Recruiting and retaining good talent is a challenge for any business. And it’s even more challenging when the economy is going well. Right now, with unemployment hovering around four percent, good talent has an easier time picking where they want to work. One way IronStrike supports clients is by helping them find talent and “grow” them through staff capacity building. Staff capacity building is critical for many reasons. Probably the most important is that retaining your best people helps you maintain or build your organizational culture and meet business objectives.

Leadership helps drive staff capacity building

So what do we mean by staff capacity building? Well, the simplest definition is it’s strengthening the knowledge, skills and abilities of your team. Simple? No. Necessary? Yes!

Obviously, employees can push professional growth forward. And ultimately, regardless of who we are and our position, we should own our own career growth. But if an organization has specific goals and objectives that can’t be met by current staffing, then the organization must help find or grow existing talent to make that possible. When employees aren’t growing, they get fed up and leave. According to a 2016 study, every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs six to nine months’ salary on average. This is where good organizational leadership comes in.

Top leaders should support the growth of their staff. These same leaders should encourage those who have a passion for mentoring to support others in their professional growth. According to leadership expert Morgan McCall, while anyone can develop talent, people who are great at it naturally reach out to share their knowledge and expertise. They often enjoy being a role model. They build up specific skills as well as point out blind spots. And they view the success of others as essential to their own success.

So, what are some of the drivers of the need for staff capacity building, specifically within the PR and marketing field?

Technology as a driver of staff capacity building

As with any industry, staff capacity building in the marketing and public relations industry is critical. With the growth of social media channels, the demands placed on marketing and PR staffs increase every year. Fifteen years ago, the following communication mediums/social media channels or devices didn’t even exist. Fifteen years represents nearly a third of someone’s career!

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Smartphones (just over 10 years old)
  • Computer tablets
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Wi-Fi
  • Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), such as Skype
  • Marketing automation
  • And many, many other technologies

Rise in business risks as a driver of staff capacity building

In this same time, the type and number of business risks have also increased, partly due to the technologies we just outlined. Here are a few examples:

  • Employee code-of-conduct issues surrounding social media platforms.
  • Cyberattacks leading to loss of data or stolen data that often impacts consumers. Woven into this is the general increase in internet access across the globe. While this is a desirable outcome overall, it increases the risk of cyberattacks from perpetrators who are hard to locate.
  • Work environments that have seen a rise in different genders, races and ethnicities over the past century and, particularly in some industries, a correlated rise in bullying and harassment.
  • Variations in our physical environment such as climate change mean more natural disasters and other challenges that impact our customers, interrupt the supply chain and more.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the types of changes that have impacted PR and marketing professionals. Having a resilient team that can adapt quickly and often is critical to successfully manage these changes.

Rise in employer expectations as a driver of staff capacity building

We can all agree that, in the United States, there’s not much left of a typical 40-hour workweek. The Leave it to Beaver days of dad arriving home (wearing a suit no less) promptly at 5:30 p.m. from work is a distant memory.

According to research done by Gallup and reported by CNN Money, adults employed full time report working an average of 47 hours per week, which equates to nearly six days a week. That’s about an hour and a half more than they reported in 2005. And nearly four in 10 workers report logging 50+ hours on the job.

While some of these employees are doing the same single job, many have taken on other responsibilities over time. Sometimes this means one person doing the job of two or even three people. This shift had been happening for a while, but the Great Recession pushed it into high gear. While we can say this is unfair and not sustainable long term, the fact is many employers expect more of their employees today than they did a decade ago or pre-Great Recession. And they expect them to have the emotional resilience to take it on.

Now, we’re not saying you have to put up with it if you don’t like it. We’re simply saying that most employers expect more hours from employees than they did even 10 years ago.

Rise in workplace diversity as a driver of staff capacity building

Diversity awareness and sensitivity are a necessity in the 21st century workplace. Many of us interact with peers, customers and suppliers across many time zones. Knowing how to effectively interact with people who do not share the same race, ethnicity or religion as us is a valuable “soft” skill.

We could go on with more examples of drivers, but these are the ones that stand out to us. These examples drive home the softer skills—emotional IQ, resilience, adaptability, etc.—needed to flourish in the workplace. Now let’s move on to the hard skills.

Growing “hard” skills, or tangibles, as part of staff capacity building

We’ve already mentioned the rapid changes in technology. Continued learning in this area is key in the PR and marketing industry. But what are some other skillsets that PR and marketing pros need to continue to hone throughout their careers?

Writing: No, writing a full sentence is not a lost artform. We need it now more than ever! Continue to hone your and your staff’s writing talents. In our experience, a good writer is often a coherent thinker!

Executive skills: By executive skills, we mean keeping yourself and your to-do list moving forward. Effectively juggling many balls at once is imperative to building the confidence and trust of those you serve, whether that’s a boss or a client.

Presenting: It’s one thing to be a good speaker, but becoming a great presenter is taking it to another level. Learning how to improvise on the fly and be entertaining makes a message more memorable. Giving a presentation that is well-received, whether to a large or small group, builds confidence. Help your employees become better presenters.

Technologies, including social media platforms: As we mentioned previously, we’ve seen rapid advancements in technology, and we’ve previously touched on this same topic in our blog. As a PR or marketing professional, learn what technologies are really relevant to you and leave the rest behind. Not every new gadget needs your attention. Keep up on the emerging trends, however.

Staff capacity building tools

Leaders have a variety of tools to improve the hard and soft skills of their teams. We’ll cover just a few.

On-the-job teaching and mentorship that is not highly structured, but is deliberate. In other words, a leader or manager goes out of his or her way to spend extra time with an employee sharing “teachable” moments.

Structured coaching sessions where an employee gets more frequent, real-time feedback on key performance areas versus a “one-and-done” annual performance review.

Web or classroom style courses that are 1:1 or group based.

Podcasts, videos and other mobile learning tools are more common and often used to advance skill sets.

Hands-on learning and simulations such as crisis exercises. These allow communications professionals to put a crisis communications plan into action in response to a mock crisis. Employees can identify their professional strengths and weaknesses by practicing how to respond to news media, internal audiences and other key stakeholders. They can also identify any “holes” in the crisis response that need to be filled in preparation for the real thing.

When staff capacity building isn’t the solution

While we strongly believe employers and employees always want to do the right thing, there are times when there’s a mismatch between the two that cannot be solved regardless of the level of mentorship or coaching. Making a decision to part ways is never an easy one. As a leader, here are some central questions to ask when faced with this difficult situation:

  • Have I done everything I can from a coaching standpoint?
  • Is continuing in the current state good for business? Is it good for the morale of other employees? In other words, is it fair?


Finding and retaining good talent is a competitive advantage for many companies. While it’s each person’s responsibility to define and grow their own career, organizational leaders also play a key role. Want to hear more about topics such as this? Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, which is a roundup of some of our most popular blogposts.