At Blue Feathers, we’re known as experts in brand strategy and proposition development, and we’re fortunate to work on some super progressive projects in these areas. But there’s another way we support many of our clients, and that’s through helping them to build the skills of their marketing teams.
In this article, we look at why skills development is so important for marketing teams, and outline some of the ways we can help.
How skills development benefits marketing teams
Investing in skills development for your team is important whatever field of business you’re in. It can help your team stay ahead of the curve and in touch with new trends, tools and techniques. It’s also a powerful signal that your organisation values its employees, boosting morale and job satisfaction.
Greater clarity and precision of thinking
For those of us working in marketing, investing in development is particularly crucial. Training can instil a common language within a team, to support greater clarity and precision of thinking. For example, on one project we worked on at Blue Feathers we were tasked with helping to improve proposition development skills across a marketing team. This involved working with the leadership team to develop and then embed a proposition development process. As we delivered the training and coaching, we built a common language, driving significant benefit through improved understanding both within the team and with their key stakeholders around the business.
Focusing on skills development also builds confidence, essential for shaping an environment where creativity and innovation can flourish. Good training creates empowered teams, able to take more decisions themselves – this brings multiple benefits, including more streamlined workflows. And with well-founded confidence comes the ability for a team to build their credibility within the business, helping them communicate the value of the marketing function more effectively.
A confident, empowered team is one that is less reliant on external agencies for support, so a well-chosen, well-designed skills development programme is an investment that can save you money in the long-term – a key consideration in the current economic climate.
What makes for successful skills development programmes?
Support for senior leadership
One important factor is support from the senior leadership team (SLT). At Blue Feathers, we look at SLT support through three lenses. The first two are the most obvious ones: a willingness to spend budget on the programme, and a readiness to free up team time – both to attend training and then focus on implementing what they have learned.
Commitment to development objectives
The third lens, engagement, is perhaps the most important. By engagement, we mean an ongoing commitment from the SLT to the development objectives – this takes many forms, including using the language and terminology from the training programme, and understanding and referencing the principles or tools covered in it, so participants can see it’s being taken seriously. Engagement also means giving the team meaningful opportunities to put into practice what they’ve learned after the training intervention is finished, as well as opportunities to discuss how they are applying what was covered in training, and support with any questions they have.
Skills development in practice
The 70:20:10 learning model suggests that around 70% of the impact of learning and development comes from on-the-job experiences, putting into practice what has been learned; around 20% comes from interacting with and getting feedback from others; and just 10% from the formal training itself. Put simply, it’s not enough just to send people on a course and assume that’s it – they need the opportunity to apply their learning in a meaningful, consistent way.
As well as a planned, structured programme for embedding the team’s new skills once any training has been completed, it’s important to prepare the ground properly before the training starts. At Blue Feathers, we find that people are motivated and excited by carefully selected pre-training reading and tasks; when the sessions begin, it means they’ve already engaged with some key topics and have thought about what they want to get out of their training – and just as importantly, what they’re going to bring to it.
How we can help
Understanding your organisation
At Blue Feathers, we understand that the basis for a really successful skills development programme is effective needs analysis right at the start. We take the time to understand your organisation and your context, including your business and marketing objectives.
Then we work with you to identify and map the competencies your team needs to deliver successfully against these objectives. We can carry out a skills audit with you, to understand where there are gaps between the skills that are needed and the current skillset of the team.
Finally, we design and deliver enjoyable, inspiring training sessions, which can be face-to-face, online, or a combination of the two. And we can help you put together a structured follow-up programme, including coaching if needed, to make sure that learning is thoroughly embedded in your organisation and you get the maximum return on your investment.
We’ve developed and delivered skills development programmes for many of our clients, from 121 coaching for marketing leadership teams to full skills frameworks and development plans for large marketing operations. The feedback we get consistently shows the long-term impact of the work we do in this area – organisations really do reap the rewards of the initial investment in training and development for years to come.
Author: Guy Chapman
Guy Chapman has a strong background in education having worked for the British Council and Cambridge University Press and Assessment. Prior to this, Guy worked at an advertising agency where his clients included MasterCard, Canon and Matalan. MBA-qualified, Guy has strong facilitation and communication skills, and is adept at distilling a wide range of data and information into the essential insights that lead to effective strategy.