When I first watched Cool Runnings, I was amazed by a number of things. First and foremost, that Jamaica really does, in fact, have a bobsled team. But most resonant of all was the message that hard work and skill development was more important than money and technology (even if those are necessary for success, too).

In case you’re not familiar with the film: four inexperienced Jamaicans are recruited to make up the tropical country’s first bobsled team, with the guidance of a former American bobsledder. They were each able to build new skills according to the specific role they played on the team, to the point that they could compete at the Olympic level even without access to the most sophisticated sleds and courses.


In real life, as in the movie, the four-man Jamaican bobsled team failed to finish the final race in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. But four years later in Lillehammer, Norway, the team had built its skills enough to finish in 14th — enough to beat team USA.

While they haven’t performed that well since, the lesson from the film and the 1994 Olympics still rings true no matter who you are, across region, culture, and profession: skill development is the cornerstone of success.

Despite that, skill development is often conspicuously absent from the things that pop into mind when when we think about managing marketing’s resources and making the most of marketing’s investments. Things like marketing technology and project budget management are of course important—but people are the most important aspect of marketing.

Without talented, creative marketers that understand your brand’s customers and are constantly improving, the best tools and a big budget won’t do much to help your organization grow. Almost half of the marketers at fast growth companies said that their organization’s training program was tailored to the needs of their business, one survey found. At underperforming companies, only a quarter of marketers said the same.

So as you prepare for annual reviews with your team, think about the competencies your team needs to succeed and make that a priority — it will pay off in the long and short term. Our new resource, The Ultimate Skills Development Handbook for Marketers, outlines four steps to help you visualize and set competency- and capability-building priorities for your team.

Marketing Employee Training and Skill Development

Naturally, it starts with answering the question: what skills does your team need to succeed?

It’s hard to answer, not least because there are some competencies that everyone on your team needs (like those related to understanding your brand and customers) and others that only specific people need (like back-end programming or Photoshop proficiency).

It can also be difficult to get the right level of granularity when it comes to defining skills. Some specific behaviors, like fostering buy-in and collaboration, are closely related and feed into each other; does it make sense to evaluate them separately? Doing so would also lead to an infinite number of behaviors to judge your team against.

To avoid those complications, we suggest two things. First, judge your team against competency domains — sets of interrelated skills that are defined by objective attributes — to get an actionable snapshot of where your team stands without getting too deep into the weeds.

Second, differentiate between two types of domains: universal domains (that apply to the whole team) and technical domains (that apply to specific sub-sections of marketing).

Here are some sample universal competency domains you can consider:

Marketing Employee Skills and Capabilities

And some technical competencies you can modify to suit your team’s needs:

Marketing Employee Technical Skills

By choosing or creating about eight big-picture competency domains, you can avoid evaluating minutiae and have the most comprehensive – and useful – assessments possible.

Download The Ultimate Skills Development Handbook for Marketers for the next three steps in prioritizing your team’s competency building efforts. Taking the time to invest in empowering your people is key to successful marketing in 2016.