March 24, 2022

The three skills that actually matter to business growth

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Do you ever look at a company like Google or Netflix and think, “I know we could be that successful – if only we had their people on our team”? 

The bad news: It’s impossibly expensive to recruit talent from the top tech companies.

The good news: You can develop this type of talent in-house, if you zero in on the skills that actually matter to drive business growth.

To help you, our research team looked at 100 of today’s top-performing organizations and identified the business skills that matter. 

These are the skills that should be your top priority in talent development. So let’s get started.

Which skills matter to drive growth?

We looked at 50 legacy economy firms like GE, Walmart, and Exxon, which dominated market capitalization charts in the late 90s. And we compared them to 50 “growth economy” firms like Netflix, Apple, and Amazon, which top the charts now. 

When compared on the basis of talent, the growth economy firms do three things differently.

1. They have more tech talent.

This one probably seems obvious – but it bears repeating. In growth economy firms, 21% of employees are in engineering, compared to 11% of employees in legacy firms. 

What’s more, the engineers are top-tier: 8% of growth economy engineers attended MIT, CalTech, Stanford, or Berkeley, compared to 1% at legacy firms. 

Growth economy firms treat digital as table stakes for their business. They understand that products in 2022 must be inherently digital, and they resource their teams to support this.

2. Their teams have greater domain expertise.

Domains like product and marketing are made up of many different skills. And growth economy companies excel in hiring people who have more of these domain-specific skills.

For example, you might break down marketing expertise in 2022 into the following, highly relevant skillsets:

  • CRM
  • Email marketing
  • Growth marketing
  • Integrated marketing
  • Mobile marketing
  • Product marketing
  • Public relations
  • SEO

In growth economy companies, 23% of marketers report being proficient in product marketing, compared to 15% at legacy firms. 16% of marketers at growth economy companies can do SEO, compared to 6% at legacy firms.

3. Their people have more “business superpowers.”

The third distinction between growth and legacy firms is what we call “business superpowers.”

These are skills that benefit the business no matter what role someone is in. They include things like project management, strategic planning, programming knowledge, and financial modeling.

And in growth economy companies, more employees – from product, to marketing, to finance – have these superpowers, enabling greater impact on outcomes across departments. 

When combined, we call the latter two skills (domain expertise and superpowers) “business IQ.”

Okay, I get that tech is a big deal. But how much does business IQ matter to actual results? 

In short, business IQ matters a lot. 

We examined business IQ against performance at 100 of today’s top companies. The results are astounding. 

Better business IQ means better performance across market cap growth, YoY revenue, and average gross margins. The higher a company’s business IQ, the better their results – and this holds true across categories.

Let’s look at an example from the world of fast food. 

Chipotle has a significantly higher business IQ score than McDonald’s, at 4.85 out of 10 compared to 1.85 out of 10. And Chipotle also crushes the Golden Arches in stock performance – up +273% in the last five years, compared to +77%. 

How do you capture great talent in the modern market? 

You might be thinking, “Okay, so tech and business talent is essential to success. But I still can’t recruit those people away from Google.”

You’re right.

Big tech alumni simply don’t want to work at legacy firms. Around 230 employees left P&G for Google. Only 15 employees left Google for P&G. 

And even if they do want to move, growth economy employees are expensive.

A Google account strategist with two years of experience makes around $131,000. A WPP account director with eight years of experience makes $147,000. 

The answer isn’t in hiring or acquiring away talent, but in developing talent in-house.

How to develop talent in-house

At Section4, we’ve developed a curriculum that turns your team into a strategic powerhouse, equipped to compete in the growth economy.

And we do it all around your existing schedules, so you can build your strategic advantage without missing a day of work. 

Ready to build your team’s business IQ? Get in touch with us.

Greg Shove
Section Staff