The skills needed to thrive in the marketing world are ever evolving. As a result, it’s not unusual for marketing teams to face skills gaps in areas where teams aren’t experienced or qualified in the disciplines needed to perform their role effectively.

What’s concerning is that, according to findings from the Marketing Week Career & Salary Survey 2024, close to half of marketers aren’t being offered upskilling opportunities by their employers to bridge these gaps.

When asked, “Is your employer offering you upskilling opportunities to bridge the skills gap?”, 48.8% of the survey’s respondents said ‘No’, while a further 14.7% said that they didn’t know.

Only 36.5% of respondents said that they were receiving these opportunities from their employer.

More worryingly, this percentage has leapt up over the past year, as one third (33.5%) of marketers reported not being given these opportunities in 2023.

Investing in people leads to “better things”

At Econsultancy’s inaugural Marketing Capability Leaders Forum in February, Channel 4 CMO Zaid Al-Qassab highlighted the benefits of investing in existing staff: “You can keep hiring [more] people to do ‘more stuff’. But if you invest in them, at a fraction of what it costs to hire, you actually develop people who can do ‘better things’.”

Al Qassab’s comments chime with thoughts from Dave Stratton, Marketing Director of Sky Sports and Cinema, when he spoke at October’s Festival of Marketing: “You have to prioritise [taking time to learn] … Your competitive advantage is your people.”

Adding further support for the merits of training over hiring is the finding from Econsultancy’s 2023 ‘Winning the Race for Digital Skills’ report that L&D is the most cost-effective way to add digital skills, with 61% ranking training/education top for cost-effectiveness ahead of outsourcing/partnering (22%) and hiring (17%).

The most significant skills gap: data

When it comes to which skills are most often missing in marketing teams, the Career & Salary Survey found that for the second year in a row, a lack of data and analytics skills is seen as the biggest gap in marketing teams, with 36.9% of survey respondents identifying this as a skills gap (up from 34.4% in 2023).

This is far ahead of any other skills that are seen to be lacking, such as performance marketing (19.6%), content and copywriting (18.1%) or social media (14.8%).

When asked by what steps can be taken to combat a lack of data literacy and data specialists in marketing in 2024, data and analytics experts told Econsultancy of the need to add both hard coding skills and soft insight skills; and to encourage training and careers development.

“The UK has lower rates of basic data training skills (39%, according to a May 2022 study by Tableau and Forrester Consulting) than its neighbours France (48%) and Germany (58%), as well as the rest of the world (61%),” said Kevin O’Farrell, Associate Vice President at Analytic Partners.

“Given the growing significance of data in various industries, there is a pressing need to enhance the skills of current employees and encourage students to pursue careers in this field.”

Econsultancy offers a range of marketing and ecommerce trainingdigital skills benchmarking, and runs bespoke marketing academies.