Accelerating Digital Transformation with the Right Talent

How do we hire for leadership roles at a time when there is so much digital disruption?

According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, internet users in Malaysia stand at 28.7 million as of 2018 in a nation of approximately 32.6 million population. Digital device adoption is increasing and the government is supporting this through initiatives to strengthen the speed and coverage of access.

Companies need to continually adapt and ingrain digital capabilities into their business processes, service delivery and customer service, as evidenced by the early adopters – the tech and financial services sectors.

The success of any digital adoption or transformation plan, however, lies with the leadership team. Without a strong and forward-thinking leader, it is not possible for a company to activate transformation across all the layers of the business. This will mean changes become more piecemeal in nature.

Changes in the ways companies now attract and retain tech talent

Companies are aware that having a great company culture and direction is crucial to attract and retain tech talent today.

These individuals are always on the lookout for new challenges and ways to create value for the company. As such, we have seen leaders of companies (tech and non-tech alike) allowing their talent to innovate and create value for the business. They are transforming as business drivers, as opposed to being rendered into roles of support and maintenance.

Companies are also proactive, rather than reactive to their hiring needs. They build an employer brand, thus enhancing awareness among tech job seekers. They do so by organising recruitment roadshows and hackathons. They utilise gamification to ensure a ready pipeline of qualified tech candidates are available when there are open positions.

In Robert Walters’ recent Tech E-Guide, Five Lessons in Tackling the Tech talent Shortage, a client of ours, Lita Rosalia, who looks after recruitment at Tokopedia commented that “being one of the unicorns in Indonesia means that many people are aware of us but we know that having strong brand recognition isn’t the same as having a good employer brand. To continue driving our business ahead, we need the very best tech talent and we will need to put in our very best efforts to attract this group of people. We make use of a mix of digital and traditional methods to market our employee brand to people – we have a careers website, we use social media, we go to events and university job fairs, organise our own recruitment roadshows and more. Through these efforts, we have seen our pipeline of tech talent grow steadily.”

Employers can use non-traditional avenues such as seeking overseas talent or tech talent from other industries to reach out to untapped pools of talent. A review of the recruitment process, such as shortening it or investing effort in engaging the candidates, can help job seekers feel more valued and appreciated. Incorporating more flexibility in the benefits package, based on individual preferences, can also be an effective tool to attract and retain tech talent.

The Tech E-guide, which is based on a survey, showed that more than half (57%) of tech professionals interviewed would agree to a smaller increment if offered the right benefits.

The top three benefits favoured by respondents when choosing a company were:-

  • flexible hours (58%),
  • family insurance (49%) and
  • remote working options (46%).

Companies would benefit by identifying high potential candidates and developing a strong learning culture that is beneficial in helping talent shine.

Consider candidates who show high potential, such as a good aptitude for learning quickly and working in teams, being comfortable in using technology to create solutions, and having experiences or skills useful to the team.

Companies should also set aside resources and opportunities to help tech talent grow in their roles. This will help keep them motivated, learn about the different areas of tech, and pick up on skills that they are less familiar with. Tech professionals surveyed cited training workshops on technical and soft skills, cross-functional project involvement, and job rotation opportunities as among the preferred training options.

Choosing between generalist and specialist skills

Both skillsets are still equally important for a business to succeed, especially when companies are hiring for executive or senior roles because there is benefit in having both the specialist and generalist traits. At senior levels, jobs are typically more complex and candidates may need both a depth of expertise and range of skills to understand and manage subordinates.

How HR needs to function in the digital age

HR plays an incredibly important role in shaping an organisation’s digital identity. They need to integrate the right people to support and grow the dynamic organisational culture and context. They also need to help employees and leaders adopt and get more familiar with new digital competencies in order to drive transformation.

To this end, it is incumbent upon HR to adopt a new way of working. That might involve the use of digital platforms to streamline hiring, embrace tools for internal communication (for e.g. Workplace) and champion the use of digital tools that provide employees a fully customised experience.

Creative ways to hire

We have seen a few creative techniques employed from time to time.

For example, we have seen companies create a recruitment video to share their culture, values and mission, working environment and various employee success stories. We’ve seen companies run afternoon teas or networking events in order to connect with potential talent. We’ve also seen hackathons and gamification being used with some success.

What our leaders can do to influence and create a better ecosystem for tech talent

Leadership is truly a key element in tech transformation. Technical abilities, such as the ability to develop code, is really of secondary importance when looking for a leader.

Instead, the person needs to have a good understanding of the current technology landscape, a solid technical foundation alongside strong stakeholder management skills to help convince the business of the value of tech innovation. At the same time, tech leaders need to be able to communicate with their team members well and show them the value of a seemingly meaningless or tedious task.

With tech evolving so rapidly every day, tech talent are always looking for opportunities to learn new technologies and get involved in new tech projects. This is why sending employees for relevant training that upskills them is crucial. Additionally, cross-functional job rotation may also be a good way for tech talent to learn about the different areas of tech and pick up skills along the way. For this to work, however, there needs to be a clear understanding of the needs and requisite buy-in from leadership.

In these areas, the human will always outperform machines.

The impact of AI in the workforce

While AI systems grow at a rapid pace, many of us fear the potential dehumanisation of the workplace.

Yes, AI will indeed help automate the most repetitive tasks and even, go beyond current human capability. We’re seeing application in the call centre, customer service roles as well as back-office operational positions. Companies will benefit from this through increased productivity and revenue. The additional revenue will enable more money to be invested in supporting jobs in the services sector.

I’ve seen our hiring manager adopting AI for repetitive tasks in the actuarial department. This helps our talent focus better on complex analytics assignments.

Will AI help improve workforce conditions?

Yes, artificial intelligence will be more productive than human workers for repetitive tasks. Employees are then freed from mindless tasks, providing them an opportunity to do more meaningful, value-added work. They will be able to exercise creativity and solve problems. They will focus more on the customer experience, employee engagement and work culture. In these areas, the human will always outperform machines.

To be clear, technology is not the only element for successful transformation. A significant part of the solution is the human equation. If we can get this right, if we can recognise what we need and how to embrace the changes set upon us, we’re on our way to success.

Five Lessons in Tackling the Tech talent Shortage is Robert Walters’ e-guide which can be read in full here.

#digital #talent #transformation

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