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Focus on Your Model Team: Hire Modern T-Shaped Employees


More agencies and brands must seek multidimensional employees to adapt to the seismic shift in expectations from CMOs and customers.

Customers today expect brands to understand what they want, engage with them on their terms, and deliver a seamless experience – online and offline. To meet these evolving needs, marketing teams must not only deliver truly integrated brand experiences, but also have a solid understanding of business, work with data, incorporate technology, make due with leaner budgets, and prove ROI.

When resources aren’t sufficient to hire specialists to fill every role, marketers should hire T-shaped employees who have deep knowledge or experience in one area but can collaborate and implement across multiple disciplines.

Over the last couple of years, most brands and agency leaders have defined the T-shaped employee as someone who specializes in one area but has a broad knowledge of various marketing channels. The standardized model of a T-shaped employee is ineffective today.

From my experience with Fortune 500 executives, creative and channel strategy are no longer enough. Today’s CMOs finally have a seat at the table. That means they expect their teams to solve problems. And not just marketing problems. Big, complex business problems.

Today’s T-shaped employees must understand branding, marketing, AND business. So, while skills and experience are important – and required – the evolved T-shaped employee needs to have additional strengths and core competencies. They must:

Understand how the business makes money

Marketers are playing a bigger role in strategic planning and are responsible for decisions that impact the bottom line. If employees don’t understand how the business makes money, it is hard for them to meet objectives and prove the ROI of their marketing efforts.

Be trained in analytics

Big data and metrics are all the buzz. But, according to the 2014 Agency-Marketer New Business Report by RSW/US, marketers’ biggest concerns about agencies today are their lack of focus on meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) and their lack of foundation in analytics.

Today’s T-shaped employees need to have a basic understanding of analytics, uncover insights by linking together data, report more than vanity metrics, and quickly modify marketing strategies based on what the data reveals.

Understand how search engines work

Knowing search engines are the first place people turn to research and purchase most products and services, marketing team members must understand what it takes to rank with search engines and how all marketing and development efforts work together. This often requires an understanding of on- and off-page SEO, content marketing, social media, digital PR, pay-per-click methods, and mobile optimization.

Incorporate technology

Deloitte and Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s report, Bridging the Digital Divide: How CMOs Can Rise to Meet Five Expanding Expectations, identified key priorities for CMOs.

The new CMO is expected to take on topline growth, own the customer experience, dig into data-based insights, operate in real-time, and master the metrics that matter. Technology is essential to meet these demands.

As a result, T-shaped marketing team members need to be aware of mobile, marketing automation, and revenue performance technologies to deliver highly targeted content, map the customer journey, track multichannel attribution, and prove ROI.

Break down silos

Lines between marketing and technology are blurring. The customer journey crosses among product, sales, and services. If marketing teams want to deliver a consistent and seamless experience, they need to break down silos that exist between channel divisions, client departments, and agency partners.

Collaboration is a must. But, employees also need to be adept at managing change. They need to be resilient when they’re told it can’t be done. They need to have problem-solving skills, be strong, persuasive communicators, and they need to innovate.

The introduction of new channels and devices means that consumer needs continue to shift and the brand’s needs will become more complex. Finding the right talent is tough, but brand and agencies diligent about hiring the new T-shaped employee will have a competitive edge.

Want help with your existing team to become modern T shapes? CMI’s Online Training & Certification Program provides you with must-know strategies, tactics, and best practices to build a strong foundation for your projects. Get your team in on the training today.

Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via