Senior Client Partner, Vice President, Projects, North America
Are you digitizing, or are you dying? That’s the question Elliot Clark, the CEO of HRO Today, posed in a recent podcast with Korn Ferry, “All ‘teched’ up + no place to go? Investments in IT infrastructure require the right people to succeed!”
Clark remarked that this question, “...haunts all of us about our companies when it comes to talent and technology, because if you aren’t digitizing, you’re not going to be competitive.”
The right talent fuels digital transformation
Digital transformation is an especially challenging problem as we begin to recover from the pandemic. Companies that don’t have the right talent can’t respond to technological advances so they can evolve and compete. But the right talent is harder than ever to come by, with staffing shortages accelerating the demand for talent around the globe.
The speed of digital transformation in the wake of the pandemic makes this shortage even more difficult to overcome because the half-life of digital skills is shorter than ever. Many people who were working on digital transformation just five years ago may have skills that are already obsolete if they haven’t kept up with new technology.
In the first of three podcasts in a series focused on digital transformation, Clark chatted with our own Curtis Britt, Director, IT Services, North America, and Bridget Gray, Vice President, IT Services, Asia Pacific, about the challenges facing the global technology labor market. Below, we recap their conversation.
How companies are fighting the war for digitally savvy talent in APAC
No matter how good a company’s business strategy is around digital transformation and how skilled its leaders are, it won’t be able to achieve its digital transformation goals unless it has talent with the right skill sets.
One of the biggest challenges right now, according to Gray, is the talent shortage across Asia Pacific in all areas of IT and digital, particularly in cloud and DevOps. She attributed the shortage to two key market shifts: working more in the cloud during the pandemic and increasing demand around the employee experience.
Gray explained that organizations can address the shortage, which she called a “war for talent,” on several fronts.
Shifting strategy and reskilling talent
First, she observed, candidates have assumed the driver’s seat, so organizations have had to shift their recruitment strategy and process over the last year. “Everybody now understands as an HR professional, an IT leader or an organization [as a whole], this is about becoming attractive to those candidates, and marketing yourself to them, as opposed to assessing whether they're necessarily right for your organization.”
Hiring isn’t the only strategy that employers can rely on to address the talent shortage. Gray is also advising organizations to consider reskilling and redeploying talent for the mid- to long-term, not just the short-term. From her experience, “those leaders and businesses that had thought longer-term around skill sets like cloud, DevOps, cyber, and some of those niche skill sets three years ago are faring a lot better than those that are trying to play catch up now.”
How organizations can address the talent shortage
Britt echoed Gray, remarking that talent scarcity is a global issue. “Post-COVID, everybody has kickstarted a digital transformation program if they didn’t already have one in flight. Now, the ‘war for talent’ has gone nuclear for technology talent.”
To make the problem more tangible, Britt cited research that shows the potential effect of the deficit in technology talent in the United States. Because there isn’t enough talent to fulfill demand, America is looking at potentially unrealized output of about $160 billion by 2030. That scarcity, he said, presents several challenges that organizations need to address.
First, organizations in the United States and Canada need to focus on compensation. Second, businesses need to revisit their current workforce. Britt explained, “We need to think about how we can train individuals who are on the job. We have plenty of people who have been working in legacy technologies that could very well make the transition. We’ve seen multiple clients take individuals from accounting and move them into data analytics in order to meet those demands.”
Third, and perhaps most importantly, organizations need to take a longer-term view and work toward developing a sustainable talent strategy to address the talent deficit.
Ways to build a strong, long-term talent strategy for digital transformation
Britt commented that most organizations are too focused on the near term when they assess their talent needs. They think about hiring, and many are working toward upskilling the talent they have. He added, “So, organizations are looking at individuals who graduated with a liberal arts degree and are now out in the market without a defined home for them in the long-term. They train them on the job in technology as long as they have the right competencies and traits and drivers to be successful in the technology space.”
But few organizations are thinking about how they will shore up their pipeline for the future.
Gray concurred. She reflected, “My clients are talking about it, but it’s quite theoretical. They know it’s something they need to address, but they never anticipated needing to address it so quickly.”
Utilizing HR in the talent process
Gray is working with HR professionals to rethink how they’re reskilling their employees. She is “helping them reimagine how they look at the reskilling piece. They need to look at the traits and drivers and skills that candidates have.” More specifically, she said, “HR professionals need to make sure, whether the candidates are internal or external, that they truly have that curious mindset and want to go on a lifelong learning journey.”
But HR needs to be mindful of what happens to these candidates once hired. After they join the company, HR needs to ensure that employees have the tools and space they need to get on with that learning journey.
Organizations are very focused on who they hire, but they often stop short of fully nurturing that talent, she commented. She recently heard a client describe it this way: “There’s a lot of people out there at the moment working incredibly hard. But are we actually reskilling and developing this IT talent for the future when we’ve got them sitting on back-to-back video calls all day and answering emails?”
This same client gave his team permission to block out time for learning and for thinking. “Certainly, in technology, that should be what we’re paying our technology teams to do,” Gray remarked.
This approach would be a real shift for most businesses — but it would be an effective one.
Talent shortages can inhibit organizations’ digital transformation efforts
Talent is a critical component of an organization’s digital transformation strategy. But for organizations globally, the shortage of IT talent is inhibiting change. That’s because too many organizations remain focused on the near term and fail to engage in more long-term planning.
Click here to listen to the first episode of “All ‘Teched’ Up + No Place to Go? Investments in IT infrastructure Require the Right People to Succeed!”. And to learn more about the role that workforce planning, talent acquisition and talent development play in managing your organization’s digital transformation, continue reading the next article in our series.