If your company is like mine, the beginning of the fiscal year (now, for most of us) is when we’re thinking about project portfolios and operating plans – and, it’s the one time we managers have to focus on our direct reports’ development plans. Setting development goals for staff while creating these “IDPs” (as we call them: “individual development plans”) is easy for some functions. Sales has revenue goals. Procurement has cost-cutting goals. But for marketing, setting development goals – and understanding the underlying functional competencies marketing staffers need to develop (and then creating action plans that line up to their current projects) – can be a little tricky. Why?
- Your company hasn’t created a standardized set of marketing competencies and capabilities. You may have a sense of what general areas to focus on, but intuition is a poor man’s reference guide to functional improvement.
- Marketing’s functional scope has significantly increased over the last several years. A marketing manager may be leading an agency negotiation one day, the next she could be working on a segmentation project, and maybe she’s doing a pricing re-boot a day later.
Even when we do create development plans, our tendency is to link them to short-term projects (e.g., “did you or didn’t you complete that digital campaign, and was it successful or not?”), which results in general management skills development. Or we align IDPs toward developing very specific skills relevant only to one project, when we need to focus on basic – but incredibly necessary - marketing competencies like marcomm mix management, segmentation, or channel management that enable success across a future projects.
Like I said, it can be tricky…so, one of MLC’s sister programs, the Marketing Excellence Survey (MES) created a job function guide to help you and your management team build more meaningful, marketing knowledge-oriented IDPs by framing development in terms of the marketing knowledge gaps most commonly found in different marketing roles. For example – what are the key marketing competencies needed for (and frequent gaps found in) product managers vs. business development professionals?
By building IDPs around the specific functional knowledge areas staff in different roles need, marketers can set their staffers on a course that will result in transferable skills – rather than general management skills or single-minded capabilities that relate only to a specific project.
My suggestion: don’t just use this job function guide to create plans for your direct reports, you can also:
- Pass this on to your own managers so they can use it with their teams
- Help yourself out by passing it on to your HR business partner who probably could really use the help understanding and creating a common vocabulary for basic marketing competencies
- Pass it to your staffers who are wondering about the kinds of knowledge they need to acquire to progress the next level or to a different role.