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

Fly Right, part 2

hotairballoonsWe talked last week about how to assess and hire employees. That’s only half the process of transforming your workforce, though. So, this week, we’ll continue the discussion.

Train Employees

As soon as you start to talk about transforming a workforce, most people immediately think about recruiting new employees. We’ve discussed how the process of hiring new people has to align to your future state goals. However, the bigger challenge is retraining the employees you intend to keep. The simple fact of life is that you’ll need to retain most of the people you have now, since its impractical and cost-prohibitive to replace all your employees wholesale with new ones with the skills that you need for your future state.

Training can be internally developed courses created by subject matter experts or you can take advantage of training courses – even certifications – from professional associations in the various marketing disciplines or as a general marketer. Some vendors also offer training courses related to using their technologies, which often incorporate industry best practices. Groups typically get discounts from external organizations but cost is something to consider when looking at formal training courses from any outside providers.

Internally developed courses are typically less expensive but you have to ensure that they meet industry standards related to both marketing skills and education techniques. You also have determine how to scale the internal training to reach all the marketers you need to train and how to test for proficiency. The real negative to internal courses, though, is the time it takes to develop courses.

If cost and time are both issues – or you just have some unique internal processes or tools you have to train employees on – you might want to consider a hybrid approach. Professional associations can get you started with general or specific marketing discipline courses while your internal teams develop courses on new processes or techniques. Of course, these internal courses should take into account what employees learned in their marketing courses from the professional associations, to make practical connections from concept to tool/process.

Considerations During Roll Out

We’ve talked about the need to enroll employees in the change management process. This is especially important when asking them to commit the time to training. Most of the change management process is conceptual until you reach the point where you ask your employees to devote time and mental energy into learning the processes and technologies involved with the future state of marketing. Make sure you invest sufficient effort before you roll out your training or you’ll face the dreaded resistance factors we talked about in earlier blog posts and risk the success of your transformation before you really begin.

Another issue I’ve seen related to transformations and training employees is that employees are often forced to learn too many things at once. Specifically, they have to learn the latest in marketing concepts related to their specific role while also mastering new processes and technologies. The problem with this is that people can only handle a certain amount of information at a time. It’s just too confusing not to have a solid base to start from. The result is that training takes longer and there is a higher burn out factor, which can lead to less participation on the transformation.

Plan a training program that builds upon itself. While you’re working on the details of your process and technologies, let employees get comfortable with general marketing concepts related to your transformation. For example, roll out courses introducing concepts in marketing automation, best practices in content marketing, data privacy and other email-related or other topics dictated by your future state and employee skills assessment in the first few weeks/months of your transformation.

Then, once you’ve nailed down the details of your transformation, follow up with training on the new processes and technologies. Conceptually, if you already a strong foundation in the basics of marketing, it’s a lot easier to see how a specific process or technology will help you execute the ideas you’ve already mastered. It will also allow your transformation to get off to a fast start everyone desires, without hindering employee absorption of new information by throwing it at them all at once.

Invest in Ongoing Education

Almost half of marketing employees in a recent survey feel that their employers do not support their educational needs. The reason is typically because most organizations forget that the culture of an organization has to be constantly reinforced with elements that support the desired future state of the transformation. Identify cultural elements that are critical to your transformation’s success and plan out how to give them life. That means, for example, that supporting testing and learning from failure (which is inevitable if you really test) rather than avoiding it has to be messaged and made actionable by everyone from the senior leaders on down.

In the same way, there has to be support for on-going education, throughout the employee’s tenure with the organization. Many industries, from teaching to medicine, require continuing education just to be part of the profession. Due to the fast-changing technology in marketing, it makes sense to require a certain amount of annual education for marketers as well so that the transformation improvements continue and maybe even increase.

Senior management needs to make clear statements giving employees permission to take the time from their daily workload to take additional training and, then, repeatedly encourage them to actually take the on-going education. Just like other elements of change management, that repetition is key to ensuring a change sticks. Beyond the sense of permission from management, there has to be a budgetary commitment (of both fees as well as paying for employees to use a specific part of their normal work hours) to support on-going education.

I prefer to use outside professional associations for this education rather than have to build a special training academy/ center of excellence on how to do marketing at your organization. Internal sources are inherently inward-looking and often miss the latest and greatest in industry techniques. At the same time, you have to help build up that culture among employees of actively seeking out new education and developing new skills, rather than waiting to have new information delivered to them, thus external professional associations make sense on multiple levels.

Consider Other Options

If you still have a short-term skills gap and you’re too small to just acquire another organization, you have other options. Do you have an ecosystem of partner organizations that they can tap into to find those missing skills? If not, remember that many excellent consulting firms or marketing agencies can supplement your current team while you staff or train up.

Comments are welcome, especially if you have examples of how your organization trained employees, kept them up-to-date, or found other options.

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