Age divide in marketing training adding to significant digital skills deficit

New research from the Chartered Institute of Marketing has uncovered a significant age divide in the marketing professionals taking part in upskilling in the UK.

CIM’s latest report ‘Digital Vision, living on the cutting edge’ found that the majority of marketers over the age of 55 had received no training at all in the last 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.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards digital and yet, this research suggests that at the time that the pandemic hit large swathes of marketers had not updated their skills for a number of years.

  • Training deficit – One in three marketers (35%) had not attended any internal or external training courses, events or conferences in the past two years.
  • Age divide – This lack of training and upskilling increases dramatically with age – 44% of 45-54 year olds, 62% of 55-64 year olds and 74% of those over 65. By contrast only 7% of those aged 16-24 had received no training.

Senior professionals overlooked for learning and development – Four in ten (41%) senior marketing professionals did not participate in training, a higher proportion than at all other levels of seniority. 

Digital skills gap poses risk to organisations

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 that marketers who don’t 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 digital 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. Whilst, managers and heads have spread their skills and, in some cases, fallen back.

Keeping up with changes in the market

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:

  • Rapid change – Six in ten marketers (63%) say the pace of change in marketing is greater than ever.
  • A completely different skill set – Six in ten marketers (62%) agree that the marketing skill set has completely changed over the past ten years. Only 9% disagree.
  • Struggling to keep up – Almost half of marketers (44%) say that they find it difficult to keep up with the changing demands of marketing.

Chris Daly, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing 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.”

Core skills also going by the wayside

60% believed that a complete focus on digital skills can come at the expense of core marketing skills. This is felt significantly more keenly amongst 25-44 year olds. With content development at the heart of marketing it was surprising to see 59% felt good copywriting wasn’t common in the sector. Data analysis was also seen to be in decline with only 61% perceiving it as a common skills gap.

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