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Marketers prioritise skills over pay, but more employer support needed: Report

If marketers have one gripe about their jobs, it’s (not long hours or insufficient pay, but) a lack of upskilling opportunities. This is according to a recent study by HubSpot Academy. Surveying 1,000 working professionals in Singapore, the study highlighted a keen desire among marketing professionals to gain new skills. 80 per cent of marketers surveyed noted they would prioritise companies who offer opportunities to improve their skills over higher salaries, compared with 77 per cent of Human Resources professionals, 73 per cent of finance folk, and just 71 per cent of salespeople.

Freelancers, in particular, seem to be feeling the pressure to upskill to stay relevant, making up 24 per cent of all Southeast Asia signups on HubSpot Academy. Across the region, top in-demand topics were inbound marketing, social media and content marketing.

With technology and disruption dominating the industry narrative in recent years, there’s little surprise that the same factors are driving intent to upskill among marketers. Top of the list of reasons why marketers take time to learn is to remain technologically savvy and relevant (64 per cent). Coming in a close second was wanting to grow the organisations they work for (62 per cent), suggesting that the marketing function is still in a high-growth stage, with marketers – both agency professionals and in-house – feeling empowered to make changes and drive real impact in their roles. 89 per cent of marketers also noted that technology in the workplace helped them do their jobs to a better standard, while 71 per cent felt that their companies were under-investing in technology.

“Particularly in functions that directly contribute to revenue growth such as marketing, sales and customer service, technology can make or break an individual or team’s ability to have an impact on the business,” said Shahid Nizami, Managing Director, APAC at HubSpot. “As marketers seek new skills to do their jobs better, they need to focus on enhancing both their digital skills and their emotional intelligence. Whilst technology is undoubtedly a crucial part of their role, the ability to empathise with the customer and provide an outstanding customer experience cannot be overlooked — the role of technology is to assist the marketer in executing those experiences.”

So, if marketers are more than ready to upgrade their skills, what’s stopping them? Just 65 per cent of marketers noted that they had taken online courses to upskill themselves in the past, compared to 73 per cent of professionals generally in Singapore.

With Singaporeans working some of the longest hours in the world, it is little surprise that the top challenge cited by marketers was lack of time in their personal lives to take on more job-related learning activities. Employer support appeared to be another factor that was lacking, with inability to cover cost (38 per cent) and lack of support from employers (32 per cent) rounding up the top three.

Of the marketers polled, 73 per cent expressed wishes that their employer would place higher importance on job-related learning. Furthermore, in spite of increased awareness of the benefits of upskilling, 71 per cent of marketers were encouraged by their employer to attend classes / courses to learn new skills, but only outside work hours.

“This complacent attitude towards upskilling from employers is surprising in this job function, considering the level of digital skills needed to truly succeed as a modern marketer,” said Nizami. “Paired with the fact that marketing should be directly driving revenue for a business, employers should be encouraging their marketers to be lifelong learners given the pace at which the industry is evolving. It’s not only the right thing to do for your employees, but it’s crucial to the long-term success of any organisation.”

In spite of time and cost constraints, many marketers are already doing what they can to upgrade their skills. 15 per cent of marketers noted that they spent five to seven hours a week on job-related learning, compared with just nine per cent of professionals in Singapore in general. Furthermore, 67 per cent of marketers highlighted that they would like to spend more time on job-related learning and upskilling.

“It’s important to note that learning doesn’t mean sitting in a classroom over long, fixed hours. Just as technology is driving the need to upskill among marketers, it has also enabled much more flexible ways of job-related learning. Online microlearning platforms, for example, often require lower time and monetary commitment, which allows marketers to ‘test the waters’ themselves. If they’re able to employ their new skills to bring more value to their work, employers can also be more easily convinced to invest further resources in learning and development,” added Nizami.

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