“We've woven learning and development into the performance management process”

More than four in ten marketers in PMW’s Workforce survey are considering a new job because they want better training and development. Investment in learning is clearly pivotal to employers’ retention armour – but how are employers approaching it?

With so much advancement, a soaring rate of growth and what seems a new skill to learn daily, it’s safe to say that performance marketers potentially have many routes to travel when it comes to learning and development.

But what investment are employers making in this area to give these marketers the access to the training that is right for them – and the time? In another instalment of our Performance Marketing Workforce series, we speak to industry leaders across agencies and brands to find out.

“Education, flexibility, and career progression seem to be the top three in most performance marketers minds at present. Organisations can manage the first two quite easily, but I’m not sure if many do.”  – Farhad Divecha, Managing Director, Accuracast

Home-grown degrees

Kepler’s “Kepler University” – the agency’s extensive training offer with five full-time trainers – has a mixture of “undergraduate” programmes, “graduate” tracks in skills including analytics and campaign optimisation, and “milestone” training to help newly promoted employees.

Its CEO of UK and APAC Martin Kelly points to the global reach of Kepler University and how it has supported a quick transfer of learnings and knowledge across the business – with even clients asking for access to the programs to upskill their teams.

“It's mandatory, and it's part of people's objectives. We've woven learning and development into the performance management process. What’s also quite interesting is that, for example, sometimes things will mature quicker in the US, and then our [UK team] will get training on stuff that’s quite new.”

The give and take of upskilling

With skills shortages resulting in sometimes quicker promotions, many organisations have looked to opportunities to upskill their teams. 

But this requires investment – and not just of the financial variety – and of course that investment could mean your teams end up elsewhere.

“Upskilling is an investment in money or time depending on what is available,” said Adam Walker, Head of Performance Marketing at Feel Unique at PMW’s recent Performance Marketing UK seminar. 

“I do a weekly session with my team around cross-channel understanding. Every two weeks I do an open forum and a Q&A with everyone in my team. The downside – you upskill people in very valuable skillsets and that makes them more employable.” 

Anne Stagg, UK CEO of Merkle, also highlights the energy required to ensure upskilling works. 

Alongside more applied training programmes to support this, Merkle has invested in training its managers to address potential experience gaps on the broader skills around leadership, negotiation and challenging conversations. 

“We put a lot of time, energy and investment into promoting people from within, but putting the right training and coaching and mentoring around them so that if someone was perhaps three or six months away from a promotion, I could think about bringing someone in, but they may be no better. 

“So why not give them the opportunity.and put the right support around them, but let's set some clear goals and measures and that works really well for us.”

Drawing on resource – and getting the message out

Stagg acknowledges that Merkle’s position – as part of dentsu – is an advantageous one when it comes to investment in development programmes.

“We would not have been able to do the volume of training and investment in our people if it was just funded at an individual brand level, but because we're part of dentsu, we have all of those programs and that activity as well.”

And investing in making teams aware of the development opportunities on offer is as important as the offer itself. 

“It’s really important that we tell the organisation all of those things are happening because if they don't see that investment or they’re not at the town halls, or you're not saying these are the programmes of development in place at the moment, then just because they've not been on a training program, they think that we're not investing.” 

“What’s the harm in telling someone you’re investing – in you?”

Dale Fisher, Head of Paid Social and Display at Superbet, points to the need to invest in training and development within the gambling and gaming firm’s infrastructure, both to bring people into the organisation that may not have all the requisite experience, and to continue their development.

“I have to make sure that there are development plans in place that staff are going on,” he says, referencing a recent visit to his team in Bucharest. 

“So for example, I've set up an hour a week in their diaries, just for them to go and do study, to look at courses and use that time, to grow and develop and find [opportunities]. Making sure that they've got development plans that they're happy with and they, and they agree on and making sure that they feel like they're getting everything that I've said I'd give them.”

Rakhee Jogia, International Managing Director of Rakuten Advertising points out that training and development is a point of feedback that regularly comes back in the organisation’s “pulse surveys” of its employees. 

But despite the training efforts in the business, staff often raise concerns that they do not have the time to take it. Jogia is clear that people shouldn’t be afraid of owning their development, and being upfront that they’re Investing in themselves”.

“I say, put an hour in your diary in the morning and put an ‘out of office’ on or say to a client ‘we're investing in ourselves, we’re going to be doing this training.

“What's the harm in telling someone you are investing? Nothing – it doesn't take anything, but there's a real fear of saying it.”