Jan 18, 2019

Solving the Skills Gap in Your Organization

by Digital Marketing Institute

If your organization is facing inefficiencies in completing key projects and meeting targets, you might be experiencing a skills gap. This is a very common challenge in digital marketing these days, as departments evolve without always having the appropriate training and staff to keep up with changing demands.

Recent research carried out by the Digital Marketing Institute found that there is a significant skills gap in the sector, which is a major cause of concern for senior leaders and management. This white paper shows that there is a critical need for employee training, with many of the respondents believing their teams lack the key technology and business skills required to succeed, as new technologies continually come to the forefront.

When you discover a skills gap in your department or organization as a whole, you can take a number of steps to get back on track.

Possible Causes

A skills gap is a noticeable gap between the skills required to complete a job and the workforce available. Without the right skills, a company cannot grow, which can lead to difficulties in remaining competitive.

Some signs that your company is experiencing a skills gap include:

  • Employees who are clearly incapable of completing the required tasks of a job
  • An aging staff who have not received additional training as the workplace has changed
  • A change in the skill levels required to perform newly introduced jobs
  • The inability to move forward with campaigns or goals, as an increase in specialized positions has not been met

Sometimes, a company might implement changes that inadvertently lead to a skills gap. Often the changes occur over a period of time, creating a lag between the changing demands of the company and the staff available. Common structural changes, such as downsizing and combining one job into two, can cause a skills gap.

Also, companies and departments often face a change in workload due to new implementations or the introduction of new technology and software, but they might not have the budget to hire someone to take on the work. Adapting to new and emerging technologies is a major issue for digital marketing, and a challenge which management cannot afford to ignore.

In this case, the workload might be offloaded to a single staff member or spread out among a few people. Unfortunately, when these types of changes occur, it can be difficult for employees to adapt to the new requirements of their role.

Skills gaps are also created when the demand for certain specialties is high, and there are not enough skilled candidates to fill the roles. That is a challenge faced by recruiters who often have to make compromises on the skills required for their openings.

Pinpointing the Skills Gap

The first step in addressing the issue is to pinpoint where the gap exists. If you are tasked with tackling this, you should review the positions in the company, the departments they serve, and the duties each person is expected to complete.

At Verizon, they work closely with leaders and their human resources (HR) partner to identify skills gaps. They want to understand the cause, not just the effect.

They ask the following questions:

  • Is it a new skill that our employees need?
  • Is it a new skill that requires a new role?
  • Will future employees need this skill moving forward?
  • In the case of the individual staff member, is it a performance issue or a skill issue?
  • Is this skill evident in other departments or employees?
  • Is this an industry skill gap or a company skill gap?

Answering these questions can make it easier to resolve issues and determine if it is an industry issue, a company-wide issue, a department issue, or specific to an individual.

Once you can identify the gap, you can start to put a plan in place. This plan should consider the following aspects:

  • Budget
  • Training content and level
  • Training type, such as instructor or web-based
  • Training provider
  • Projected completion of training
  • Continuous education plan

After you have prepared a well-formulated plan, you should make a big deal about it internally! Show everyone that management is behind it, and make sure all levels of the organization support it.

Skills Testing

When structural changes occur, it makes sense to assess staff who might be taking on new duties. You can use skills testing to find out if your marketing employees have the skillsets required to carry out their new roles. This same testing can be applied to new hires to ensure they have the necessary skills to be effective in their position.

Skills testing will provide you with a clear picture of how capable your employees are at fulfilling their roles. Once you complete the testing, you can give the proper training that will help increase their skill levels.

Following training, employees can be retested to determine if more training is required or, in certain cases, whether the employee should be reassigned or let go.

Training and Development

The most successful companies believe strongly in investing in their staff. Providing training that upgrades skills to meet the demands of the business is a continuous process that will support your new developments and initiatives. This is particularly true in digital marketing and sales.

