Every January, I start off the year with the best intentions of setting realistic goals, making resolutions, and planning all the things I want to accomplish, both personally and professionally.
But as a busy marketer on a small team, lofty goals for growth and development can often fall to the wayside.
As soon as you settle back into the day-to-day grind of getting that next campaign out the door, back-to-back Zoom meetings, and endless to-do lists, it’s easy to let your goals for learning and development (L&D) become “nice to haves” instead of your main priority.
There’s a big problem with that: At the rate marketing is changing these days, you can’t afford not to keep yourself — and your team — up to date on the latest technologies, trends, and best practices. 2020 brought huge disruption to traditional marketing, with the acceleration of digital-first and customer-centric strategies, and this year is likely to bring even more change.
Plus, your employees most likely want to keep learning and growing their skillsets, and they’re expecting their employers to provide opportunities for them to do so. A recent LinkedIn Learning report revealed that a major reason why employees leave their organizations is because of a concern over a lack of advancement opportunity.
You may be thinking, “That’s all great, but I don’t have time to create a whole learning and development program!”
I get it. It’s a big job, and it’s tough to even know where to start. How do you know what should be included in training for your marketing team? How often should you be doing training, and what are some reputable courses or certifications?
To answer those questions, I’m going to walk through how we’ve approached this challenge at Clariant Creative. I hope this guide will serve as a starting point for your own development goals, helping you put together an employee training and development plan for your team.
Leveling up your marketing team
At Clariant Creative, our theme for 2021 is “Level Up.” While we’ve always had monthly training days for all our full-time employees, we typically used these training days to maintain our HubSpot certifications. This year, we’re taking a more holistic approach that encompasses both HubSpot training and other personal and professional development opportunities.
The goal of this is to level up our collective marketing skills, so we can stay on top of the latest best practices, ensure our whole team is aligned, and deliver the highest quality work for our clients. But we also recognize that to be the best partner we can be for our clients, we need to focus on supporting our team members to be the best they can be individually. By giving employees opportunities to focus on both personal and professional development goals, we set ourselves up to grow stronger as a team and as a company.
Here are some of the ways we’ve made a conscious effort to level up our training and development program for 2021:
1. Dedicated monthly training days
As I mentioned, we have always had dedicated training days each month to spend time going through HubSpot Academy’s free online certifications.
While maintaining HubSpot certifications is crucial as a HubSpot Gold partner agency, we know not every company we work with uses HubSpot (although we think they should!). However, there are many other aspects of inbound marketing to master besides one technology platform, such as SEO, reporting, sales enablement, and automation, just to name a few.
So, we are expanding our horizons to include other online courses, such as Grow & Convert’s “Become a Top Content Marketer” course (we highly recommend becoming a member of their paid community, if your budget permits).
There are many other reputable training certifications and courses available for marketers that are worth considering, including:
Even the folks at HubSpot recognize there are a lot of excellent courses out there and have put out their own list of recommended (and free!) online classes for everything from content marketing to social media to SEO and web development.
Speaking of specializations, another thing to consider is creating role-specific training paths for each role within your marketing organization. Our inbound marketing specialists may need specific training or technical skills compared to our content writers, designers, developers, and management team. By offering a mix of general training that is applicable across your whole team, plus role-based training options, you’ll be sure to cover all the bases to keep your marketing on point.
2. Personal development goals supported by the company
Just as important as leveling up your marketing skills is allowing employees the space to learn something new that’s important to them personally.
For example, one of our team members had the opportunity to teach a digital marketing certificate course at a local community college. This experience was extremely fulfilling, enabling her to share her knowledge as a professional marketer with students and small business owners who wanted to take their marketing to the next level.
Or, you may have an employee who wants to continue their formal education by going back to school part time. Supporting them in achieving their personal goals can only help strengthen your team as they grow their confidence and their skills.
Our team members have taken on all sorts of other personal development goals, from speaking at conferences or on webinars, to creating their own podcasts, to committing to do one new thing that scares them every year! Encouraging your team (or yourself) to explore passions is a great way to keep your employees engaged, happy, and inspired.
Back in 2019, Inbound Marketing Specialist Sara Schleicher completed an off-road motorcycle training course.
3. Monthly DE&I conversations
Speaking of keeping employees engaged, another key element of our training and development is related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DE&I).
Last year, we started a monthly team check-in on Zoom which served as a safe space for our employees to voice their opinions, concerns, and questions, or to just listen and learn new perspectives. Since then, it has evolved into a monthly “content club” where our diversity steering committee selects a different theme for each month and recommends pieces of content to discuss related to DE&I. Think book club, but with shorter-form content like articles, podcasts, or TED Talks (since not everyone is able to commit to reading a whole book every month).
We’ve found this to be a great way to continue the conversation around racial and social justice issues, making sure we’re putting our core values into practice, while learning how to make our company and our society more inclusive and equitable.
4. Mental health support
Mental health is especially important right now as people continue to juggle working remotely while home-schooling young children or caring for other family members.
Some employees may be going on a full year of living in isolation without much physical contact with others. Unsurprisingly, multiple studies have shown that stress, as well as cases of depression and anxiety are up tremendously from pre-pandemic levels. And trying to squeeze in a moment of self-care these days can feel nearly impossible.
Employees want their employers to support them and their mental health during these challenging and uncertain times. Aside from providing basic health insurance benefits, there are a few ways your training and development program can help employees reduce burnout and cope with elevated stress.
At Clariant Creative, we partner with a certified wellness coach and yoga teacher to teach live monthly yoga and meditation classes over Zoom. During these sessions we’ve learned about different mental, emotional, and physical well-being practices such as Ayurvedic medicine, plant-based diets, morning routines, and mindfulness.
We also hold a weekly virtual happy hour to check in with everyone, talk about our wins for the week, and how we can be supported. It may sound a little sappy but carving out even half an hour to regularly check in (and have a few laughs) with your team can go a long way.
We know it can feel overwhelming to put your training and development goals into action, but we hope this list has given you a foundation of ideas to get the ball rolling! Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or if you’re interested in scheduling a hands-on marketing workshop for your team.