Fixing the Digital Marketing Skills Gap

Fixing the Digital Marketing Skills Gap

Written by Michael O'Flynn - Sales & Marketing Manager, Professional Academy

As recently as June, MPs were warning about the UK’s digital skills gap with over 12.6 million adults lacking basic digital skills, and 5.8 million who have never used the internet. The report, as shared by the BBC went on to show that the UK needed another 745,000 digitally skilled workers by 2017 and that the skills gap was costing the UK economy 63bn a year in lost income.

That being said, Marketers are a savvy sort, we have always had a way of keeping up with the times and making sure we are as relevant as we can be. Surely there can’t be a digital marketing skills gap, can there?

Is there really a digital marketing skills gap?

A recent report, commissioned by the Digital Marketing Institute, showed that the digital marketing skills gap may be more prominent than we thought. The report found that '47% of US marketers and 46% of those in the UK agree that their organization is involved in digital marketing, but is not very competent at it'.

The reasons for this skills gap is in part the fault of companies in the UK with organisational engagement being worryingly low, 'Irish organizations are felt to be more digitally engaged (40%), with the USA at 31% and the UK with the lowest organizational engagement levels at 25%.' Levels of digital training offered by companies was also far too low in comparison to other areas of training 'Only 25% of organizations in Ireland, 20% in the UK and 18% in the US provide essential training support, figures which further diminish the smaller the company size.' Leading the report to conclude that 'digital skills training, either internally or externally, is too limited to leverage the full advantages of digital.'

The next generation of “Digital Natives” will fix the problem.

Digital Hipster

It's ok though, the next round of marketing recruits at your organisation will fix it all, after all they will be millennials, digital natives that know everything about the digital marketing landscape. It turns out that this could be a dangerous misconception of the next wave of young marketers.

Though millennials may have a fantastic grasp of digital skills in general they fail in key areas of marketing. 'Employees aged between 18 and 34 overall struggled most with analytics and reporting skills, compared to their older counterparts.' per the 2016 Digital Skills report. Luckily the publishers of the report provide some tips for those millennials who are moving in to the world of marketing such as getting back to basics with traditional marketing strategy principles (the 7P’s of Marketing, SWOT, PESTLE et al). The real way to fix this problem however, is with investment in training.

Helping the 'lost generation of marketers' adopt digital skills

The lost generation of digital marketers

The investment in training as a solution to the digital marketing skills gap is something Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer for Unilever, agrees with. At the recent Festival of Marketing, Keith discussed the ‘lost generation of marketers who are bluffing about marketing’, taking focus at those working in marketing with a wealth of experience, usually late 30s to early 40s 'who don’t yet have grown up children who are digital natives and weren’t digital natives themselves'.

Weed, shared that 'Unilever has increased its training budget and the number of days employees are given to train, introducing mandatory e-modules and workshops that start with basic programmes on search, programmatic and websites, and then layer up' demonstrating a real commitment to digital training within the company, something they should be applauded for and other companies would be wise to follow suite with.

The case for investing in Digital Marketing training

This may sound a tad conceited as I am indeed a marketer who works for a company that delivers both marketing and digital marketing training but I am also a “millennial” having been born in the mid-80s. Since starting my career in marketing a decade ago the digital landscape has evolved at a rapid rate and I have invested in my personal development in the area, both with training companies and through hours of self-study (I am a joy at dinner parties, who doesn’t want to discuss google algorithm updates right?). Without this training I can imagine I would have days where I would be staring at a huge web-traffic trend thinking “I have no idea why this is happening” or I would be throwing money at marketing campaigns that are just not working.

Investment in training, both financially and in terms of my own time, has allowed me to become a more effective digital marketer and that is how I’d suggest companies help to fix this digital marketing skills gap, invest in your marketing team. Whether they are a millennial, a member of the lost generation or a well skilled marketer – training can only be a positive thing for the individuals and businesses alike.

Interested in improving your Digital Marketing skills set? Why not invest in a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Digital Marketing Institute? Speak to one of our advisers for advice or download a brochure today.