There’s little doubt amongst professionals in digital sectors that the next year will present organisations with a number of challenges. However, for marketers in particular, new media platforms, an increased interest in machine learning, and the rise of ‘conversational interfaces’ will also present media and technology organisations with a number of opportunities.

In its Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions report Deloitte, highlighted a whole host of potential opportunities on the horizon for digital companies. These include an increased use of machine learning and evolving indoor digital navigation capabilities – two trends which resonate with a key shift long anticipated by commentators in the digital marketing sector; a greater focus on personalisation.

Machine learning poses a number of opportunities for marketers, and as the ‘marketing conversation’ becomes ever more human-machine based, the ability to analyse data and create a more tailored message will set organisations apart. Deloitte predicts that at least a quarter of all uses of precision digital navigation will include an indoor element or be for an entirely indoor journey by 2022, rapidly expanding the capabilities of proximity marketing.

Given the increasingly complex nature of this evolving marketing arena, there is little doubt that talent attraction and retention will be a priority not just for media companies, but also any companies with an internal communication function, particularly as skills shortages increase and competition for industry leading professionals grows ever fiercer. In fact, according to a report from the House of Commons, the UK needed 745,000 additional workers with digital skills to meet rising demand from employers over the period 2013–2017. Perhaps even more crucially, the report also highlighted that a failure to fill these vacancies may have cost between £1.6 billion and £2.4 billion, although these figures are yet to be clarified.

In this increasingly complex climate it is critical that firms take a more comprehensive approach to strategic workforce planning. As the demographic of the workforce shifts, and the nature of work continues to evolve, creating impactful strategic workforce plans can seem an overwhelming prospect. Often, particularly within digitally orientated organisations, the volume of internal and external information collected by companies is incredibly vast, yet according to recent research from PwC only 30% of UK executives describe their organisation as data driven.

It has become clear that there is a significant discord between the data companies are collecting and the way in which they are utilising it, particularly when it comes to strategic workforce planning. Many organisations already have access to reams of valuable data, not only through their own employee records, but also third party platforms such as LinkedIn, however few have the capacity to analyse this information and implement tangible change.

If they hope to address the growing dearth of digital talent, organisations need to harness the power of data analytics in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of their current workforce and establish where existing skills shortages lie. This includes tracking the number of new hires made in the last year across specific practices, how many members of staff are due to retire in the immediate future and which new marketing trends look set to take hold and subsequently where demand is expected to grow.

However these tools are not just valuable in managing an organisation’s existing workforce. Complex algorithms which analyse an individual’s social media activity, amongst other public online channels, can be used to pre-empt career moves of both current and potential talent. These tools are capable of assessing a person’s language to establish when they become unhappy in their role, often before they even begin actively seeking a new job, making both strategic workforce planning, and effective talent pipelining more efficient.

Where retaining an employee is not feasible, these tools can also effectively identify existing employees with the requisite skills and experience for a role – or who are likely to respond well to being retrained and redeployed. According to Oxford Economics, the average cost of replacing a single member of staff is more than £30,000 when factors such as advertising costs, temporary cover and lost productivity are taken into account. With this in mind, harnessing technology to maximise the skills and expertise of existing colleagues is an opportunity that should definitely not be overlooked, you may have someone already working within your organisation who is passionate about communicating digitally in their own time.

Marketing professionals, and indeed those across the digital sectors, will no doubt already be – at the very least – familiar with data analytics tools, while others may already be using them to create more tailored and effective marketing strategies for their clients. However unless organisations utilise both the data, and the range of highly sophisticated data analytics tools available, they risk exposing themselves to greater skills shortages. In such a rapidly evolving digital climate creating an impactful strategic workforce plan which is driven by data, and also takes business objectives into consideration, is crucial in ensuring that organisations have the right skills and talent at the right time.

Liz Weeks

Liz Weeks


Liz Weeks, Head of Employer Branding, Alexander Mann Solutions.