Change agents: Where to find your key players when it comes to transformation

There is no sure fire way to get digital transformation right, but when it comes to upskilling employees and closing the digital talent gap, companies should bring on board change agents who are open minded about learning, and to keep track of learnings and best practices to help improve the team.

During a panel session at the recent Digital Marketing Asia 2019 Indonesia conference in Jakarta organised by Marketing Interactive, HM Sampoerna’s head of media, digital and consumer activation, Mariska Goesman (pictured left) said the key part about digital transformation is open mindedness. "So moving away from merely measuring spending and being willing to make mistakes is one way,” she said.

She was also of the view that loyal employees understand the business best, “much better than agencies”. “When it comes to digital transformation, there will still be integration and an understanding period that will take a long time. So you need to find these change agents that understand your business, who are very open to learn. Give them room and they will lead the way,” she added.

Conversely, Miroslav Hlavac (pictured second from right), chief marketing and strategy officer at Home Credit Indonesia disagreed with the view that the most loyal individuals know the business best because this will cause the company to be “stuck in one point” and miss out on the next big thing. “It’s good to have the energy of the young people who need to and are hungry to learn, with the wisdom and experience of those who have been around for ages. You need to have a balance,” he explained.

Hlavac added that while it has been constantly pointed out that Millennials want value in life, he does not believe that many things have changed with this particular consumer group. In fact, the idea of wanting value in life has always been there, just that the process has sped up.

“People need meaning in their life and if you give them a meaningful purpose and a vision, it can be exciting. Digital marketing is one of the areas that is changing pretty much every day, so it is exciting work but doesn’t get boring,” he explained.

He added that be it in-house or agency, the job itself does not matter. Instead, the new challenge today is to find a way to make the job interesting and meaningful.

Generalists vs specialists

While the debate about in-house versus agency talent rages on, another topic of interest within the marketing industry today is generalists versus specialists. Teo Su Lin (pictured second from left), head of digital marketing, AirAsia Philippines said the company relies on an in-house team for digital marketing, and it tries to keep a mix of generalists and specialists on the team. As such, AirAsia has a group of individuals who are able to cover a broad range of areas from stakeholder management, and communicating with other departments, to SEO.

Additionally, the airline also pairs generalists and specialists “to make sure that everything gets developed as fast as [it] can”, Teo said. For example, AirAsia will pair an SEO expert with someone who manages stakeholders across the other departments and works alongside the product tech team to speed up the development process.  This mix and partnership allows AirAsia to go to market fast, which is its primary goal, Teo said.

“If a person is a specialist, we make sure to send them to our vendors to upskill and learn. For those who are generalists, we get them to spend time with different departments in AirAsia, such as the product, marketing and network planning teams,” Teo said. AirAsia is also bold when it comes to hiring fresh graduates. According to Teo, the airline believes in investing in individuals who show promise in terms of character and have the attitude of wanting to learn and progress. From there, AirAsia will instill in them brand values such as being data-driven and digital-first, and invest in them to help them grow internally.

“Of course, we do hire people with experience, especially for those who are specialised. We then make sure that this group of individuals with specialised skills are also growing and developing the fresh graduates who we hire,” Teo explained.

When it comes to building its in-house team, Teo said AirAsia also turns to agency individuals to meet its needs. According to her, experienced individuals who are generalists tend to come from agencies, and have more dynamic experiences across multiple verticals, industries, as well as the people they handle.

Nonetheless, Teo said there is no black or white answer to the in-house versus agency talent debate. At the end of the day, it is about what suits the business and for AirAsia, it needs to move fast as a digital-first business. As such, the airline has to turn to in-house talent, Teo explained.

Meanwhile, Sreekanth Chetlur (pictured right), head of eCommerce and omni-channel at Matahari Department Store, said these days, the time to market is short and traditional marketers in particular do not have the luxury of slowly learning digital marketing techniques and upskill. As such, training has to be done concurrently and this requires the expertise of specialists who can help train up the team. In this case, the generalist would be the CEO, who is able to get behind all these training initiatives.

“Training is very important but you need to get a specialist. For example, when you are choosing an agency, who will know which agency is the right fit? The generalists would not know because every agency looks amazing during a pitch, so you need to have a specialist do that,” Chetlur explained.