THE GREAT TALENT RESET
The “war for talent” was coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company in 1997 to refer to the relentless competition involved in attracting and retaining exceptional talented employees. Nearly 25 years later, organisations are still fighting this war and the battle is as intense as ever. Technology projects, especially, are frequent casualties; often projects are slowed or can even fail due to a lack of talent. With many companies accelerating their digital transformation efforts, organisations need a new strategy to address the talent gap.
Organisations are struggling to find the talent with the skills they need to grow their businesses. In a survey from Gartner, Inc., IT executives see the talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies.1
As technology and business models continue their rapid transformation, the types of skills organisations need also are evolving.
The war for talent isn’t just a transitory product of the pandemic, though that has certainly exacerbated the situation. Any hiring manager in search of an experienced software engineer in the last decade, can tell you about the fierce competition for tech talent. Individuals with in-demand skills and experience can be selective about the opportunities they decide to pursue.
Navigating the talent shortage
As we’ve seen in many instances, the pandemic accelerated technology and hiring trends that were already in progress. Now, companies must navigate a number of trends that have exacerbated the severe talent shortage.
- Artificial intelligence – From AI-enabled virtual assistants and chatbots to contactless cashiers to robot-assisted surgery, artificial intelligence and automation are driving significant change in the types of skills organisations need to thrive.
- Remote work – Enabled by technology, work from anywhere models provide flexibility and create both opportunities and challenges for organisations attempting to attract and retain a geographically dispersed labour pool.
In the face of these tech and workforce trends, organisations must adapt their talent strategies, so they can acquire and cultivate the skills they need to grow their business for the future. To get there, companies must architect a new talent experience.
Solving the talent gap
The relentless pace of technology adoption shows no signs of slowing down and will likely accelerate in some areas. The specific technology and in some instances, the processes, are less important than having the right talent and expertise— that’s where organisations can gain a competitive advantage. But keeping technology priorities on track, on time and aligned to strategy won’t be easy. They won’t get there overnight, but if organisations get creative with their talent strategies, they can build a foundation for lasting success.
Driving meaningful change with inclusive workplace practices
The headlines today are filled with glowing proclamations about a company’s commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity. This focus is long overdue. While on the surface it seems like we’re making progress, there’s still work to be done. The good news is that according to PwC’s D&I Benchmarking Survey 75% of APAC organisations surveyed said that D&I is a stated value or priority.3
Companies that proclaim their intentions to address racial, sex and gender inequalities and cure social ills should be commended. But those noble efforts often amount to little more than a slogan or a feel-good story for investors. Companies are not intentionally sabotaging these efforts, of course, but their focus often does little but reinforce inequities in hiring. If we’re being honest, current attempts to build a more diverse IT workforce do not work. If they did, we’d see a dramatic improvement in diversity in IT; the fact that we haven’t speaks volumes. Meaningful change will never take place if companies don’t fundamentally change the hiring and retention systems that perpetuate inequities.
In some ways, building an inclusion and diversity strategy is the easy part; the tactical execution of these strategies is where organisations struggle. IT teams are under deadline pressure and already struggle to attract and retain talent. Simply telling HR, hiring managers and recruiters to send more diverse candidates doesn’t solve the root problem. Leadership must promote and support a culture where teams feel empowered to be intentional about their goal to create an inclusive environment; where employees feel safe and can envision a future career in the organisation—no matter their race, sex, gender, religion or ethnicity. Leaders must build a culture where every employee is encouraged to be their authentic self at work and, most importantly, leadership must model that same behaviour.
Activating an inclusion and diversity strategy that truly makes a difference can seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to change everything all at once. Start small. Empower your teams. Evaluate your systems and make adjustments that will drive meaningful change.
The right tech talent, right now
The fact is successful digital transformation requires the right skills and expertise and must be addressed in a holistic way. In many respects, the talent required simply doesn’t exist, at least not in the volume that enterprises need to drive their digital initiatives forward. Organisations that fall into a trap of continually trying to fill technical talent gaps piecemeal are ignoring the bigger problem, failing to create a talent experience that meets the needs and desires of the workforce as a whole.
The good news is that proliferation of remote work models has completely changed the talent landscape for the better. Top tech talent wants opportunities where employers offer flexibility—but it doesn’t stop there. They want to understand how you’re integrating remote and onsite workers. What is the experience during collaboration meetings? What kind of technology is being used to create a seamless experience for everyone? Fully integrating remote and onsite talent is critical for your future workforce. Organisations that don’t support hybrid work models will limit their capacity to engage top talent.
Compensation, perks and benefits are all part of the talent attraction and retention puzzle, but top talent wants and needs more. They need to see a roadmap for their career. To really stand out and become an employer of choice, organisations must work to create career roadmaps and professional development plans that illustrate the opportunities for tech talent.
Future-proof your IT workforce
The technologies and processes that fuel growth are critical enablers of your business. But without the skills and abilities of your workforce, those technologies and processes are meaningless. Leading organisations are evolving their workforce development strategies based on the strategic goals of the business. They’re asking themselves what skills are required to achieve these goals today and what skills are needed for the future. This skills mapping process illuminates core themes that reveal where there’s a skills surplus or skills gap. Armed with that knowledge, the company can target programmes to grow skills where needed or shift resources to build for the future. For example, you could be top-heavy with backend development skills but lack enough frontend development talent—skills mapping can help you create learning curriculum to target those areas and cultivate the skills you need for the future.
Everyone is adapting to new ways of working; that makes this the ideal moment to begin (or continue) adapting and transforming your talent strategies, so you can meet your people where they are and support them as they learn and grow their career. Provide employees the tools they need to seamlessly and easily learn, so they can be more productive in their job. Build continuous learning mechanisms into everything you’re doing. That creates learning and development opportunities that connect directly to the business challenges your teams are solving for every day. Encourage employees to fearlessly experiment and test new technologies, processes and ways of working, so they can learn from both successes and failures. These are the hallmarks of a really good learning culture.
Workforce development is an essential element of any solid talent strategy, but it requires more than just building a robust education curriculum. Getting workforce development right also requires a shift in how the company delivers learning opportunities so that they are available and accessible when and how your employees want. Employees expect companies to prepare them to thrive in a technology-driven future, where acquiring new skills is essential to remaining relevant. Organisations that establish a learning culture and encourage intellectual curiosity will be better positioned to attract, retain and cultivate the skills they need to succeed.