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5 Ways To Be a Better Content Team Leader

Just because your content marketing team members are satisfied in their roles today doesn’t mean they won’t consider working elsewhere.

That was my takeaway from CMI’s Content Marketing Career & Salary Outlook 2023 (registration required), published in October 2022.

More than a quarter of content marketers in that study (28%) told us they planned to find a new job over the next year. (That number ticked up to 31% in the most recent version of the research.) And nearly the same amount (29% in the 2023 study said they felt unsure about their next steps.

Yet 56% say they are very or extremely satisfied in their current position.

What’s a content marketing team leader to do?

Recognize the truth. Team members will seek new opportunities inside and outside your company (and sometimes outside the profession).

Wouldn’t it be better to nurture your team members and their professional development?

Those supported employees would think more positively of you as a leader and increase their affinity for the brand. In return, they may stay longer in their role or be strongly motivated to seek career growth inside your company. If they do leave, they will be champions for your brand – and its content marketing – to prospective employees and potential customers.

Great #ContentMarketing leaders support team members’ professional development – even if it means they leave the team, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Share on X

Outline the future

Only one in five (23%) of the content marketers in CMI’s research told us they have a clear path for career advancement with their current employer. Almost half (49%) say they’re unsure how to progress and see no clear path. Another 20% say they see a path, but not in their current organization. (A small number – 8% –say the career path isn’t applicable because they’re at the top of their career.)

Many Content Marketers See No Clear Career Path

If your company offers a path, make sure your team knows it. Develop an org chart and share it with employees on day one (or even better, give it to candidates in the interview process.)

If you don’t have a formal career path, develop anecdotal evidence. Craft brief stories about content team members who moved on to other roles on the team or within the company. Invite those people to share their experiences with your team as part of a monthly team learning presentation or a quarterly Zoom call.

Meet with them one-on-one

Though research is helpful for a general understanding, nothing beats talking directly to each team member. So schedule one-on-one meetings to discuss their interests and career plans.

In some companies, these conversations happen in annual review meetings. I recommend scheduling them separately but time them close together. A review is about the employee’s current role – what’s working, what’s not, and what could be done better (by team member and employer/team leader.) Sometimes, it includes setting goals for the next year but only in their current role. Unfortunately, any conversation beyond that often gets short shrift.

Great #ContentMarketing leaders schedule separate meetings to discuss career development, so it doesn’t get short shrift during annual review discussions. @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Share on X

A separate one-on-one conversation recognizes that professional development merits its own discussion time. In this meeting, encourage the team member to speak openly, reassuring them you won’t think they don’t like their current job if they’re talking about other opportunities.

Host regular conversations about their professional development (at least quarterly) to gain employees’ trust. Once they see you mean it both by the discussions and your subsequent actions, they (and their fellow team members) are more likely to open up.

In these interactions, ask future-focused questions:

  • If you could learn one other job, what would it be?
  • How would you design the next few years of your career?
  • Can you share the top three challenges you face in your career?
  • If you were paid $1 million each year and could do anything you wanted, what responsibilities would you choose?

Use those answers to inform the beginnings of a professional development plan – and yes, it might not all be related to content marketing.

TIP: Let your team members know they’re welcome (and encouraged) to reach out beyond the one-on-one meetings.

Expand their skills

Content marketers usually love to learn. Find out what specific skills your team members want to develop. Use the one-on-one conversation questions or create a short survey for them. Then, offer learning opportunities to support those interests.

In the CMI career survey, content marketers said they want to advance their skills in:

  • SEO (53%)
  • Data analytics/science (48%)
  • Working with technologies (46%)
  • Audience development (45%)
  • Writing /editing (40%)
  • User/customer experience (36%)
  • Community development (35%)
  • Audio/video (34%)
  • Project management (33%)
  • Public speaking/presenting (26%)
Content Marketers Interested in Learning These Skills

Once you’ve identified the team’s interests, develop a list of relevant professional development resources. You can list free offerings, paid courses, conferences, etc. In each listing, include a description of the lessons, format, and frequency.

If a cost is involved, note if your company would be willing to pay it. Even better: Give each employee a professional development stipend so they can choose independently.

TIP: Internal cross-training can expand a team member’s skillset and better prepare your team to handle a planned or unexpected absence.

Ease their stress

Stress is subjective but common. Over 70% of CMI’s survey respondents say they are somewhat, very, or extremely stressed.

To nurture those employees who experience stress, explore ways to help alleviate some of it. Some short-term stress relievers could include:

  • A surprise afternoon off. On a Thursday, tell the team member they will have a half-day bonus the following week. Let them pick which day and time they will be out of the office.
  • A shortened to-do list. Ask each team member to remove one task from their to-do list every week. (Given how busy everybody is, they most likely wouldn’t get to it anyways, but now they can feel OK about not doing it from the beginning of the week.)
  • A collective break. Whether your team works remotely or in person, block off a one-hour window every month to get together for snack time. Let one team member pick the snack (have it delivered to the office or team members’ homes.) If your team likes to play games, choose one. (Always let team members opt out – after all, this is supposed to be fun, not mandatory “fun.”)
Great #Content leaders know to give employees stress-relieving surprises like an afternoon off. Tell them a week ahead so they can pick the best day for them, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Share on X

Longer-term stress relievers could include:

  • Adjusting team members’ responsibilities. Ask each team member to assess (or track) the time they spend on each responsibility they have. Then, review and adjust as best as possible to ensure everyone carries an appropriate workload. (In some cases, their time estimate may require you to understand why it’s taking so long and figure out ways to help them complete the task in a shorter time.)
  • Discussing (and budgeting for) new hires. If your team is overloaded with work but knows the company plans to hire in the future, they’ll appreciate that relief is in sight.
  • Increased flexibility. People can feel stressed at work without feeling stressed about work.  By offering a flexible schedule, you can help your team members sometimes deal with personal needs during traditional work hours and handle business tasks at other times.

Assess compensation

You can’t discuss your employees’ professional development without talking about compensation. In the CMI survey, higher pay topped the reasons content marketers would look for a new opportunity.

Of course, in most cases, you don’t control the salary budget. Nor can you commission a formal compensation study. However, you can do some legwork to assess the compensation of your team members in comparison to industry standards.

Start with CMI’s content marketing salary research based on the general role (hands-on, manager, high level) and years of experience. You also can review the salaries for similar positions on sites like Glassdoor and Payscale.

Bottom line

Any successful content marketing leader wants their team members to do well – even if that means they move on from your company. Still, nurturing employees’ professional development takes dedication and time.

Approach it strategically to keep your efforts on track – and reap the benefits of happier employees now and loyal supporters in the future.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute