Think BR: Bridging the digital training gaps
With digital increasingly becoming the primary vehicle of communication between brands and consumers we need to make sure new talent has the best training possible, writes Christopher Buettner, director of operations, SoDA.
Christopher Buettner, director of operations, SoDA
What are the most effective methods for bridging the training gaps we’re seeing in young talent emerging from top educational institutions across a wide range of disciplines in the digital marketing industry - from creative to development to analytics?
That question (or some variation thereof) is one that our member companies in Europe and around the world have been posing with increased regularity as of late.
And for some other mission-critical disciplines - such as planning and account leadership - there are scarcely any programs at all to prepare the next generation of leaders in our industry.
With today’s consumer questioning old habits, old products and old brands as never before - and seeking more meaningful innovation - for digital agencies and brands, the age of transformation is upon us.
If it’s difficult for the world’s most forward-thinking digital agencies and production companies to keep up with the pace of change taking place in our industry, imagine the challenges facing educational institutions attempting to stay up-to-date and teach digital marketing trends and methodologies.
If there’s anything I’ve learned running an organization of the world’s leading digital agencies and production companies is that no two companies’ organizational models are exactly alike.
However, there are a number of challenges our member companies have in common. Finding and cultivating the best talent is clearly one of them.
Many digital agencies and production companies have effective mentoring and professional development initiatives to bridge the soft and hard skill gaps they’re seeing in younger talent.
Others still rely on the 'trial by fire' approach, often with lower employee retention stats as a result. On the job education has always been - and will continue to be - a key component to ensuring employee success at digital agencies and prodcos (or any company for that matter).
From rounding out general skill sets to management training to teaching methodologies that are unique to individual digital shops, the importance of professional development should never be underestimated.
However, I believe strongly that more can be done to ensure that a larger number of young professionals come into our industry with a more agile framework for understanding the changes taking place within their particular area of specialization as well as a broader base of knowledge across agency disciplines.
We must bring academic and private sector leaders in the digital marketing industry together in order to address the widening skill gap.
Just as our member companies are collaborators and competitors working to drive the industry forward, leading educational institutions in our industry can (and should) open more dialogue to help ensure academic programs become more responsive to the ever-evolving needs of companies on the front lines of digital marketing.
The industry needs more academic programs that separate innovation from novelty and that train students on how to craft holistic solutions that are strong not only from a design or technology perspective, but that are also forward-thinking and adaptive when it comes to UX/IA and analytics, tying directly to a brand’s strategic imperatives and key performance indicators.
Without a doubt, there are a number of superb programs around the globe, particularly in areas such as interaction design.
Programs at institutions like Carnegie Mellon, Bergs and Hyper Island are truly world class in their approach and their efforts to ensure strong linkages to the industry.
However, we need more of them as digital takes centre stage as the primary communication vehicle between brands and consumers.
Don’t get me wrong. We don’t need to train one-man bands who can navigate every discipline in an agency environment.
However, developing more programs that take an interdisciplinary approach (for example, requiring design students to be exposed to other areas such as strategy/planning, media, analytics, and even project management) would go a long way toward creating young professionals who understand and can hit the ground running to successfully navigate an interdisciplinary agency environment.
In addition, creating pilot programs at the university level that teach agile development not only for development/tech, but also combined with strategy, creative and user experience, could go a long way toward training students to adapt quickly to change and to work more effectively in teams to build even more amazing brand experiences.
Christopher Buettner, director of operations, SoDA
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