Learning On The Job: How Marketers Are Developing The Skills They Need

Biochemists sitting around a conference table talking and laughing together. They are discussing their research into phenotype biology and one woman is using a laptop while the other writes something down in a notebook.

Want to get your hands on Australia’s most comprehensive marketing skills survey? Click here to download your copy of ADMA’s professional skills census.

Over the past few weeks, we have been sharing information on what skills matter for modern Australian marketers, as part of a collaboration with the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) for the ADMA Professional Skills Census 2020.

While we now know that skills like stakeholder management and communications planning & strategy are amongst the most in-demand skills in 2020 and that data-related skills are now a must-have, we still don’t know how marketers are acquiring these skills.

According to the study, which surveyed 727 marketers around Australia, workplace training from management or peers is the most common form of education for marketers, with 58 per cent of respondents receiving ‘on the job’ training.

This was followed by a private company with specific expertise (33 per cent), an industry body such as ADMA (20 per cent), a professional training institution such as TAFE or General Assembly (13 per cent) and college or university (11 per cent).

The fact that workplace training is more often than not free, immediate and contextually relevant was a major factor in its popularity, according to the findings.

Training offered by private companies with specific skills was ranked as the most effective says the report.

For Brand Catalyser client solutions director Christie Ding – who took out the Entrepreneur category in this year’s B&T 30 Under 30 awards – workplace training has made up “at least 80 per cent” of her professional development.

“Most of the things I’m doing currently are learnt from my previous jobs, so I think workplace training is extremely important for people to work in Advertising or marketing industry, as most of the cases are coming from real-life experience,” she told B&T.

Having completed a Masters of Advertising degree, Ding has seen some benefit from formal education, as opposed to on the job training.

Here she learned about marketing models and theories “that can help me better understand the practical issues that I’m facing and doing in my job”.

However, she has now realised that this type of learning is an ongoing process.

“Now I’m really interested in reading a lot of marketing theories (like uni days) to help me structure my knowledge in a better way that can share around,” she said.

According to Hootsuite’s head of marketing Australia and New Zealand Anna Koleth, on the job training is particularly valuable for marketers looking to sharpen their digital skills.

“Many marketers have a basic level of digital comprehension, but may be at a loss as to how digital technology can enhance customer-centricity within a marketing strategy to scale returns,” she said.

“On-the-job training can be invaluable in this respect, by providing access to digital and social media courses developed to upskill an employee base in line with current market demands.”

Formal education: Does it matter?

While there will always be some debate regarding the importance of formal training for marketers, Koleth believes it is still an important tool.

“I truly believe that formal education performs a vital role in the development and advancement of societies; in turn, building a more sustainable future for all,” she said.

She pointed to the various motives to undertaking formal training, whether it be a love of lifelong learning or the desire the advance your career.

“From a personal standpoint, formal education has provided me with clarity around how marketing strategies contribute to financial returns that support the sustained growth of an enterprise,” Koleth said.

She added such formal training might be of particular importance to an individual looking to take the next step with their career.

“I do believe that for professionals seeking executive-level roles, formal education is a vital differentiator that contributes to success through an understanding of good governance principles and enterprise operations within a global economy,” she said.

“Moreover, as digitalisation accelerates, business leaders with a strong understanding of the legal and regulatory contexts will have greater success.”

What’s missing?

The report also highlights the gaps in training as it stands.

Commercial acumen, client/stakeholder management and project management were seen as some of the skills that are not being taught.

For Koleth, commercial acumen should be at the top of the list for any marketer when it comes to skill development.

“Marketers with strong commercial savvy will be able to prove the financial returns of marketing initiatives, while contributing to a reduction in opportunity costs,” Koleth said.

“The net effect of robust marketing performance is increased investment within the Marketing function; providing these marketing professionals a further opportunity to expand their role and realise career growth.”

Ding pointed to relationship management as an important skill that cannot be taught easily.

“I believe this is one of the most important skill in marketing/advertising world if you want to continue to work and grow in this industry,” she said. “It covers client relationship, partner relationships, team relationship, etc.”

Ding also argued that while marketers can develop their skills in a number of ways, the rapid pace of the industry provides an inherent challenge.

“The largest gap I think is many educational trainings are highly focusing on the theory side, without bringing the latest example or real case studies to people,” she said.

However, I think one of the challenges we are facing is, the market landscape, consumer behaviour, technology are changing rapidly, we would never be able to get the latest example to classes on time, as we never know what’s the new thing next month.”

To ensure your marketing skills keep pace with a rapidly changing industry, check out ADMA’s range of courses. Their comprehensive range of courses are taught by practicing industry professionals who bring years of experience to the classroom. Courses include:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Data-Driven Marketing
  • Customer Experience
  • Copywriting & Creative
  • Digital Campaigns
  • Analytics
  • Regulatory

You can download the ADMA Professional Skills Census 2020 here.


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