Closing the generation gap: Upskilling your traditional marketers with digital skills

Talent forms a company’s core and the hunt is always on for employees who are not only capable, but are also adept in digital and can fit well in the company. According to a 2017 study by Capgemini titled “The Digital Talent Gap”, 54% of organisations it surveyed said that the digital talent gap is hampering their digital transformation programmes and that their organisation has lost competitive advantage because of the shortage of digital talent.

More often then not, senior management is left looking for the fresh new faces adept with digital skills to join their team and take them to the next level. But this isn't an ideal way to sustain the work force, said panelists at a recent Digital Marketing Asia 2019 Indonesia conference in Jakarta organised by Marketing Interactive.

One Indonesian brand that managed to successfully close the digital talent gap and upskill its employees its telco Indosat Ooredoo. Fahroni Arifin (pictured left), SVP, head of brand management and strategy, said that 62% of his 42-man team are over the age of 40. While it might initially seemed tough for the older workforce to adapt to digital and upskill, Indosat managed to do so by breaking down the silos and “blending” the younger and older employees for projects.

At Indosat, for example, it is common to see a 42-year-old individual who has been with the company for a long time working together with a 25-year-old with a tech back ground on a digital project. Fahroni added that the older employees, despite their age, are becoming more interested in learning about digital. In this case, training alone is not enough, and this is where pairing the older and younger employees together for projects help.

“[The older employees] will learn from [the younger ones] and this eliminates the excuse of them saying they are clueless about digital because they are traditional marketers,” he said. Arifin added that he is beginning to hire from outside the agency world as well, as most people working in brand and communications within the company already have an agency background.

“I am looking to hire beyond the agencies because it gives more variation to the existing team. When you hire more people from the agency world while having the same group of traditional marketers, you create a huge gap between them,” Arifin explained. He added that he wants employees in his team to learn from one another to ensure that no one thinks they are better than the other.

Although companies face the challenge of upskilling talent and retaining them, Dentsu Indonesia’s CEO Shubhabrata Sarkar (pictured second from left) said the problem does not lie with talent but rather the training.

Most corporations have cut away training budgets. They have looked at cost saving as the only benchmark for figuring out what profitability is.

Due to this, Sarkar said there is no training, “no safety of environment, and no responsibility or appetite” to accept a mistake that has been made or to absorb it. Contrary to other panellists, Sarkar said “nobody is training, everybody wants ready-made talent from the market”.

“If nobody’s training, you’re not going to have ready made talent in the market. So someone’s gotta take the step of saying the amount of extra money the company pays to hire someone is equal to the amount of training the company can provide, and train those who have been loyal,” he explained.

Agreeing with Sarkar is HM Sampoerna’s head of media, digital and consumer activation, Mariska Goesman (pictured second from right), who said that companies should have an appetite for training and allow room for making mistakes. At HM Sampoerna, the team is given a minimum spend for digital to explore and learn. According to Goesman, this speeds up the digital transformation and it also explores working with various individuals, be it internal or external.

Flock Creative Network’s chief digital officer Jeffrey Nijstad (pictured right) added that having workshops and engagement programmes help with performance management as well as it enables employees to feel like a team. Nijstad said the team at Flock adheres to a performance system known as objective and key results. Using this, the media department at Flock, for example, will list down what they hope to learn and achieve in their role. Once those objectives are listed, the team will hold internal workshops to help employees meet their goals.

He explained that the digital talents topic is also frequently discussed by the younger generation. According to Nijstad, 91% of Millennials quit in two years or so in in-house roles.

He pointed out that commitment can be a challenge when it comes to retaining digital talent as in-house work can often be repetitive, whereas agency life is dynamic which increases the chances of attracting talent. As such, it is important for companies to be strong on HR and have a vision for the talents. For example, marketers should think about how they are going to maintain their talents upon hiring them. Also, Nijstad noted that Millennials are always looking for something with meaning.

If your company has a very good story behind it and an innovation that can serve meaning, that is something you can leverage on.

“The best talents are looking for big brands to work with, and they want to do different types of work. Having a vision for HR is something that’s very important. Besides the repetitive tasks, you will need to think about what programmes you can have [to boost commitment],” he explained.

(Read also: Specialists versus generalists: Which attributes will land you in the CMO seat?)