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Lack of Jobs Is Not the Problem, We Have a Shortage of Skills

  |  August 15, 2013   |  Comments

And it's about time we did something about it as an industry.

Unlike every headline we see in the Financial Times, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal on jobs and unemployment being a pervasive problem, I like to argue that rather the world has a skills problem…a big one. I like to call it the "digital divide."

Fifty-one percent of youth unemployment in Spain; 23 percent in the U.S.; and pervasive issues of much greater scale in India, China, and emerging markets like my digital friends I will see this month in Brazil and Australia. The jobs market in technology and more specifically digital marketing technology is nearly insatiable. Talk to Facebook about getting good digital talent, or LinkedIn on finding some good social media skills. Moreover, every small business and agency fights for good personnel to manage accounts, run great campaigns, and build content and social media marketing strategies that make an impact.

In my company's Digital Talent & Knowledge Gap Study to be released in September, we are seeing some frightening stats emerging. Response from HR, marketing execs, and digital leaders telling us things like:

  • Applied skills black hole. Most (over 80 percent) new hires they bring on for digital-related jobs have no working skills to apply when they start. Even the digital natives in Gen Y, who can tweet with their eyes closed and post on personal Facebook walls, have zero skills to translate to decent business and marketing skills.
  • Training and education absent. Worse, over 90 percent of those surveyed have no formal on-boarding or internal training program to ensure a good baseline knowledge on digital, and rely on learning on the job and blog posts, vendor webinars, and the occasional event to learn. (Yes, this is digital agencies, too!)
  • No common validation. Ninety-nine percent of those surveyed said there was no common credential, validation, or program to determine (or send new hires to) whether their resumes match the skills they claim to have. As one said, it's a "total shot in the dark."

I'm happy to share the full results of the survey, just hit me up on LinkedIn.

Some of this plays into H-1B visas that have been so highly coveted for tech engineers to come to the U.S., but mostly there is such an overwhelmingly massive digital transformation in how we communicate, work, and transact through digital that the skills needed to build, manage, and make use of the new digital world will take a generation to fill.

OK, you get it. Right? So, how do we solve this problem? What can "I" do?

I, as in Team Lead

If you manage a team of marketers, client services, or digital folk, then this advice is for you. If not, skip to the next section.

Start by asking yourself, "How does my team learn right now?" Is it through trial and error, blogs, etc? Most likely, yes. From there, you'll need to find an internal champion looking to advance her career to start building a list of true learning opportunities, including events, educational articles, and, my personal favorite, e-learning subscriptions. Be sure you focus on products that are truly dedicated to learning vs. those teaching to drive other business elements like lead gen webinars, tradeshows (vs. workshops), or articles/blog posts that are advertising based on revenue.

Once you've built the list, then it's time to carve out the budget per employee. How much is it worth to have folks learning, applying those learnings to better results, and then seeing the fruit of those results (aka job satisfaction)? You may need to fight for a small budget from HR or other areas, but on average, if you are not willing to pay $500 to $1,000 per employee, then it's time to think about getting out of management.

I, as in Human Resources or Hiring Manager

Of course, all referenced above in "team lead" applies here as well, but it's critical to institute a culture of learning, especially for digital and social media marketing. The industry literally changes every week, so it's important to have programs that keep people in-the-know as well as credentials like custom certificate programs and other pedagogically thoughtful programs to give folks the baseline knowledge they need to succeed. Proper on-boarding programs for new employees and interns are critical for attracting new talent and retaining it. Having formal programs for new and existing employees is really bottom-line. And if you can't prioritize education for employees, then what company culture and priorities have we really instituted?

I, as in Marketer (Digital or Generalist)

Scream and yell! Well, kind of…how about respectfully ask your manager or HR department by email: "What education or continuing education budgets and programs do we have access to for digital?" If you hear "crickets" in response, then refer to my first piece of advice here. Seriously, get out of there, do your own research, and find programs that maybe even you can afford, like monthly subscriptions and one-off courses that cost less than lunch you just bought for your friend last week.

I, as in Executive of Agency or Company

See the sections above. Bottom line: let these folks know it's important so they can drive this. They need your buy-in for a small budget.

I, as in Wanting a Job, Intern, or Looking for a Career in Digital

Get out there and just do it! There are programs built just for you. If you need help finding those, I'm happy to help!

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Kahlow

After selling the Online Marking Summit (OMS) event company in 2011, Aaron is now leading the charge of the newest venture, the Online Marketing Institute - an e-learning platform and training destination for digital marketing education.

Kahlow is one of the most recognized thought-leaders in the digital marketing and social media space. Having founded, funded, and built three prolific and highly profitable digital marketing companies, Kahlow has also delivered hundreds of marquee keynote speeches around the globe. He is a recognized author, columnist (ClickZ, NYT) and authority on social media marketing, sales and marketing integration, demand generation, business-to-business marketing, search marketing, usability, analytics, and digital marketing strategy.

Today, Aaron can be found in his new home city of San Francisco, working on the global expansion of "Teaching the World Digital" in his e-learning technology venture, the Online Marketing Institute. Facebook and LinkedIn are his preferred places to connect.

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