Cartons and equipment on floor of empty office space.
PHOTO: moodboard

Years ago a former colleague said to me:  “Have you noticed after Labor Day everyone comes back to work and suddenly realizes there are only four months left until the end of the year and panic kicks in?” This is a stressful time of year. Not only is everyone scrambling to accomplish their 2022 goals in the remaining few months, there’s the added burden of creating the plan and budget for 2023.

When it comes to plans for the upcoming year I’m often asked if I’m seeing any trends with regard to technology that I think should be considered in creating next year’s plan. This year I’m not seeing any macro technology trends; what I am seeing is companies trying to optimize and integrate what is already in place.

Next Big Trend: Employee Mobility

Looking at 2023 the single biggest trend and challenge I see is employee mobility. We have customers that have turned over their marketing operations teams two to four times in the last two years. There’s an enormous amount of volatility in the human resources side of marketing. Employees are moving on in search of jobs that better fit their work/life desires, companies are scaling up and can’t find the people they need, and companies are scaling down as a result of market conditions. You’d think the scaling up and scaling down would balance itself out, but so far that hasn’t been the case.

To create an achievable plan for 2023 requires considering and planning for the impact of employee mobility. What happens if everyone leaves? What happens if you are forced to downsize? What happens if you can’t hire the resources you need? You need a plan that enables you to adjust to changing resource availability. Without an adjustable plan you’ll be frozen in place and unable to accomplish any of your goals.

Planning for a worst-case scenario doesn’t have to be an onerous exercise, it just requires a little extra effort in your planning cycle.

Related Article: Sustainable Marketing Practices to Dig Out of Market Downturn

Prioritize Your Objectives and Assign Resources

Using your annual objectives as a starting point. First, prioritize your 2023 objectives in order of importance and impact. Second, identify and document the resources you will need to achieve these objectives.

This could be a combination of current and existing employees as well as external freelancers, agencies, etc. In identifying existing employees, identify them by name. The more specific the better.

Identify Resource Risks

Now work through each objective and identify if there are any resource risks that could prevent you from achieving your objective. Is there a particular employee whose departure would put achieving the project at risk? Is the objective dependent on hiring a new employee?

Related Article: Messaging During Recessions: 3 Opportunities for Marketers

Define a Mitigation Plan for Critical Employees

For those employees that are critical to achieving your objectives, use this time to assess their satisfaction with their job and responsibilities. Make a point of checking in to ensure that they are enthusiastic about the company and their work and do not feel under what they perceive to be unreasonable pressure.

It’s also important look closely at compensation. Where do they fit on internal company pay scales and within industry comps? If necessary, adjust compensation in the form of a salary increase or bonus structure to ensure there is alignment between the objectives you need to accomplish and the motivation of the employees needed to achieve those objectives. A modest bump in compensation will have less of a cost impact than the recruiting fees and lost productivity associated with losing and then replacing a key employee.

Determine Skillsets and Provide Training

Even if you do everything you can to ensure that your critical employees are happy and well compensated, there’s still a chance that they’ll get lured away by another company. To mitigate this, it’s important to have a backup plan. Do you have someone else that can step into the role should it become vacant? For many this isn’t an easy question to answer because it requires having a good sense of the skill profile of each member of your team and many companies don’t have the means for collecting or managing that information.

If this is the case in your environment, define the skills you need to achieve your critical objectives and then profile your team against those to give you a baseline. With those in hand, look for gaps and address those through job shadowing and training. Your goal should be to have some level of skill redundancy in critical areas. I continue to be amazed how little attention is paid to training which I think is a consequence of tightened budgets as well as concerns that it won’t be a good investment if an employee leaves. A small investment in training can reap big rewards and may actually be the key to keeping valued employees.

If you don’t have the ability to create redundant skills internally consider using outside resources. For example, if you only have a single individual that is fully competent in using your marketing automation platform (this is more common than you might think), take the time to get to know consulting companies that specialize in that technology so that if the worst happens you have someone to call.

For those objectives dependent on hiring new resources consider what will happen if you can’t source a new hire. Do you abandon the objective or is it possible to redeploy employees from other objectives that are not as high a priority? Can you leverage freelance talent, agencies or consultants in the interim?

Related Article: Top Marketing Skills and Traits for 2022

Be Ready for Exits

Once your 2023 plan is as secure as you can make it, take the time to look more broadly across your organization to ensure that you are in a position to quickly respond to employee resignations. The key to success lies in documentation.

Every job should have an up-to-date job description that can be used to initiate a replacement requisition for an employee that has resigned. In addition, consider adding a step in your offboarding process that requires that your departing employee produce a “tips and tricks” document that covers tips for succeeding in the job and “how to” instructions for things that might not be obvious.

 We’ve institutionalized this in our process after having an employee depart who thought to create this kind of reference document for her successor. It made onboarding her successor easy and seamless and delivered a “light bulb” moment for us.

Beyond the Job Description

Technology competency is both a strength and a vulnerability in today’s marketing environments. All marketing magic is enabled by technology, and companies are using a lot of it in support of marketing campaigns and the customer experience. If you only have one individual on your team that has the full picture of the technology in use and the architecture of your stack, and that picture is resident in a spreadsheet that only they have access to, that’s a big problem.

Additionally, if your technology stack contains complex technology components that have been carefully integrated and only one person has the operational details related to using that technology and the specifics of which fields are mapped to create the integrations, that’s another big problem. If those individuals leave, your entire marketing program could be brought down by a technology failure. In addition, it will be virtually impossible to take your marketing programs to the next level because you won’t know where you are starting from.

I continued to be SHOCKED (and yes, I mean shocked in all caps) when I talk to marketing leaders and they tell me, albeit sheepishly, that they don’t have a handle on what technology is being used across the organization, the details of how it is integrated or how it is performing. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!? Are they blissfully ignorant of the potential risks? I wouldn’t be sleeping at night.

Putting my crazed angst aside, even without the looming catastrophe of something going wrong, if a technologist resigns and a new one is hired, their ability to be productive and useful to the organization is severely compromised if they have to spend their first six months trying to uncover what’s in the stack and how the stack fits together. If your stack isn’t fully documented then make that a marketing priority for 2023, better yet get started on it immediately. A well-documented stack that is easily accessible will mitigate issues with both employee turnover and technology challenges.

Effective Onboarding

When someone resigns and a replacement is hired, having a well-defined onboarding plan is essential to a fast ramp in the new position. In addition to your company onboarding steps, each function should have its own onboarding process. Consider leveraging departing employees to help define the function specific process.

In addition to the “Tips and Tricks” referenced above, consider a list of useful resources for the function, a list of other employees the new hire should get to know, training materials and external training courses. In a remote/hybrid work environment I’m also a big advocate of assigning an internal mentor to new hires that can help with getting to know the company culture, processes and who can facilitate interactions with other departments.

Employee mobility is something that most of us are dealing with or will have to deal with in the upcoming year, and we should be factoring that into our 2023 plans. In the words of Confucius, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”