The 2022 Agenda: The need for upskilling rises as the war for talent intensifies

As we look ahead to 2022, Marketing Week has identified the key opportunities and challenges that will shape marketers’ roles. We are flagging what we think you should be spending your time and money on – and why, but equally it is a commitment from us to focus on these topics next year.

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Consumer behaviour has changed dramatically since the onset of the pandemic, driven by the fact many of us have been forced to stay at home for prolonged periods. Brands responded by shifting focus and spend onto digital channels, with the online boom resulting in a steep rise in demand for marketers with digital and ecommerce skills.

With businesses now investing in marketing once more as they look to drive post-pandemic growth, demand for some of these specialist skills is now far outweighing supply. So as the fight for talent intensifies brands are exploring new ways to ensure they have the right skills mix.

Clearly there is no one-size-fits-all solution. For some businesses it has been a case of rethinking the recruitment process and widening the pool from which they source talent, or leaning on resources from elsewhere in the company. But for others it has triggered a major training drive.

Unilever has invested heavily in upskilling marketers around digital and other “future-facing skills”. The FMCG giant believes 70% of upskilling should be done on the job, so it has developed a “huge” curriculum for marketers to follow to ensure they are constantly learning.

Equally though, as Unilever chief digital and marketing officer Conny Braams underlined earlier this year, it is just as important marketers get to use their new-found skills so they become embedded. “We just need to make sure however we upskill marketers, we give them the opportunity to use [those skills] at the same time.”

Elsewhere, General Motors has just embarked on a major global upskilling programme for its marketers. The company has identified 22 key skillsets touching on areas such as innovation, personalisation and modern martech, it believes marketers need to thrive.

“We are using our resources to be smart about how we move forward,” global CMO Deborah Wahl told Marketing Week. “The easiest way to do this is to start within – rediscovering what we have inside of us and building on that.”

Looking more broadly across the industry, the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Market Research Society (MRS) and Advertising Association (AA) have urged the government to invest more in industry-led training programmes that are developed by employers for employers.

In October, the government pledged to invest more than £2bn to drive a “skills revolution”, but the trade bodies argued it had “missed a huge opportunity” by not involving them. “Trade and professional bodies are best placed to help with their strong industry connections and understanding of the skills that employers require most,” said the DMA’s CEO Chris Combemale.

We can’t know for sure what 2022 is going to bring, but having the right skills mix in place will ensure marketers are in the best position to tackle the challenges and opportunities that arise.