As employers, we need to address how we stimulate and retain this talent, as well as develop it for the benefit of our businesses. This is critical, given the central role marketing now plays in most businesses and the sums companies invest in it.
Clearly organisations need to nurture their in-house expertise, but how?
With limited resources, companies are always looking to maximise their return on investment. Delivering cost-effective professional development at work means reducing the cost of courses attended and the amount of time spent out of the office. This ensures that monetary costs of attending off-site courses and their implications for productivity are kept under control.
There is an additional non-monetary cost to using off-site courses, and this is the impact on employees' work/life balance. Going to evening classes eats into people's personal time and limits the non-work influences they are exposed to - a serious issue when you consider how important an interest in social behaviour is to being a good marketer.
Time and cost pressures are serious barriers to participation in professional development programmes and a disincentive to excellence in marketing.
The use of on-site training during work hours combined with online learning tools goes some way to overcoming these barriers. However, the ideal solution is to combine on-site and online learning with the ability to gain a recognised industry qualification, which provides both knowledge and, critically, an external perspective. Not only does this drive up participation, it also ensures that training is delivered to a consistently high industry standard.
Working with the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Henley Management College, Microsoft has created a pioneering model through its marketing academy. Courses are tailored to meet the needs of employees but allow them to gain external accreditations. The collaboration demonstrates the flexibility needed to address the new commercial reality in professional development. Some 96% of marketers at Microsoft signed up to one of the courses within one week of the marketing academy's launch. Specially tailored content means that the knowledge gained is relevant and participants actually remember and use the new skills in their everyday work.
The marketing academy has proved so successful that Microsoft is now rolling out the idea to its operations in other European countries. The company has decided to invest in this new model of producing marketing excellence because, from both a commercial and an employee perspective, it is clearly worth it.