General Assembly Taps Marketing Leaders For Skills-Based Credentials

Top data-driven marketing talent is hard to find and easy to lose.

But a group of marketers from companies including Google, Bonobos, Priceline, Kellogg and L’Oréal joined the Digital Marketing Standards Board, an initiative launched this month by the technology and career development course program General Assembly (GA), in the hopes of refining the process of talent acquisition and development.

“We have an interesting problem in hiring where people can be responsible for a part of the mix, like search engine marketing, but don’t actually understand the mechanics of what’s going on in the background,” said Ben Harrell, senior VP of brand and digital marketing at Priceline and a member of the new marketing standards board.

Owning a single skill set may work for a time, Harrell said, “but in the marketing space, things are constantly changing, and you need a firm understanding of how things work to be able to roll with those changes.”

General Assembly and the board members, who sign up for a year-long term with quarterly meetings, develop practical tests for category skills like “creative assessment, “data and analytics,” “search engine marketing,” “social” and “positioning and messaging.”

“I have found that the newer generation of marketers has deep, functional knowledge in one specific area or channel of marketing,” said Bonobos co-president and CMO Micky Onvural in an email to AdExchanger. However, “they have limited understanding of the full marketing mix and the interplay of channels.”

The assessments aren’t just for identifying potential employees, either.

Team members that rely on only one technology or skill set are often “siloed in to one function, making it harder for them to break out and advance into broader marketing roles,” Onvural said.

If everyone in the marketing organization develops integrated marketing skills, she said, the result is “more cross-lane empathy between team members and a lift in brand and revenue performance.”

Priceline has been using the tests developed by GA and the board to set internal benchmarks, Harrell said.

Tracking skill-based benchmarks accelerates employee career paths within the company, he said, “and indicates whether they can stay current with technology and media, stay relevant and help us drive the business moving forward.”

Over time, the standards will evolve to meet new digital media formats and data applications.

Harrell said one of the things he’s thinking about for updating the credentials this year, for instance, is splitting out the data and analytics assessments based on the level of data sophistication. Some positions require familiarity with coding languages like SQL and R that are used to query and manage data sets, but data scientists may be focused on multivariable regressions and media mix modeling.

“We’ve seen for some time that companies and people need a better way to define career paths and set goals for succeeding within a company,” said Kieran Luke, GA’s general manager of credentials.

The assessments developed by the board aren’t tied to GA’s curriculum or to any particular training program, Luke said. This means they can be freely used by companies for internal training or can be adopted by other tech education courses.

Still, GA’s interest isn’t altruistic.

Data-driven marketing positions come with a $7,000-per-year salary premium on average and take 16% longer to fill, making them lucrative targets for job prospectors, Luke said. “Frankly, these companies need that talent coming in and ways to set them up to succeed.”

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