If your organization is not large enough to have your own in-house training, there are seminars, conferences, speakers, courses, training and tutorials available to help your team remain knowledgeable. When you consider even common changes such as upgrades to operating platforms, there can be many team members who are underperforming merely because they are not being provided with the learning tools they need to succeed.

As an organization, KPMG is notable for its proactive planning, so its employees are never under-skilled. Their culture promotes development to help support staff throughout their careers. The training provided can range from technical to leadership skills. They reassess their needs and focus training efforts where they are needed.

This all helps them to avoid skills gaps as they anticipate future needs. They also use individual learning planning which is designed to improve performance based on the needs of the individual who is assessed by their manager. They set development priorities and look for learning opportunities.

Marketing leaders can definitely benefit by following this example. Making sure training is viewed positively from the highest levels will help to encourage staff and generate support from those requiring the training. This should become an essential HR component and be announced positively from the time of conception. It should also be mentioned as a perk to new hires, so they know it is a workplace policy.

Team Training and Building

An excellent tactic for ongoing training is to incorporate it across all levels. As new courses are introduced, mix up the classes so employees see that the CEO, CMO, CTO and other senior personnel are also required to participate in training. That shows a commitment to the policy and acts as a positive team-building exercise.

Training should always be embraced on all levels. Frequent training provides all employees with the tools to keep pace with industry changes which can affect the way business is conducted. It also helps to build team morale and can ensure that C-level executives stay in touch with employees who they don’t interact with frequently.

Attracting the Right Talent

If you are not discovering a training issue, it’s possible that have a wider cultural problem to address. Poorly managed companies often see a rotating door of staff. With popular job sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor promoting the review of employers, anyone can take a quick look to get a general feel about the company’s culture and work environment. Digital marketing candidates are known to be particularly savvy in conducting this kind of research.

If you have a toxic environment with poor management, questionable ethics, and other challenges that make your workplace unpleasant, this will help fuel a skills gap within your organization. You need to assess your work environment and ensure that you address issues that could be causing talent to leave the company and keep new talent away.

You can also take steps to ensure you are able to attract new talent. Some excellent recruitment ideas include:

  • Maintain an applicant database: Most companies receive a steady flow of resumés applying for jobs that have not been listed. These resumés should be read, sorted and saved to create a database of applicants interested in working for your company. You can search the applicants when jobs become available and save yourself time in the recruitment process. This will also help you to close any skills gaps you might be developing as you will be hiring people who meet the job criteria.
  • Create a talent community: Social platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn provide opportunities to create a talent community. This type of set-up enables you to promote your company as an excellent employer and can encourage like-minded, skilled individuals to join your community. As jobs become available, these people will already be interested, making it easier to access the skills required.
  • Engage with educators: Reaching out to colleges that will provide fresh talent through graduates is an easy way to access new people. You can begin a recruiting plan, look at introducing an internship program, or offer workforce readiness seminars for students. You will have access to an emerging workforce, which can provide you with a wealth of information.
  • Revisit your process: You might unwittingly be removing candidates from the running based on an old screening process your HR department or placement company might be using. Make sure that every job opening comes with fresh criteria that will not inadvertently remove perfectly suitable candidates from the running. You should also put aside any preconceptions, such as thinking that someone who is currently out of work is not a good candidate, or even someone who lost their job through layoffs. Many of these people are victims of circumstance and often prove to be the hardest workers as they have been out of work for some time.

Final Thoughts

A skills gap can be severely detrimental to the activities, campaigns and goals of a digital marketing team, which can undermine a company’s overall progress. 

If the skills gap is a result of being unable to maintain talent or attract skilled employees, some effort might be required to improve your work environment and company culture.

The good news is that the issue can largely be overcome through sound strategy at management level, by introducing assessments and ongoing training, and upping recruitment efforts. There is plenty of digital marketing talent on the market – so it’s simply a question of finding and retaining suitable, skilled candidates.

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