According to a recent study by Accenture, by 2020 more than one-third of the desired skill sets of most jobs will be comprised of skills not yet considered crucial today. 2020! That’s only three years away! This means that even though you are perfectly able to do your job today, you will literally be struggling to fill the same role quite soon.
It’s probably safe to say that the two skills you’ll need most to succeed in this ever fast moving professional world are the ability to change and the willingness to continuously learn and develop.
Mind you, this is much harder than it sounds. On paper, we all love learning new things, but actually changing acquired habits and leaving your comfort zone of “I know how to do this” can be a very different thing.
Most people prefer stability to change
Human brains are naturally wired to seek a state of repetitiveness so that they’ll need to use as little energy as possible. That explains why only when the reward we expect from a new behaviour seems big enough, will we change the way we act or think. This reward can and will vary from person to person and some find that they are more easily motivated to change than others.
Having said that, we can train ourselves to become “changers” by putting ourselves in the way of new experiences. It is this agility of mind that forms the basis of every professional and personal development. That is why companies will have to make sure that they build the right culture and structures to enable their people to thrive and develop. Quite often, everyone is so caught up in their day-to-day work and in managing the status quo that there doesn’t seem to be much space for learning and development. Shortly staffed teams and the speed at which tasks have to be carried out add to a (perceived) shortage of time for learning.
Agencies have to develop faster than anyone else
You may think this is especially true for agencies and you might even be right to a certain extent. On the other hand, I believe that agencies have a genuine competitive advantage. Almost no one in the marketing industry has to develop faster because it is our knowledge and our expertise that clients pay us for. In this fast moving world, there are at least ten questions every day to which we don’t know the answer. Yet. But because our clients (rightly so) won’t take shrugging our shoulders for an answer, we are continuously being put in a position where we have to immerse ourselves in the problem and find a solution.
A culture that rewards learning
Of course, this alone is not enough to ensure that talent develops and progresses. What if your clients are just as lost as you and don’t ask you any challenging questions that will help you grow – but instead look for you to challenge them so they can grow?
Agencies (as well as companies) need an overall strategy for professional and personal development of their talent that is directly linked to their business strategy. They will have to build a solid framework that provides everyone with ample opportunity to grow their skills in whichever way they need. At OMD UK, we have the OMD Academy, a comprehensive programme that is constantly being updated so that it offers everyone, from Junior Planner to Client Partner, the right kind of training. Also, we don’t just train top down – for our “Board Academy” we actually get grads and juniors to teach our senior management about the way they consume media or new tech. We also have a number of interactive challenges, be it on Mobile or Programmatic, throughout the year to put everyone at the agency in touch with new developments in these areas as quickly as possible.
No matter how sophisticated your training scheme is, however, what need you first and foremost is a culture that actually rewards learning.
I’m not necessary talking complex bonus schemes here. A reward can be as simple as an “I noticed that you were doing that e-learning course while you were having your morning coffee today – good choice, I appreciate you taking the time!” from your boss. Sometimes it’s words that change perception. And we will need to change everyone’s perception from seeing learning as just a part of your job to it actually being your job.
Taking time will be worth your while
Having said all that, we will also have to acknowledge the fact that learning takes time; quite literally. It’s a mistake to think that it is something that you do after you’ve completed your “important tasks”. It will essentially become one, if not the most important thing on everyone’s to-do list.
Unless of course, you want to be in big trouble by 2020. Then go ahead like usual. No need to change.