Digital Transformation and the Talent Shortage

September 25, 2018 Ian Symes

Digital Transformation and the Talent Shortage

Today’s economy is frighteningly competitive, fast-paced and innovative. Businesses are rapidly evolving, technology is moving at an ever-faster pace and digital transformation is at the center of almost all corporate strategies. In fact, at the end of 2017, over two-thirds of CEOs at Global 2000 companies had digital transformation at the center of their corporate strategy, according to analyst firm IDC.

The pace of disruption is accelerating too. By 2020, 30 percent of industry revenues will come from new business models. Rapid digital transformation is an absolute necessity for forward-thinking businesses to realize their growth ambitions and compete with industry rivals.

But we have to appreciate that these ambitions won’t realize themselves. To steer businesses safely through the challenges and opportunities of the digital age, they need leaders who have the expertise and experience necessary to handle the wheel.

Creating a culture of innovation

Being transformation-ready starts with a culture of innovation. Businesses need to be open to change, they need to be prepared to take calculated risks and understand the need to fail fast if something isn’t working. This level of transformation trickles down from the top, from leaders that think differently, break boundaries and drive this innovation.

Our research reveals that while 89 percent of business leaders are planning, testing and implementing digital initiatives, not even half (47 percent) have actually started digitally transforming their business. They are talking the talk, but they are not walking the walk. Furthermore, almost nine out of ten HR leaders do not believe they have the leadership talent required to drive successful digital transformation.

In short supply

Combine this lack of confidence with a well-documented skills shortage. For example, in the United Kingdom, people who appear to have the skills necessary to drive the technology ambitions of businesses appear to be in very short supply. Recent research from the UK Government uncovered that 12.6 million people in the UK don’t have basic digital skills. When faced with such seemingly dramatic issues, it would be tempting for businesses to panic with looking externally for the leadership they feel they need to help them realize their digital transformation goals, carrying the belief that their current senior staff can only be defined by their active skill set. If they can’t help our business realize its digital future, let’s find somebody out there who can. This approach could get highly competitive and has recognizably created what we refer to as a ‘war on talent’. However, this view could not be further from the truth, and fighting this war stunts businesses from making the most of what they already have. What’s more, categorizing current staff in such a manner will likely see them become restless from lack of variety or opportunity to develop. Especially at a senior level. Businesses are not actually struggling to locate the right people. They are failing to identify the best ways of upskilling the talented people they already have, so that they can lead the team in the direction best suited to their business plans. At Right Management, we believe in the 80/20 rule. The 80 percent represents the competencies and enablers that have always made leaders effective in their roles, and they remain the same. The other 20 percent is made up of the capabilities that were not so necessary before, but are critical now for modern and future leaders.

The 80 percent

The 80 percent is made up of from a powerful combination of brightness, adaptability, endurance and drive which are the enablers and solid foundation for effective leaders. These attributes are predictive of future success. ‘Adaptability’ is to be comfortable with ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty. ‘Drive’ is how much hunger, energy and desire leaders have to be successful. ‘Endurance’ is a matter of how resilient and tenacious these leaders are. ‘Brightness’ is how intellectually curious and sharp they are.

The 20 percent

The 20 percent are coachable qualities. Leaders must develop these qualities, increasing their capability to unleash talent, nurture learnability, accelerate performance and foster entrepreneurialism in their business. When we talk about ‘unleashing talent’, we refer to how effective leaders are with accelerating performance by attracting and developing high potential talent from inside and outside of the organization. They must build a culture that encourages ongoing career development for individuals and provides employees with a sense of purpose. ‘Accelerate performance’ is about achieving sustained performance, which requires digital leaders who can balance near-term strategies for business development. Successful leaders help employees understand the significance of their role in helping the company reach its goals, and champion cross-functional collaboration. These coachable qualities comprise Right Management’s P3 Leader Model, which we use to help businesses build the strong leadership pipelines required for better identifying the leadership talent capable of the above.

Improving understanding

Businesses must improve their understanding of each of these capabilities, especially “learnability” – a person’s individual capacity for developing or adapting to such new skills referred to in the 20 percent. Once businesses are able to fully understand what their employees are capable of, they can work with them to help them progress in ways that will most benefit their business.

The support they need

At Right Management, we work with businesses looking to get ahead on their digital transformation objectives by helping their staff identify and develop these skills to support their digital transformation goals. Whether it’s using psychometric assessments, cognitive ability tests, virtual learning modules, or even real-time online business simulations, Right Management helps businesses figure out how to make best of their current employees’ capabilities and potential, ensuring precious time isn’t wasted looking elsewhere. The results are mutually beneficial: businesses find what they need to drive digital transformation and employees are given the support they need to future-proof their careers. To that end, regular career conversations with employees that give them clear direction on how to develop these skills will ensure they get to where their business needs them to be, and will also help them feel valued. This latter point is incredibly important and should not be overlooked – it’s what will ensure they remain invested in their company.

Inspiring leaders of the future

Ultimately, to lead in the digital age, business leaders need to combine the best of human and machine intelligence to create an inclusive, tech-enabled and forward-thinking company. Organizations at every stage of the transformation journey will need to identify, nurture and develop their existing workforce and future leaders to amplify what’s humanly possible in a digital world. Leaders that drive organizational strategy, set the culture and provide a clear vision and roadmap for their people - identifying, nurturing and developing existing and future leaders - will successfully transform their organizations.

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