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Addressing Your Team’s Skill Gaps Before the Q4 Rush

By Christopher McKinley, Senior Director of Business Development

Now that summer is officially over, the race to the finish line is just gearing up—it’s time to regroup and plan for Q4. Despite your best efforts over the next few weeks, even the most detailed plans are destined for failure if your marketing team is lacking the skills required to execute it – a skill gap.

Sometimes you can train existing team members to meet these needs, but when headcount is short and the team is already overworked or the skill set is just too far out of your wheel house the best option might be to bring on short term help. Finding high-quality marketing consultants during one of the busiest times of year can lead to a high-stress environment.

Here’s a quick and painless approach to getting it done:

Step 1: Identify Skill Gaps

Start by reviewing any ongoing Q3 projects and asking your team to give you honest feedback about:

• The probability of completing the project on time
• The components of the project that have been requiring the most time and resources
• The morale level of the team in regard to this project (How are they feeling—stressed and apprehensive? Energized and excited?)

Their feedback should help you identify sticking points, which could be a specific marketing skill (i.e. copywriting, marketing operations, etc.), a soft skill (i.e. collaboration, communication, or time management) or a general bandwidth issue. Maybe you’ve had some turnover during the summer, even a temporary absence can have a major impact.

Step 2: Set a Timeline

Once you identify the areas of need, create a realistic timeline for addressing it. This will be largely driven by the nature of the skills deficit and your goals for the rest of the year. For example, if your team is lacking expertise in paid search, and you anticipate that Google Adwords will be a significant part of your 2015 holiday campaign, you need to bring on an AdWords expert in the early fall, which means you should start reviewing candidates immediately.

Step 3: Weigh Your Options

If you’ve uncovered a skill gap and determine that you have little time to address it before the busy fall season, you may feel panic setting in. Before the stress puts your team further off-track, weigh your options:

• “Upskiling” existing employees: In some cases, current employees can go through training to learn the required skill. Now is likely not the best time to rely on internal resources, though, if the skill is critical for a Q4 project. While strengthening your employees’ skill sets should play an instrumental role at every organization, when you’re up against tight deadlines, delivering quality, on-time work takes priority.
Hire a new employee (quickly): If the skill your team lacks is clearly a mission-critical area of expertise that you’ll need permanently, hiring a new employee might be the most efficient option. In this case, the challenge will be finding and onboarding the right candidate quickly Rushing through the hiring process is risky—many industry surveys show that bad hires can result in significant revenue loss, at least $25,000 for many companies, according to CareerBuilder. Working with a recruiting firm who has pre-screened candidates will significantly decrease this timeframe.
Bring on a temporary consultant: Marketing consultants are accustomed to hitting the ground running, the nature of their work requires it and when time is short that’s exactly what you need. Bringing on a marketing consultant is ideal when you just don’t have the talent in house to deliver on a specific initiative (website redesign, market research, etc.) or you simply need an extra set of hands.

Regardless of the method you choose, make sure to communicate clearly with your team about your efforts. It’s important they’re comfortable taking on additional responsibilities if upskilling is the route you take, and equally if not more important that they see any new additions to the team, be they short-term or permanent, as a resource and opportunity.

by McKinley Marketing Partners