Employee Development: Your Most Important Investment For 2017

One of the best parts of my job as a marketing evangelist is attending two dozen marketing conferences each year around the world -- as either a speaker, an attendee, or both.
Among other benefits, I walk away with at least one idea that expands my thinking about some aspect of marketing.
Most marketers aren't as lucky, of course. They attend perhaps just one conference a year. "It's not in the budget" is the most frequent excuse.

Well, fellow marketers, that right there is the crux of the issue.

Marketing executives: Please set up a specific budget line item for employee development, even if you have to borrow from your employer's general training and education programs.
You're charged with building brands, generating revenue and marketing success for your company. Your team's skills and knowledge are perhaps your best means of achieving your goals.
Yes, marketing budgets are tight. However, employee development is no longer optional. It's a "must do" in an increasingly competitive environment where marketing channels, technologies and practices evolve like teenage fashion trends.
Why it pays to nurture talent
How do you win against your competitors? You all probably have comparable technologies and sets of marketing strategies and tactics, as well as proportionate budgets.
It comes down to better "people smarts," like developing smarter strategies and executing more quickly, learning and improving marketing programs and achieving a higher ROI from a lower level of effort (LOE).
Investing in yourself and your team gives you that crucial advantage. 
7 Investment Opportunities for Employee Development
Here's my employee development wish list. Many are either free or low-cost. The ROI is a more knowledgeable, skillful, motivated and capable marketing staff. 
Conferences: Get everybody out of the office. Mingle with peers, build friendships and learn from thought leaders and practitioners in your industry. Yes, it can be costly. But NOT sending your team to at least two conferences per year is even more costly and shortsighted.
A typical two-day conference will expose you to a dozen or more "how-to" sessions and some mind-expanding keynotes. The exhibit halls can show you new technologies, ideas or opportunities to integrate your platforms with others.
Webinars/Online Events: Most are free, requiring only about an hour of your time, and deliver a high ROI because you don't have to travel or lose office time. Sign up for various vendor newsletters, and have a team member track upcoming webinars.
Training: Time is money, right? Here's an example of what one client gained from participating in her company's process management training: She learned new skills that helped her slash the time needed to produce and proof email messages.
Book Library/Sharing: Set up a business-book library. Encourage your team to read and discuss what they learned. 
Associations: Trade association memberships can give you access to content, events and industry experts that help you see what works and what doesn't among competitors and peers.
Online Communities: Encourage staff participation in online communities. Pay for memberships when required. If you have several people on your team, divide and conquer based on roles and interests. Have team members share what they learned in staff meetings.
Brainstorming/Down Time: Your team can't grow and innovate when they're stuck on the hamster wheel of marketing tasks. Set up impromptu brainstorming meetings at a coffee shop or pub and off-site team-building and innovation retreats at least twice a year.
Make it clear that you expect workers to generate ideas and be innovative, but you will also give them time to flex their creative muscles. 
No doubt some of you are rolling your eyes at this: "Loren, you don't live in the real world and don't understand the pressure my lean-and-mean marketing staff is under." Yes, I do. I've been there.
If you -- as the departmental or company leader --are not willing to invest in and develop your staff, your competitors will crush you. 
Until next time, take your staff up a notch!



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