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Industry Contributor 24 Jan 2022 - 3 min read

Digital transformation will fail because today's marketers lack the skills to deliver it

By Teresa Sperti - Founder & Director - Arktic Fox

Australia’s brands continue to scramble to digitally transform. The problem is, they don’t have the capability. Chronic underinvestment in people and skills, combined with high churn and a tightening talent crunch, means the wheels are spinning but marketing departments are getting nowhere fast. We can’t just hire our way out of trouble. Here’s an alternative plan.

“We need to rapidly transform the business from a digital point of view but the team isn’t equipped to drive the change.”

It’s an all too familiar conversation. Years of under-investment and slow adoption of digital has come home to roost across the economy and the yawning capability gap is being felt in marketing departments across the country.  

More often than not, those now rushing for ‘digital transformation’ find their wheels are spinning. According to the 100 senior and mid-level marketers and digital professionals we have trained over the last 12 months, the skills gap is widening.

Whilst marketing teams aspire to be seen as the growth engine for businesses tomorrow, we must question our ability to do so without the required skills and capabilities.

Skills gap: Getting bigger

In April last year, we released our Marketing State of Play report which surveyed over 200 marketing and digital leaders across the country to understand core skill gaps that exist within Australian marketing teams. What we found only reinforced what we are seeing in industry:

  • Two thirds of marketing leaders cited that data literacy isn’t strong within their teams and only 6 in 10 cited strong digital marketing literacy.
  • Data & analytics was seen as the biggest skills gap in marketing functions today, with 46 per cent citing it as one of their top three skills gaps.
  • This was closely followed by measuring performance and outcomes, some 37 per cent.
  • Skills in CX design and commercial acumen rounded out the top four skill gaps within marketing functions today.

That runs counter to the narrative: Over the last decade all we have heard is how brands are driving the frontiers of personalisation, connected experience and data-driven marketing. Yet how is this possible with critical skills gaps across digital, data and CX? While some shining lights have been able to evolve in the face of change and build maturity in areas of digital, data and CX, the reality is that most brands are caught in the quagmire – and those trying to transform are hampered by churn at all levels. And the fight for talent is only getting worse.

The need to go beyond hiring

While the talent wars appear to be going nuclear, recruitment shouldn’t be seen as the silver bullet. To truly address skills gaps and build fundamental capabilities to fuel marketing engines, here’s what leaders should consider:

  1. Build departmental plans to address core skill gaps
    Development planning is most often done at an individual level, but in instances where broader capability and skill needs to be built across the department, leaders need to change the way development planning occurs, thinking about it at two levels. Firstly, they need to think about what skills development needs to occur at a departmental level to upskill the team more broadly, and then they need to consider what individual development needs to occur to support individual development needs.


  1. Think about development as a journey not a once off intervention
    To re-train and re-skill takes time, and it can’t be done by sending team members on a one-off training course or to a conference. Re-training and re-skilling must be tackled through a more considered plan which is rolled out over time.


  1. Challenge your thinking around learning on the job
    We know how important learning on the job is to build practical skills. The problem is that learning on the job without giving people the right tools and supports can be an expensive exercise for the business – and one which doesn’t necessarily enable talent to achieve their full potential. Learning on the job is most successful if it is part of an integrated learning plan, and if you have never done something before like leverage data or build a digital experience, it’s not something that is easily learnt on the job.


  1. Invest appropriately
    The world has changed, and the skills gap is large. That means we must re-think how we invest in our people. If we are serious about transforming our function and driving effectiveness and performance, then the key question we need to ask ourselves is: Are we investing at an appropriate level?


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Teresa Sperti

Founder & Director - Arktic Fox

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