders globally – found that nearly half (49%) of companies say AI strategy development is their biggest skills gap.

Clearly, even at a more senior level, AI strategy development remains a challenge and gap to be filled. To effectively bridge these gaps, requires training at all levels. A holistic training approach which provides continuous professional development opportunities for all is necessary. The responsibility for upskilling is not just on new graduates or junior team members, but on everyone across all job levels and tenures. With this, everyone has the opportunity to grasp new concepts, implement new strategies and drive more effective approaches in their role.

By encompassing training at all levels, staff can approach new technologies and strategies with confidence, allowing every position to stay relevant and prepared for the marketing industry’s more AI-driven future.

So, what can corporations do to nurture a culture of continuous learning and upskilling across the board?

Make training an expectation, not a perk

Often, learning and development opportunities are positioned as a perk or benefit to newcomers keen to learn all they can and progress in their careers. However, in today’s rapidly evolving marketing landscape, upskilling must be positioned as an expectation and requirement for all employees, regardless of the role.

Attending training workshops or webinars cannot be a bottom of the to-do-list task or check box exercise for progression. It must be treated as an essential part of each role, with commitment on both the company and employee to embrace learning and improvement.

Today, most of the ‘Best Place to Work’ organisations and companies are allotting time, for instance, a ‘training hour’ each week where employees can dedicate themselves to upskilling opportunities. It’s promising to see 72% of decision-makers are already providing mandatory training for their teams to address talent shortages across their organisations. By prioritising this and making training an expectation from the start, these gaps can be tackled within organisations.

Leading by example to foster a culture of continuous learning

Creating a culture that embraces continuous learning starts at the top. Of course, culture does not change overnight, but it happens when leadership dedicate themselves to championing an environment where curiosity and learning is encouraged long term. Leaders must show the ways they are embracing new technologies, such as AI, so that it is not feared, but rather an opportunity to evolve.

While most see AI as an aid and support rather than an altogether replacement, according to Funnel research, 64% of marketers are concerned that AI may replace their jobs within the next five years. Still, overcoming these fears requires taking proactive steps to learn about AI and the opportunities it brings.

Often, those in more senior roles can be reluctant and uneasy to learn new skills that they may build up in their head as out of reach. However, with the right support and training, nothing is out of reach. After all, investing in upskilling is not all about the financial investment, but also about investing the time. Leaders must also encourage employees to take the time, ask questions and challenge themselves.

Investing in comprehensive training resources

From offering in-house training workshops and courses taught by industry experts, to providing access to online learning platforms, professional certifications, and opportunities for secondments – companies need to invest in a range of substantive training resources that cater to employees across all levels. Currently, 60% of organisations are investing in on-the-job training, followed by online training (52%) and team workshops (49%). 

However, training plans must also be personalised to the different levels. More senior level marketers may need training focused on mastering AI strategically, while junior team members are better served by more practical AI marketing implementation. Creating personalised development plans that take these different roles and requirements into account will also be important.

Ultimately, bridging skills gaps requires a holistic approach where learning and development is not only encouraged, but required, at all levels. By investing in the training of all staff, teams will be stronger, and more prepared, for the future.

By Mischa McInerney, Chief Marketing Officer at the Digital Marketing Institute

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