OPINION: Call it what you will, the skills shortage is all about training

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Written by Jonathan Henshaw, Head of Product & Innovation

The rate of digital transformation that we have seen in businesses since the COVID-19 pandemic began is something that we should all celebrate. Not to use the ‘p-word,’ but we have seen ‘pivot’ after ‘pivot’ and an embracing of digital by brands unlike ever before. This rapid shift has highlighted an issue that needs more industry discussion. Whether you want to call it a ‘talent squeeze’ or a ‘poor talent pool,’ there is a severe digital skills shortage in the Australian market.

Any search of LinkedIn or industry publications will reveal numerous articles that talk about the death of the cookie, the metaverse, and the growth in eCommerce; however, skilled workers will bring digital transformation to life in businesses and agencies alike.

Looking abroad could help - but could take some time

I should begin by clearly outlining that I support and think we need more skilled migration in Australia. We face the problem that skilled migration in Australia won’t increase anytime soon. We only need to look at the response to the Omicron variant to see that Governments can change migration policies rapidly.

With the rate of digital transformation in businesses, there are many marketing professionals in existing roles that need training investment from their employers to succeed in the new digital economy. With net overseas migration down 64.8% YoY for 2020 (ABS), we must look within Australia to fill these skills gaps through serious investment in local digital training for staff. Not just your typical “lunch & learns” but tangible, on the tools training.

It starts with agencies but doesn’t finish there

Gone are the days when media spend alone was the currency to drive agency differentiation through better rates. The walled gardens of Google and Facebook have created a level playing field where we are all working with the same base-level tools and opportunities. The new currency is people. As the rate of digital transformation continues to ramp up, it will be clear which agencies are investing in training and their people as they will be the ones who succeed. As the ‘specialists’, it starts with agencies to drive upskilling of staff and nurturing their abilities.

But if you think this piece is only aimed at agencies, you are wrong. Internal marketing teams can not and should not rely solely on the agency’s expertise. For business transformation to occur, it depends on people at all levels of a business to be digitally literate, from the marketing team right through to the executive team. With the current rate of change and the identified skills shortage, agencies must do better at assisting clients with training in digital. Let’s call a spade a spade; we all know that the best work and outcomes are achieved when two digitally literate people have conversations. 

Siloes are the beginning of the end

Omni-channel solutions are the new norm. We are at a level of digital maturity in this market where we understand that all channels work together to drive business outcomes, and it’s not the job of a singular channel to drive business outcomes. So, if we have moved to an omnichannel approach, it’s time that agency teams reflect this.

Siloed’ specialist’ teams are only creating long-term problems, as businesses are looking for multi-skilled, flexible teams that can be moulded to suit their needs in an ever-changing landscape. There is a time for specialism, but like any good chef with a favourite dish, there is an expectation that they can cook the entire menu. Ensuring that staff are trained and conversant in the entire digital ecosystem is the key to long-term success for agencies and teams.

Anyone who has put a job ad out for a digital role in the past 12 months can and should agree with me - there is a digital skills shortage in Australia. The answer, however, relies on heavy investment in the training of multi-skilled workers. I am proud of the work we have done at Ryvalmedia over the last 12 months in this area and look forward to continuing to evolve in 2022. Weekly in-platform training sessions, training pilots led by media partners, training sessions for clients, access to platform certifications, and individual training budgets for all staff. With the current rate of change we are seeing, it will be clear who has made these investments and who has not.


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