Six ways to enhance your team's development
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Six ways to enhance your team's development

Now is a fantastic time to have or pursue a career in marketing. We’re working in what is frequently referred to as ‘the most dynamic period in modern economic history’ – full of disruption, innovation and unknowns.

Everything around us is changing. Market rules and accepted wisdoms are being rewritten by new tools, technologies, business models, customer dynamics and competitors. Planning cycles are shorter as the long-term becomes ever more unpredictable, and the pace and means of implementation are under pressure to become increasingly agile and responsive to the pulse of the market.

The outcome is that the only real constant in business today is change itself, and this presents as much risk as it does opportunity. The only thing of which you can be certain of is that keeping up is now both more challenging and more important.

Avoiding ‘delay and pray’

“I just don’t have the time.” “I’ll get to it next quarter.” “This project’s too important.”

We’ve all heard (and probably made) these excuses (along with others), but in reality there will always be an important meeting, project, deadline or deliverable that serves as a reason to put off attending that course, going to that exhibition, booking onto that networking event, reading that case study, or swapping notes with peers.

However, to coin a phrase from banking parlance, ‘delay and pray’ just isn’t a smart strategy in such a turbulent profession. How much of the year will go by before a busy marketing team tackle their development and skills needs? How many decisions could have been better made, how many projects better delivered or how much marketing budget better invested with the benefit of time for development?

If you want your team’s development and skills priorities to be more than just words on a page, there are six key steps which leaders and managers can take to make this a reality:

  1. Talk it: make sure the message comes from the very top of the marketing organisation. Demonstrate that your leaders are committed to skills and development – and not in an idealistic sense. If there’s a top three or top five list of the areas of capability, skills or behaviours that your marketing organisation needs to strengthen, ensure that the message comes loud and clear from the CMO, and is then reinforced at department and team meetings.
  1. Walk it: if learning is a priority, ensure that leaders and managers are seen to take it as seriously as they’re asking of their teams. Visibly making the time for development (in whatever format) and being present (not just attending) at group development opportunities sends a strong message that management are serious about the importance they’re placing on the team’s development agenda (and that moving up the ladder doesn’t mean development isn’t important).
  1. Sharing: cultivate a collegiate, open and supportive atmosphere where learnings aren’t kept to just one individual or project. Try establishing debriefs where team members who attend a training course, exhibition, event or other activity are asked to share with their colleagues their key take-outs that will benefit the whole team.
  1. Create time: taking inspiration from 3M’s fabled 15% time and Google’s 20% time, try to make learning habitual by formally allocating time for people to use towards their ongoing development. It could be a couple of hours a week or a set number of days a month – whatever is right for your organisation. However you approach it, encourage (from the top down) that the time is respected and not sacrificed whenever another meeting opportunity arises.
  1. Recognition: behaviour breeds behaviour, they say. So acknowledge the early-adopters of this way of working and demonstrate that those who take their development priorities seriously are respected by management.
  1. What gets measured gets done: the biggest single sign of how seriously an organisation takes ongoing learning is for it to become a formal personal objective of every member of the marketing team. Not a token gesture, but one which contributes to your quarterly, bi-annual or annual performance review (and even compensation).

Making it business-as-usual

Each of these steps are about embedding learning as a business-as-usual activity, not something seen as extra-curricular or separate from ‘real work’. Connecting the need to challenge thinking, explore new ideas and find out how to do things better with ‘real work’ is essential to ensure that your teams keep up with the pace of change and ahead of the competition.

For information on how CIM can help you to develop a skills strategy for your own organisation, take a look at our In-company Training section.

Sarah Lee-Boone Associate director of HR and organisational capability CIM
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