Giving Workers a Way Forward

Giving Workers a Way Forward


It wasn’t so long ago, during the financial crisis, when we witnessed many of our co-workers laid off. Suddenly, they were facing a barren job market and tough times ahead, and there was nothing we could do to help them even as we said our goodbyes and feigned words of encouragement—don’t worry, it’ll all work out. 


Deep down, we felt lucky we weren’t among them.


For job survivors, though, it wasn’t all sweetness and light. Life became a seven-day work week. We had to do our job as well as the jobs of our missing colleagues. We cut corners to save time, churned out shoddy work, bickered, felt bitterness toward upper management, and inevitably burned out.


One of my most vivid recollections from those days was when an employee brought up a work-process issue during a company meeting, and she was quickly shut down by the CEO. “Be thankful you still have a job,” he said.


Today, the U.S. economy has lost more than 20 million jobs, an unemployment rate of 14.7 percent—the worst since the Great Depression—with almost every job at risk, according to the New York Times. And I foresee the same thing happening.


Or maybe not. CMOs can learn from history and ward off workplace disillusion before it spirals into poor quality and missed opportunities. First and foremost, CMOs can’t expect to work the same way and produce the same results with only half the staff. They must discover ways to work smarter, not harder.


Related: Join KPMG and CMO Council on our four-part webinar series Marketing Mandate 2020: Pivot Your Plans, Optimize Your Spend


But how do you discover something new? Inside this issue of Marketing Magnified, you’ll find an excerpt from “EXPERIMENTATION WORKS: The Surprising Power of Business Experiments” by Stefan Thomas (Harvard Business Review Press) that details IBM’s journey to create an experimentation culture.


Thomas argues that intuition and data alone won’t break new ground. The key to discovery lies in disciplined business experiments — a lot of them. “To get marketing units across all geographies to run their first experiment, IBM ran a ‘testing blitz’ during which a total of thirty online experiments had to be run in thirty days,” Thomas writes.


Experimentation, however, shouldn’t diminish the value of data science. 


In another feature story, Ozgur says that the need to do more with less due to the pandemic increased demand for data science. That’s because data science can help marketers make better decisions on optimizing a shrinking budget, driving better targeting decisions and pursuing aggressive growth strategies with a higher level of confidence.


“Think creatively and tap into new data sources you have not used before and find new ways to reach your target audience,” Ozgur writes. 


Through experimentation and data science, CMOs can find ways to empower employees despite staff cuts. Much will fall on the shoulders of employees conducting these experiments and putting new methods into action. Experiments will succeed or fail depending on how employees embrace and execute them.


On the upside, experimentation and new ways of working will make employees feel like they’re growing in their careers and making a difference in the markets they’re competing in. It’s a far cry from the dark days of the recession when we were merely told to work harder, tread water and try not to drown.


It’s amazing what forward motion can do to the human spirit, especially in times of debilitating fear and uncertainty. Exploration. Innovation. Inspiration. This is the stuff that makes people get up in the morning ready to perform at their best. 


And given the current circumstances, CMOs will need the very best from their employees.

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