New year, next generation skills
Editorial

New year, next generation skills

Peter Thomas, managing director of geographic marketing for Accenture in Europe, explains how the professional services firm ensures its marketing team has the right skills mix.

As a professional services firm operating in a competitive market, Accenture has to work hard to attract and retain the best marketing talent.

When recruiting, we look for smart people with a great attitude, who are going to roll up their sleeves and work well as part of our marketing team – both marketing and the wider business. They need a breadth of understanding and capabilities. We don’t look for deep specialists, just talented B2B marketing people who understand the elements of the marketing mix and how those are changing over time.

Finding the right people is, in some ways, the most difficult step, but ensuring they are provided with the right tools to deliver results is a close second. Training and development is essential to taking our existing team in the right direction.

Established goals, new methods

Day to day, our aims are to keep marketing strategy aligned with the overall business strategy and to build relationships with senior clients in a way that helps them understand what we can do to help transform their businesses. What we need to deliver as a team remains consistent – but how we deliver is changing to ensure we continue to thrive.

That’s because digital disruption is transforming our clients’ businesses and the way we do our marketing. This year, the balance of investment will be more towards digital than ever before.

It also means we need to train our marketers to be comfortable dealing with companies going through a digital transformation; who understand what that means; who can perceive the story we’re trying to tell them, and how to frame and create content around it.

In addition, because of the nature of our business, we have focused on event-led marketing in the past. Going forward, we are training people to prioritise content, then to use digital channels – web, mobile, paid search, owned social, bought social – to surround clients with our narrative.

Three challenges

Given these shifting circumstances and demands, we face three big challenges to delivering successful campaigns:

  1. Talent is hard to retain. There’s a real shortage – and we’re not just competing with the other professional services firms, but also the Google's and LinkedIn's of the world.
  2. Staying relevant needs constant attention. Marketing trends are evolving so fast that we’re always challenged to stay ahead of the curve – especially when our focus is on trying to deliver for the business every day. We rely, to some extent, on third-party partners to make us aware of what is on the horizon.
  3. That said, we have to remember our audience is not a consumer youth audience and we must make sure we rotate to digital at the right pace. We sell to the boardroom of the FTSE 100 and people who report to that boardroom. There are times when digital isn’t going to be appropriate and you have to balance the needs of people who prefer traditional media. For example, one of our most successful programmes last year asked people to choose a book from a list we’d selected, then shipped it out to them. That’s about as traditional as you get – and we had a 30% uptake from our clients.

Three solutions

To meet these challenges, we are developing the skills of Accenture marketers on three levels:

  1. We’re part of a large organisation with hundreds of marketers around the world, so there’s a global training programme in which members of my team are encouraged to participate.
  2. We also adapt the themes of the global programmes for local training programmes, put together with our partners or delivered by in-house experts. As part of this, we have a UK marketing community that meets quarterly to share best practice or to hear external experts talk about emerging trends.
  3. Individuals are encouraged to work with their line manager to create a personal development plan. The plan might include the desire to grow skills, knowledge or experience in particular areas.

Beneath all that is a constant drum beat: ensuring people have the core skills they need to deliver the marketing the business deserves.

Mapping and monitoring

Training programmes aren’t enough on their own. Guaranteeing that individuals are developing their skills means mapping their talent throughout the year. To do this, the marketing leadership team establish close relationships with the people we line manage.

We also look at the team as a single, cohesive unit – a well-oiled machine. We know what our skills mix is today and what we want it to be in future, so we try to guide the team in the right direction through recruitment, training and development. We’re constantly improving the marketing skills mix and refreshing the talent when we can.

Learning-by-doing

It’s worth mentioning that, while training and development is important to people and the team as a whole, what they value most of all is the sense of achievement they get from delivering a great marketing programme with their colleagues.

As much as we value our training programmes, we also understand the importance of getting people rapidly involved in the work we do. If you come and work for Accenture marketing you will be involved from day one – because that is often the best way to learn.

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

Peter Thomas Accenture Managing Director, Geographic Marketing
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