As marketing technology companies flood the market with new applications to improve your productivity, they create a skills gap. Many articles bemoan this skills gap and the inability of companies and their marketing staff to close it. Some even blame the workers themselves, questioning their motivation and their aptitude.
There can be no doubt that the technology used by marketing and sales is changing quickly and will continue on this path for some time. Certainly we need people to acquire new skills.
But perhaps we should pause and ask what assumptions we make when we claim a marketing skills gap. These assumptions include:
- The staff need to use new marketing technology effectively.
- The staff don’t have the skills to do this work.
- If they acquire the skills, they will become more productive. They will create value for the company and for the buyer.
- They could learn new skills, but they don’t want to learn.
- It’s their responsibility to learn the skills.
- Management has little role to play here in gaining agreement, setting the baseline for improvement, facilitating discussion of operational definitions and standard work.
So now some questions.
- If they learn this skill, how will it add value to the buyer? At which stage of the buyers journey?
- Has there been a respectful discussion about the operational definitions and the standard work that applies in the use of new technology?
- If they learn this skill, how will it add value to staff person’s work? How will it increase their ability to meet the goals that management has given them? In other words, what’s in it for them?
To develop standard work in the use of new technology, the emphasis always has to be on creating value and on gaining agreement.
So let’s back up a little bit before we jump right into asking staff to learn new skills.
Before initiating an improvement (for example that requires staff to learn a new technology), we should establish a baseline or an operationally defined standard within the work itself. Without this baseline, any notion of improvement becomes simply a matter of opinion.
Then, once we deploy the new technology, recognize that improvements create consequences. Some of these consequences are unexpected and unintended. If you ignore them, they simply get worse. People will resist. If you simply set a standard without a clear way for people to improve upon it, they lose their motivation and their creativity vanishes.
It doesn’t work to dictate standard work from above. It only works after carefully managed conversation between managers and workers. Michael Webb notes that sales process excellence rests on a foundation of “definitions to create standards for the work and to define measures of productivity.”
Now let’s make another assumption: People have a desire to make things better. But they only feel that desire and motivation when you:
- Establish conditions that engage people, so that ideas for improvements are expected and rewarded.
- Provide the means and resources for fully implementing improvements once they are validated by experimentation and measurement.
- Continually focus the team’s improvement efforts on the right goals—at the customer’s location, in the customer’s interests (as well as your own company’s financial gain).