Change Management / Digital Transformation / Modern Marketing Culture / Strategic Planning

Fly Right, part 1


Hot air ballooning is popular in the wine country, the famous Napa Valley almost directly North of Oakland, so the headlines this summer when a Texas balloon crashed and killed all 16 people aboard was big news here. It was even bigger news than a normal disaster because the pilot somehow didn’t see and avoid powerlines directly ahead of him. How could a trained professional miss such a thing – and how do you make sure your visiting relatives don’t get on a balloon with a pilot like that one? The answer is the same as what marketing transformations face, assess, hire the right kind of people, train them properly, and invest in on-going education.


We’ve talked previously about staffing for a future state, especially if you want to run a global enterprise. However, once you’ve defined those roles, you still have to transform your existing workforce to that future state. The first step is to assess where your workforce is today. This is not like the annual employee assessments we all do. There are lots of great online resources to help you run employee skills assessments, some that even dive deeply into specific areas such as digital skills, so there is no reason not to take advantage of them. If you and your human resources team don’t feel up to the challenge, there are many outside firms you can hire to help you conduct skills assessments.

Following industry best practices, you’ll be able to ensure statistical validity so that won’t be a problem. Instead, the biggest pitfall in the assessment process is incorrectly defining the skills you need to assess for. Having done skills assessments, I can tell you from personal experience that your first instinct will just be to list abilities, such as analytical skills. As I started walking through the roles in the future state, however, I realized that I should have been thinking about what the skills will be applied in the future state, how the handoffs will occur, how each will contribute to campaign planning, execution, and optimization. So, instead of thinking that you need analytical skills, for example, define the skill that you are assessing as the ability to analyze marketing and sales data to provide marketers and sellers with actionable insights.

It’s a slight difference, but the application of a skill to a specific situation helps prevent misinterpretation by the assessor and gives clarity on what the future state would look like to the employees and managers. Examples help here, especially if the assessment is being run globally, where the nuances found in your word choices can get lost in translation.

Divide potential responses into levels, such as novice level, expert level, and so on and determine what level is acceptable in each marketing role for each skill. This is the goal, not what you should expect to see in the immediate results. Once you’ve done that, benchmark your results against like firms, so that you can track your progress in transforming the workforce to future state level that you’ve determined is acceptable.

Hire Learners

Assuming that you need to hire some new employees, either to replace those lost to turnover or to replace those you need to move to new roles because they don’t want to learn new skills, you need to consider what you look for in new employees.

One of the things that is most challenging when hiring someone is being sure you have the right person for what you need. You can fill immediate, knowable needs by scanning resumes for keywords that relate to skills or technologies in need to meet short term, knowable needs. However, with modern marketing, technology is changing incredibly fast and the scope of what you might need at some point in the future is virtually unknowable today. As a result, you need to hire for a particular sort of person who can handle change well and who can grow as the organization’s needs grow.

You need to scan resumes for patterns of growth and challenges overcome. Look on the resume for memberships in industry organizations that show a proactive desire for skills enhancement. Interview with an eye for people who like challenge, who are organized and can think their way logically through even the toughest circumstances. These are the people who will be able to adapt in the future and help your organization adapt.

Look for part 2 of this post next week, where we talk about training employees and other options. In the meantime, comments are welcome, especially if you have examples of how your organization assessed or hired employees for the skills you’d need in a future state of marketing.

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