Talent hunt for the digital era

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February 23, 2015 12:04 AM

Until recently, digital talent gap has been referred to as the difference that exists between those who have access to the digital word...

Until recently, digital talent gap has been referred to as the difference that exists between those who have access to the digital word and those who don’t. While there is still a huge gap between these two and the gap has to be bridged with digital literacy, within the digital world, the connotations of digital environment are changing rapidly. This makes it challenging for most organisations to cope with the demand for talent that has the capabilities to support the expectations of organisations to succeed in the digital era.

We have witnessed the progression of ‘being digital’ from a modest one to one interaction at the same place to one to many and many to many interfaces across geographies. Until recently ‘SMAC’ referring to social, mobile, analytics, cloud was the buzzword and now being digital also means embracing robotics, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) thus making the digital landscape far more complex as compared to any of the earlier phases. This has resulted in the need for organisations to assess their digital talent capability and consider new ways of
addressing the digital talent gap.

The demand for talent required to be successful with the digital strategy is huge and the statistics are staggering in almost every dimension of skills required for the digital era. Unlike in the past when skilled resources were required only to support the IT function, in the context of digital transformation, organisations need digitally empowered resources across all functions in the organisation which makes the matter significantly more challenging.

Further, since the digital capability is the culmination of multiple technologies coming together, with every category of technology evolving simultaneously, some of which independently and many on account of inter-linkages, the talent readiness and profile requirements have become even more complex. The talent pool which is well adapted with such an evolution and at the same time being well prepared for future trajectories of technologies is difficult to find in large numbers.

Currently most organisations are continuing to use traditional methods for building the required capabilities with their existing employees. It has also been found that HR function in most organisations are not centre stage in building the required digital competencies and this activity is left to IT or user departments. In the past, IT upgradation was primarily driven by IT function and since the skills required pertained to mostly the IT function or limited to training on the usage of systems built by IT department, IT function took the lead in skilling  of employees. However, with digital transformation when the entire organisation would have to be equipped for the change, HR will have to take on the centre stage to facilitate this transformation. As of now, in most organisations HR function is yet to get its arms around the digital phenomenon and as a result, the long term approach required for revitalising the organisation is missing.

Recognising the importance of digital impact on organisations, many large multinational corporations have created a new position—chief digital officer to lead the digital transformation efforts. In that case is the role of CIO becoming redundant? Absolutely not, CIOs are focussing on transformation of the technology platform itself which has traditionally been more inward focussed and now has to give way to integration with the external world primarily with the customers and the vendors and thus engage with social networks, have the ability to deliver information and service anytime, anyplace through multiple devices and be able to handle multitudes of data to arrive at meaningful interpretation for the business.

Opening of the platform and exposure to the community at large has meant that security and IP protection have become two additional focus areas for the CIOs. Digital officers on the other hand are focussed around transformation of the businesses working closely with the CEOs, heads of various lines of businesses and the CIO. The focus currently is on the customer and the market, but very soon there would be a need to rethink the role and requirements of HR or Quality or other functions in the digital world.

While designing systems and developing applications in the past, strong technical skills were the key to successful implementation. Today the requirement is a combination of capabilities in areas such as customer behaviour or psychology, design and analytics, along with the technical skills as most of the new application development work is centered around the external world. Further, it is equally important for technical professionals to acquire understanding of business domains and for business teams to have the basic technical skills to function successfully in the world where every aspect will be digitally driven.

HR managers will have to deal with this significant change and ready themselves to reorient the employees and also put in place new methods for recruitment of such resources. As newer technologies and innovation would have to be rapidly absorbed by the organisation, young talent force with cutting edge capabilities would always be in demand.

Therefore the longevity of employees and the need to rethink employment contracts would become important areas to be addressed. Customers will favour organisations that are “fashionistas”, that is, those who are first to market with savvy technology based solutions. HR managers have to be abreast with technologies that are evolving and shaping the digital world and find smart ways of supporting the talent needs of the organisation using unconventional methods. The battle for digital talent has begun and HR managers have to be in the forefront for the hunt for talent.

The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company

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