The Digital Marketing Skills Gap - How Do You Measure Up?

  • The Digital Marketing Skills Gap - How do you measure up?

    28 Jun 2019

    What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the digital marketing industry in the UK today?


    Factors like Covid19 and Brexit may spring to mind. In fact, it’s the significant and growing skills gap which poses the biggest threat to the industry’s continued success, according to a number of major studies.

    Industry and government bodies have warned that there is not enough training provided in digital skills, from school age through to the digital marketing workplace.

    As a result, there is a danger of reduced productivity and missed opportunities.

    So we set out to answer a few questions;

    What is the current situation?

    What are the risks?

    What can be done to improve the situation?


    What is the current situation?

    In January 2016, research institute Ecory UK released a report, commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Department for Culture Media & Sport.

    The report examined the demand and supply of digital skills in the UK, and reviewed the risks for the UK if the digital skills needs of the population and businesses were not addressed.

    The report asserted that by 2020 there was expected to be “a rapid ‘hollowing out’ of the digital and creative sector, where the need for intermediate skills decreases and demand instead increases for high–level and low-level skills”.

    The report also stated that, due to the fast pace of the industry, it was necessary for employers to invest in workforce training.

    Education providers also needed to ensure sufficient numbers of highly-skilled people continued to enter the workforce to sustain the industry.

    These statements are supported by research conducted by the Digital Marketing Institute, which tested marketing professionals in the UK (plus the US and Ireland) on their digital skills.

    Against a series of benchmarks, only 8% of general marketers attained entry-level digital marketing skills, with all others falling short. 

    In the UK, only 37% of those who classed themselves as digital marketing professionals achieved a competent level in the skills-based test, and 69% of marketers felt they needed to improve their digital marketing skills to remain competent in their role in the future.

    The digital skills gap in the UK was deemed so serious at the time that the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee released a report called simply Digital Skills Crisis.


    Several years later, has the situation changed much? It appears not.

    The Institute of Digital and Direct Marketing conducted a census of marketers into whether they felt they had received training in key skills necessary for career progression.

    The results, released in July 2018, showed that 49% felt they had not. Digital and direct marketing skills were the areas which saw the biggest skills gaps, behind management training.

    But what does this mean? It’s important to understand the implications for the industry.


    What Are The Risks of low level digital marketing skills to the UK?

    The primary risk arising from a lack of digital marketing skills is that there simply won’t be enough people to fill certain roles. This in turn means that businesses using digital marketing will be less able to plan and put into practise effective strategies and campaigns.

    And the costs in employing people with those skills will increase, at all levels of the business.

    Deloitte describes ‘digital maturity’ in its May 2018 Digital Disruption Index report. It states that ‘digitally maturing organisations are able to adapt and align their strategy, workforce, culture and technology to meet ongoing digital advances in a way that other organisations struggle to achieve’.

    In the modern world, companies which don’t aspire to digital maturity will find themselves falling behind rapidly.

    There are of course thousands of great marketers working across digital projects, but without the specific skills needed in certain areas - like SEO, Google Ads and Analytics - they will be far less effective, and constantly hampered by their lack of expertise.

    When it comes time for a promotion or moving to a new company, if you can’t demonstrate your skill in digital marketing you will find it harder to get justify that raise or beat the competition.

    Ultimately this will lead to lost business opportunities and under performance, and that’s not something any business wants to risk.


    What Can Be Done to close the Digital Skills Gap?

    Global management consultancy Accenture stated that there needs to be ‘a greater emphasis on broadening the variety of skills within each worker’ in its September 2018 report Bridging The Skills Gap In The Future Workforce.

    Accenture’s report highlights the fact that ‘the most useful and relevant blend of skills for each person will continuously shift and become more complex’ in the face of increasing tech growth and, ultimately, automation.

    With this in mind, companies and individuals shouldn’t just consider the short-term need but what is needed over the length of a career.

    Understanding how your digital skills gap is limiting you or your business is the first step to improving it.

    As a business, the simplest way to go about this is to undertake a digital skills audit of your staff, which will give you clear data about where your digital marketing weaknesses are.

    This data can then feed into plans for a structured training programme, and in time you will be able to see the improvements when you next test or audit your employees.

    As an employee or a freelancer, you’re likely to be more aware of where your digital marketing skills gaps are. You’ll know those tasks which you don’t feel 100% confident about, or the areas where you would like to have a deeper understanding.

    Proactively identifying these areas and requesting training will demonstrate your ambition and eagerness to improve your skills.

    [Ed - if you want help to undertake a Digital Marketing Skills audit please contact us]

    Digital Skills Training Providers

    Training can take the form of informal, ‘on the job’ training, internal workshops, or the use of an external training provider.

    Often, external training providers can visit your business to deliver sessions for a number of employees to maximise the benefits of the training for your business needs.

    For those looking to upskill outside their work environment, class room based digital marketing training courses are accessible in most large cities in the UK. For digital marketing courses in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool click here

    For people who are happy to learn from videos should check out sites like Udemy and SkillsShare - although some of the videos lack quality and/or clarity.

    Many social media platforms have their own training videos and Google has it's Google Garage courses - although you should bear in mind that they are not necessarily objective in their approach.  We have noticed that they tend to promote their advertising services and from our experience their advice on running campaigns don't work well for many businesses.


    Act now to save future pain

    Future-proofing yourself as an individual or as a business is essential, in this period of rapid development and growth.

    There is a very real chance that many companies will find themselves in difficulty in the coming years due to an under skilled workforce, and will have to play catch-up to avoid becoming obsolete.

    It’s far better to tackle the problem head-on, identify the gaps in our digital marketing skill-sets and fix them, than find ourselves running out of road further down the line. We owe it to ourselves, and our employees, to act now.

    Click Here For information about our Digital Marketing courses


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