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Ones, Zeroes, and Heroes: How Savvy CMOs Are Leveling Up the Data Literacy of Their Teams

5 minute read | April 26, 2023

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Let’s face it: leading a marketing team, particularly for large, global, household-name brands, isn’t for the faint of heart. Especially in today’s fast-paced, hyper-focused, data-centric world.

When things go right, the results can be exhilarating. Well-planned and deftly executed campaigns can transcend merely “pushing product” and become woven into the country’s cultural fabric, boosting sales while defining and elevating the brand. 

Great marketing is timeless. Nike inspired us to “Just Do It” in 1988, Apple encouraged the world to “Think Different” in 1997, and Disneyland dubbed itself “The Happiest Place on Earth” way back in 1955. Each of these campaigns, and dozens more like them, ran decades ago yet still encapsulates the ethos of the companies they represent. 

Simply brilliant. 

Poorly executed campaigns, however, can have an equally detrimental effect.  As we’ve seen in recent weeks, even the most well-intentioned (and seemingly innocuous) campaigns can go sideways if customer sentiment and market data aren’t taken into account. 

The bigger the bet, the greater the risk.

Data, in all its different forms, is required to both mitigate risk and deliver increasingly personalized experiences for consumers, yet data literacy remains one of the most prominent challenges within the function. 

Marketing Week magazine recently released the results of its 2023 Career and Salary survey, and of the 3,000+ respondents, more than a third (34.4%) indicated “data and analytics” represent the greatest skills gap to address in 2023.

Many businesses (just under 48%) are looking to the labor market and hiring new talent with the necessary skills to close these gaps. However, with unemployment rates remaining at or near generational lows, recruiting and onboarding activities can be more expensive and time-consuming than ever before. And with so many recruiters looking for talent, the best and brightest you have on staff today have plenty of opportunities to test the market and see if they can find new, more personally rewarding work elsewhere.

Given these market dynamics, many organizations—more than a third, according to the Marketing Week research—are investing in upskilling their teams. This approach to addressing the widening data skills gap is gaining in popularity across virtually every sector. In fact, A recent Harvard Business Review article states that 82% of employees believe that workers will need to sharpen or acquire new skills on an annual basis.

Given this ongoing need, an investment in skills-enhancing training programs can serve as an annuity for the business. As trends emerge and new technologies are introduced, companies can simply apply new training in these areas to the existing workforce, and that yields both financial and operational benefits, including: 

  • Lower costs. According to a recent Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) report, the “all-in” cost for replacing an employee could be as high as three to four times the salary of that role. This includes the resources required to stage an effective recruiting campaign, review and interview candidates, onboard new hires, and secure the additional resources necessary – both internal and external – to absorb the additional workload created when a team member exits the business. Upskilling the existing employee base, however, can be accomplished for a fraction of the cost and avoid.
  • Faster return on investment (ROI). According to a recent Gartner study, nearly 50% of employees hired over the last 12 months had two additional job offers in hand. As a result, hiring managers are often required to extend top-dollar offers to candidates, overextending already tight budgets. Training and reskilling programs, however, typically deliver a faster (and more enduring) ROI because you’re investing in leveling-up the entire time vs. simply replacing a single role. Additionally, your existing team is already onboard and up-to-speed with how your organization operates, so they can put their newfound skills to work without the ramp-up time required when new employees are hired.
  • Higher morale & retention. Retaining talent, particularly in the post-COVID era, requires extending benefits that transcend the traditional “salary-plus” packages that typified the employee experience of prior years. Today’s worker wants greater flexibility, autonomy, and tangible and meaningful investment in employee growth. Simply stated, workers want to keep their skills sharp and leverage newfound expertise to elevate the performance of the business and advance their careers. SHRM reports that 68% of workers would stay with their employer throughout their entire career if upskilling opportunities were made available. Of course, a positive employee experience requires more than just career mobility, but investing in employee growth and skills enhancement makes a bold and positive statement about your organization as a whole. 

Employee training, upskilling, and reskilling programs were historically delivered via a centralized resource, often owned by Human Resources (HR) or Learning & Development (L&D) teams. These platforms are often self-paced and online-only, conveying lessons via video or narrated presentation, leading to a simplistic test and a certificate of completion. Although this approach could be adequate for basic topics, the specificity of subject matter expertise and the granularity of content required to master new marketing skills typically requires an approach that is owned or, at the very least, selected and approved by marketing leadership.

These new platforms, often referred to as “capability academies”, are centered around skills mastery vs. general subject matter awareness. They differ from more dated approaches, such as the HR-led Learning Management Systems (LMS) referenced above, in several key ways:

  • Human-led, peer-supported learning. Unlike traditional corporate learning programs, Capability Academies deliver support, coaching, and guidance every step of the way. In fact, students have access to mentors who are thought leaders in the subject matter area for each course. Students also have access to weekly 1:1 coaching sessions aimed to ensure they’re absorbing the material and keeping up with coursework, so even if they’re working remotely, they can benefit from dedicated and focused collaboration.
  • Curated coursework and real-world projects. A major contributing factor to the accelerated ROI is that students complete portfolio work. This is rooted in overcoming obstacles or driving efficiencies that are directly related to their day-to-day tasks. Val Gabriel, Global Head of Search Marketing for Springboard Business client HP, stated that his team produced “several key insights with significant revenue implications” based upon the projects completed as part of their academy training.
  • Tailored content that scales. Where traditional corporate learning approaches rely upon somewhat generic modules aimed at “one-to-many” information delivery, Academy-based programs follow a more personalized approach. Organizations have an opportunity to both define and fine-tune curricula to meet their specific needs, and once those programs are in place, they can share them across multiple individuals, teams, and disciplines. Additionally, Academy programs are designed with a career progression in mind, delivering content to support individuals from new hires to executives and each step in between.  

The success or failure of your next campaign will likely come down to acquiring and understanding market data, transforming that data into actionable information, and leveraging that information to develop and execute programs that align with the tastes and needs of your customers. Sending the right message, in the right way, via the most appropriate channel could make the difference between elevating the value of your brand or serving as a cautionary tale of misaligned activation. Data makes the difference. 

Since you’re here…
Springboard for Business grows businesses by empowering leaders and their teams with the critical thinking, data, and technology skills central to the future of work. Companies like Amazon, Walmart, HP, JPMorgan Chase, and Visa have partnered with Springboard for Business to upskill and reskill employees around the world. Click here to learn more.

About Marc A. Moschetto

Marc is a B2B technology marketing executive, with nearly 30 years of global experience and Cloud/SaaS-based solution domain expertise. He's spent decades working within the HR technology sector, including holding senior marketing roles at WorkForce Software, Workscape (now ADP), Workbrain (now Infor) and PeopleFluent. Marc has also held senior marketing roles with large global organizations such as General Electric and Schneider Electric, and has built and managed teams throughout North America, Europe, APAC, and the Middle East.