31 May 2016

The Dangerous Digital Skills Gap In Your Workplace

Christine Durkin
Written by Christine Durkin

Christine Durkin is Regional Director for The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. She has over 25 years’ experience working in Telco, SaaS, Financial Sectors, and Agencies.

When it comes to digital marketing skills 40% of UK companies rely on junior employees and graduates for digital labour – tasks like posting social media updates and creating websites that work. On average, UK businesses invest just £109 each on digital marketing training, per employee. That’s not enough.

Young employees may be able to pick up a hundred ‘likes’ in ten minutes, but it’s the mid-level and senior employees who understand marketing, messaging and a business’ brand identity. Without this understanding, digital skills are of limited use. Some resolve this by outsourcing their digital marketing. We say this is shifting the problem elsewhere. Instead, training up existing staff is the key to stronger, more cohesive digital activity.


Why doesn’t digital delegation work?

Outsourcing digital marketing gets the job done, but the results will never be up to the standards set by well-trained in-house staff. Your people know your business: they know your offering, brand, tone of voice, and the personality to be projected through marketing. Staff at management level are also better placed to understand the strategy behind a business’ marketing efforts. No amount of digital skills training can incubate knowledge of your business and brand, so it makes sense to train up the people who already have that awareness rather than outsourcing digital labour to those who don’t.

Why do digital skills matter?

Aside from having a website that works and a sales database that’s up to date, digital marketing skills play a huge part in customer service and relations. Poorly crafted email newsletters make the customers on your list think you’re a nuisance who doesn’t care about them. Clumsy Photoshopping makes you look dishonest – you’ve been caught in the act of making the camera lie. A careless tweet today is a digital dogpiling tomorrow. An angry customer whose Facebook comment doesn’t receive a careful, constructive public response risks going viral. In the social world, every mistake can be amplified.

The good news is, every success can be too. Well-written newsletters get forwarded. Clever content wins awards. Succinct and witty tweets are reposted far and wide. With the right training, it’s possible to foster more good outcomes than bad.


Digital training in action

Offering digital training at all levels of an organisation has a profound effect. Coffee trader DR Wakefield ensures every member of its trading team is adept at social media, populating the company’s Twitter and Instagram feeds with posts from their business travels to far-flung locations; others post web content recounting their work in exotic growing regions. The team supplement their efforts with the help of an agency, who do the legwork of creating content and promoting posts via social media – leaving the high-value trading team to engage with clients and prospects and project the true face of the team. The result? A brand built on social media, steady growth of newsletter signups and tangible business growth.

DR Wakefield sends us a clear message: all the digital skills in the world are irrelevant if marketing teams are sending one message, sales another, and customer support yet another. Your digital message needs to be on-brand, and the brand needs literate, confident digital marketing. It’s too important to leave to junior staff.

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