What skills should the marketer of the future have?

With the marketing function quickly evolving, its strategy for talent has to keep up as well. The function no longer calls for traditional marketing skills, as it has been known, but is looking for a diverse group of people.

“The kind of people we are looking to hire is changing - we are not looking to hire people like me. I came from a typical marketing background, I did my agency stint, I did my MBA and I come with a very black and white view of the world,” Ajay Mohan, director of partner marketing and digital marketing, consumer marketing and sales, Intel Asia said, in a recent panel discussion at Marketing Magazine’s Futurist event.

Mohan said that the company is now looking for connected story tellers and can connect to consumers. The other skill he is looking at is being able to create content successfully on and offline. “MBAs are not required,” he added.

Sandeep Kohli, vice president, marketing operations for Southeast Asia and Australasia, Unilever echoed his sentiments, saying that there is no longer a single type Unilever hires for its marketing teams. “We look to greater diversity and greater marketing teams than just one person, we look how we can create a career for that person not just in marketing but elsewhere as well,” said Kohli.

The company also no longer hires just marketers who have come from marketing schools, but they can come from any function. “As you go through the management training programmes or the Unilever leadership foundation programmes, you always find your own passion,” he said.

Foreign versus local talent

The three were asked if their companies tended to fly in senior staff from headquarters versus hiring local talent.

Kohli made a point for diversity. “If you don’t have a diverse background with people of different genders, religion, culture etc, you can never have an organisation that is truly connected to the people you serve. So as part of our commitment to that, we make an effort to ensure that people from the top universities in each country, perhaps not even the top universities, are in the company to make sure we have diversity,” said Kohli.

Mohan said an individual’s talent outweighed nationality. “That said I go into management schools every year, I do my rounds from Jan to April this year, looking for interns, hiring and bringing them in. When we go into these universities we look at the best talent and who fits best, this may or may not be Singaporeans,” he said.

Gregg Lewis, branding and communications manager, Sakae Sushi said that company takes a fairly local approach, pointing out how it hires locals in its Malaysia office.

Retaining talent

The industry’s high churn rate is always one of concern. How can marketers keep their staff then?

“Recognition and reward is one of the things we are doing. It is a cliché again and again, but how you recognize your marketing rockstars is a manifestation of how the ogranistaion treats the marketing department,” said Mohan. But even then, not everyone makes it to the top. “You have to make sure that people in the organisation are constantly feeling that thrill of doing something that is meaningful and empowered challenges are what we throw our people’s way.”

Mohan explains how Intel allows its staff, if they are subject matter experts in particular domain to run large scale projects for the company with full support.

Kohli agrees, but adds that the upcoming generation is motivated more by purposeful work. “When people realise they are in a meaningful job for the oragnisation for a purpose, where they know how they are making a difference for a wider world; that will make a difference.”

Lewis said that companies should look at specific, achievable KPIs for employees and have open communications with staff.

Read the full transcription of the presentation in Marketing’s special edition The Futurist next month.