2012 Career Development Survey Results

Survey: communications pros have competencies identified, but the trail grows cold from there

  • 2nd annual surveys shows 76% have employers identifying communications competencies
  • But only 56% know how to progress through them, or have tools to assess proficiency
  • Slightly more than half talking with managers, or getting training tied to competencies in last 3 years
  • Social media identified as the #1 most-needed training by 4:1 margin over next identified need

RIDGEFIELD, CT – A new study on the state of communications competencies shows that most communications professionals are working for employers that have identified the competencies they need to do their jobs. But a large percentage of employers of communications professionals are not talking about employees’ progress through those competencies, and don’t have tools to assess where employees are in their career development. And just over half received identified training tied to those specific competencies in the last 3 years.

North Star Communications Consulting, a US-based marketing and communications consultancy, surveyed communications professionals from corporations, agencies and other institutions in July 2012 to assess the state of competency development for communications professionals. It’s the second annual survey on this topic, with double the sample size of the 2011 survey.

“The extended sample size of over 200 respondents this year shows directionally similar trends to the baseline survey last year,” said Mark Dollins, president of North Star Communications Consulting. “Fewer professionals  (76%) report having competencies identified by their employers, but slightly more have taken the next steps to articulate progression through them and introduce tools to assess an employee’s proficiency. The challenges for most communications professionals start right after that. As an industry in total, we’re still not talking with employees and having direct conversations about where, and how, our professionals can grow.”

While just under two-thirds of respondents report receiving communications training of one kind or another in the last three years, the number drops to 54% when asked if the training they received in that time period is tied to competencies that employers have identified.

“The take-aways from this survey are that – as a communications industry – we’re doing a pretty good job in telling our people broadly where they need to develop skill sets. There’s a lot of work to do when it comes to talking specifics, assessing individuals and having candid, transparent conversations.  That’s what can drive better performance, greater retention of high potentials and more integrated capabilities across teams,” Dollins said.

It still matters: the retention factor

Competency training and development matters not only to communications functions and the businesses they support; it matters to practicing communications professionals, too. Not surprisingly, 78 percent of survey respondents said they’re more likely to stay with an employer who has identified communications competencies, versus one that has not. That’s down a bit from last year’s survey, reflecting this year’s larger number of respondents from smaller agencies, corporations and institutions with revenues under $1 billion.

The middle at higher risk?

As with the 2011 survey, Communications professionals who have 10-15 years of experience report their employers have done the least amount to identify training and development that supports competency growth. Specifically, 45% of those who have 10-15 years of experience said their employers had not identified training tied to competencies; that’s 10 to 20 percent higher than those with both less and more years’ experience than they have. Left under-invested, this middle-tier of communications professionals could be the highest- at-risk group for retention.

They want social media training – big time

New to the survey this year was an open-ended question that invited respondents to identify the most-needed kind of competency training. Social media was mentioned specifically by a 4:1 margin over the next most-mentioned priorities: crisis communications and media training. Social and/or digital media was identified in over 25% of the 221 responses as the greatest need for competency-based training.

About the study

A survey on competency-based development for communications professionals was completed by 221 communications professionals from agencies and corporations during July 2012. Administered via electronic survey, participants were asked to self- identify themselves as communications professionals and provide their number of years in the profession, the size of their organization by revenue (USD or equivalent) and gender, among other demographics.

For additional insights or information, contact Mark Dollins at North Star Communications (markdollins@ournorthstar.com).

About North Star Communications Consulting

North Star Communications Consulting, LLC is a communications consultancy with core capabilities in marketing and communications talent development. North Star’s mission is to guide its clients to talent development strategies that help them drive deeper, broader and more integrated skill sets and results for their businesses. From identification of marketing and communications competencies to deploying assessment tools, change management and coaching for individuals and teams, North Star is uniquely positioned to drive successful talent management capabilities.