Training gulf puts marketers ‘on the scrapheap’ at 55

old youngOlder marketers are seemingly being left on the scrapheap – and in some cases willingly jumping on it – when it comes to gaining new skills, according to new research which exposes a huge age divide when it comes to professional training.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s “Digital Vision, living on the cutting edge” report reveals that the over 55s had received no training at all in the two years prior to the pandemic, sparking concern that senior marketers may not be keeping up with the rapid pace of change in the sector.

It has been well documented that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards digital, yet the CIM study suggests that, when the pandemic hit, large swathes of the profession had not updated their skills for years.

The study goes on to reveal that one in three marketers (35%) had not attended any internal or external training courses, events or conferences in the previous two years.

This lack of training and upskilling increases dramatically with age – 44% of 45- to 54-year-olds, 62% of 55- to 64-year-olds and 74% of those over 65. By contrast only 7% of those aged 16 to 24 had received no training.

And, it seems, that senior professionals are also missing out on learning and development, with four in ten (41%) top-level marketers not participating in training, a higher proportion than at all other levels of seniority.

The low levels of training among older marketers are occurring despite an acknowledgement among 71% of marketers that young people are ahead of older generations in digital marketing skills. Meanwhile, nearly half of professionals (44%) say marketers who do not have formal training could pose a risk to their organisations.

In some critical areas, such as data and analytics, social media and search engine optimisation (SEO), it is clear junior staff have focused on their development, improving their skills to address key customer requirements or to further their careers.

The specialists have become more expert, improving their knowledge but not breadth of digital skills, while managers and heads have spread their skills and, in some cases, fallen back.

Two-thirds of those surveyed (60%) believed that a complete focus on digital skills can come at the expense of core marketing skills. This is felt significantly more keenly among 25- to 44-year-olds.

With content development at the heart of marketing, one surprising finding was that three out of five (59%) felt good copywriting was not common in the sector; data analysis was also seen to be in decline, with only 61% perceiving it as a common skills gap.

The report is the latest in CIM’s Impact of Marketing series which surveyed more than 1,200 marketers, from across both private and public sectors. The report finds widespread concern about the dramatic changes in the skills required of modern marketing professionals.

It shows that six in ten marketers (63%) say the pace of change in marketing is greater than ever, while a similar proportion (62%) agree that the marketing skill set has completely changed over the past ten years. Only 9% disagree.

Equally worrying, almost half of marketers (44%) say that they find it difficult to keep up with the changing demands of marketing.

CIM chief executive Chris Daly said: “The marketing sector has been through a huge transition in the past few years; adapting to new rules on data protection; evolving to incorporate an array of new digital channels; and responding to changing social attitudes.

“It is worrying that so many of our peers, especially senior level marketers, have undertaken no training to help them adapt to these changes. We can understand why they might be prioritising the training of less experienced members of their team and feel they don’t have the time to fit training in, but keeping up to date in this fast paced industry should be a priority, especially when accessing learning and development is easier than it’s ever been.

“In a sector that has faced such dramatic change in recent years, marketers who fail to upskill may be putting both their careers and their organisational growth at risk.”

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