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So, you think your manager is an idiot? Looks like you're wrong, as senior level employees have better digital knowledge than their juniors.

That’s according to preliminary averaged results from the Econsultancy Digital Skills Index, designed to test digital knowledge across marketing.

It seems that senior level digital employees can put their money where their mouths are as they scored higher than mid-level respondents, who in turn scored higher than junior respondents.

The average scores for each level of seniority were 67% for juniors, 72% for mid-levels and 74% for senior respondents.

The assessment will remain live and continue to hoover up data, so take the test if you’d like to benchmark your skills against those of your peers.

In this post I’ll reveal a few findings from the assessments so far and discuss them in light of the skills of the modern marketer (incidentally, the title of a new Econsultancy report in our Digital Transformation series).

The assessment

The assessment is split into 10 disciplines – advertising, content, customer experience, data and analytics, ecommerce, email and eCRM, mobile, search, social, and strategy and operations.

Questions are multiple choice and so far have proved the match of all but two respondents that hit 100%.

    skills index

Some early results

This chart shows the breakdown of scores so far at each level of seniority (1212 total and complete respondents).

(click to enlarge)

skills index results by seniority

38% of those that regarded themselves as senior staff scored more than 80% on the skills index, compared to 18% and 26% of juniors and mid-levels respectively.

Looking at expertise in specific disciplines across seniority levels it was apparent that the hierarchy of knowledge held true for each category but one. The one category in which juniors scored higher than seniors was, strangely enough, ‘strategy and operations’. 

The biggest differential, however, was in advertising, where senior respondents scored 71% on average compared to 57% for junior level respondents - a 25% differential. 

Even in social media, a topic we think that young people know better (making an assumption here that young people are more likely to be junior level employees), senior people scored higher again (63/71). 

Across all levels of seniority, average scores in each discipline were ranked as follows.

  1. Strategy and operations (85%)
  2. Content (85%)
  3. Customer experience (84%)
  4. Ecommerce (83%)
  5. Advertising (71%)
  6. Social (70%)
  7. Data and analytics (69%)
  8. Mobile (68%)
  9. Email and eCRM (56%)
  10. Search (52%)

Conclusions?

Education

One of the interviewees in the Skills of the Modern Marketer report, a head of digital for an automotive company, remarked thus:

With more ‘digital natives’ coming into the workforce, the temptation is to feel like they know a lot when actually they have a lot to learn in terms of traditional marketing skills…

This is perhaps an entirely accurate reflection of the job market. The digital industry is maturing quicker than traditional educational institutions can keep up; because of this, new entrants to the world of digital marketing may not have studied it, either they haven’t been to university or have studied there for a non-digital or non-marketing-specific qualification.

These graduates are entirely comfortable with mobile and social media, but may not know the underlying principles of, say, online advertising or ecommerce. 

Despite this, the market is, of course, still tough. As one marketing manager in recruitment stated:

SEO is now considered a basic skill – not the more technical aspects, but a good solid understanding should be a pre-requisite. And we believe an understanding of social is fundamental, as is ability to write good copy.

Part of this expectation comes from how easy it is to be an autodidact online. The Skills of the Modern Marketer report pointed to soft skills as increasingly important, perhaps because the tools for self-improvement have multiplied.

Curiosity and action-orientation are two soft skills identified by the report as those valued by employers. 

Specialism

With search and email/eCRM the two areas with the lowest average scores, this perhaps is indicative of the role for specialists within marketing teams.

Whilst many recruiters are looking for generalists with a particular strength, search and analytic/database skills have been two areas where there has been specialisation in digital for quite a while. Both disciplines have technical elements that many marketers choose to recruit, outsource or purchase software for (in the case of email).

Econsultancy’s Digital Marketing: Organizational Structures and Resourcing research revealed the main areas for which organisations have dedicated digital marketing discipline specialists. These included:

  1. Website analytics/data (51%)
  2. Website design and build (51%)
  3. Email marketing (45%)
  4. Social media (37%

Email in this list tallies with the Digital Skills Index and its initial results, though search isn’t present in this list of specialists and social is (despite relatively high scoring on the skills assessment).

Recruitment

Looking again at specific skills perhaps we can see what will continue to be outsourced and the effects of this. Advertising scores at the junior level on the Skills Index average at 57%. One might think this would dictate recruitment of employees able to plug this skills gap.

However, looking at the chart below from the Organizational Structures and Resourcing Best Practice Guide, digital resourcing is predicted to be its lowest in the areas of PPC and display advertising.

This could hint at the continuing role of advertising agencies, or simply that these are skills that can be taught in house, as opposed to the skills involved with great content creation of community engagement.

areas in which recruitment is predicted by employers

Digital at the top table

Looking at the success of senior level employees taking this test, it’s fair to say those in senior positions, by this stage, have a good amount of experience in marketing and, more and more, in digital specifically.

We’re seeing more of those that began in digital moving into leadership roles such as CMO and CEO, especially in ecommerce.

Ben Davis

Published 28 May, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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