How can marketing leaders navigate the Great Resignation?

September 30, 2021 | By Raja Rajamannar

The topline

In a future where new and emerging technologies will disrupt the marketing landscape in unprecedented ways, one of the consequences is that the competitive industry becomes highly democratized and levels the playing field to an extraordinary degree. In order to compete effectively, stand out and win, companies will increasingly rely on marketing. And the marketing function will be vastly different than what it is now. 

To be ready for that future, marketers need to be thoughtful about how they find, train and nurture talent, and build effective teams. But finding talent with both the creative and analytic skills that will be required to succeed is a significant challenge. Such Leonardo da Vincis are not easy to find, and even when found, may not want to join marketing, at least in its current state. 

Therefore, organizations must corral people with different skill sets, and build a cohesive team, and craft effective processes that collectively make it work like a Leonardo da Vinci team. 

The tidbit

Marketing is far from immune from what has been termed “the Great Resignation” – the record-breaking number of resignations as the pandemic begins to recede. One recent survey of more than 700 marketing professionals found that six in 10 planned to change jobs this year, and that half were considering an imminent career change

The balance

To build a strong marketing team of and for the future, assess what skills and competencies are uniquely required by your organization, given your competitive context and company culture. These are not just skills for today, but for tomorrow. 

Then you can begin to identify the key talent in your marketing organization and map which skills are prevalent across your marketing leadership in particular and across all team members in general. This exercise, in my own experience, has uncovered some surprising candidates, who had the skills of the future but not necessarily the spotlight on them. 

And look beyond your own organization – employees outside of marketing can bring in outside perspectives and effective cross-functional relationships, and also enable cultural transformation in the company that embeds marketing in the right frame. Outside candidates – even those outside your industry – can bring in different perspectives and experiences and help jump-start your own company’s thinking. Finally, students and young professionals will be foundational to your future organization. 

My take

  • Expose talent to more opportunities. Marketing generalists is the pool from which your future leaders will emerge. Give them job rotation opportunities within, and more importantly, outside of marketing so they can connect the dots between marketing initiatives and business outcomes.
  • Retrain to retain. Since the field of marketing itself is transforming so rapidly, always-on learning is crucial, be it through online courses, university programs, exchange programs with other companies, and book clubs, to name a few. 
  • Find talent outside the interview. Industry forums are excellent venues for finding the best marketing minds and building a pipeline. People put on their best behavior in an interview context, but you get to see their true selves in non-interview settings. 
  • Focus on students. If companies want to appeal to the best and brightest students, they need to build brand equity for their companies in the universities and colleges. Internships provide students with substantial projects to help build their skill set while testing their aptitude. It’s also very important for marketing leaders to show up on campuses. They can get involved with campus recruitment, manage training programs, partner with universities to provide case studies — anything that will generate interest and prepare the talent of the future!

Long story short

There is so much competition for excellent people, and the best talent likely wants to go into roles that seem more desirable right now. Given how the perception of the industry has shifted, rising talent likely won’t choose marketing as their preferred career. Therefore, it’s the job of marketers to inspire individuals to enter the field and stay. It’s critical for the industry to get this right because talent will make or break a brand. We need to market marketing!

About this blog

Marketing Sense is a blog series from Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer. Every month, Marketing Sense will bring you unique, original, relevant content to equip you with the knowledge that will keep you ahead of a rapidly changing industry. We’ll filter out the noise to focus on key marketing trends backed by new findings and support from thought leaders from across the trade.


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Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer