Incumbents may think that the key to successfully transforming their established company into a digital business lies solely in their effective integration of technology, but surprisingly few realize the importance of an equally essential, yet often overlooked element of a successful digital transformation: people.
The fact is that building and sustaining a thriving digital business depends to a significant extent on people-based factors such as leadership mindset, workforce capabilities, and organizational structure—and companies who ignore the human element of a digital transformation do so at their peril. With this warning in mind, a recent article from Gartner offers 10 critical insights on talent management that every would-be digital business needs to know. The following is a comprehensive list gleaned from more than a decade of research into digital talent practices and strategy.
Any decision made about the organization and the people in it must be driven by a clearly defined digital strategy that springs from a compelling vision. It’s important for businesses to think holistically and long-term here; by creating a strong digital business vision, companies can better understand how going digital will impact their business, and they can then plan for how they will help and support their people in dealing with those effects.
Mindset and competencies are more important than skill when it comes to giving businesses a digital performance edge. Skills can be learned, but attitudes are usually much more difficult to shift. Businesses need to focus on the people rather than the technology, deciding on what core competencies they need on their team—like innovation, accountability, or risk-taking— and keeping those in focus all across the talent process, from initial recruitment to performance assessment.
Top-down leadership is increasingly out of place in the current digital landscape. Rather than the command-and-control style of previous eras, what’s proving more successful for digital businesses today is an enable-and-collaborate approach. The fast-paced demands of digital business often require employees to take initiative and act quickly without always seeking permission first; a new leadership style that emphasizes collaboration can help give workers the support and authority they need to be most effective.
Organizing and mobilizing people in the world of digital business is all about agility. Companies can start by identifying the role that IT will play in the company’s new digital landscape, and can move from there to organizing the elements that require optimization. It’s important not to overlook how changes like these will affect other aspects of the business.
Versatilists, or employees with a broad range of skills and competencies, are an essential ingredient for a successful digital transformation, and yet many organizations don’t have enough of these people on their team to move forward. To help address this, companies can conduct an evaluation of internal skill sets to better ascertain talent gaps and strengths, and to identify potential versatilists who can be groomed for future progress within the company. External hiring to boost the versatilist quotient can also be a helpful move.
Diversity is not just a buzzword, but a vital business strategy. It’s a fact that a diverse workforce is more likely to generate a range of different ideas and come up with the most innovative solutions. As such, businesses with more homogenous workforces are likely to fall behind competitively. Organizations can increase their diversity by identifying barriers to inclusion and developing ways to overcome those obstacles, and by leveraging technologies like workplace analytics to help advance workplace parity.
Effective digital businesses use digital tools to help boost employee engagement and streamline activities. However, some of these digital tools are better at responding strategically to workplace changes than others, so businesses need to be sure they are using technologies appropriate to their workplace situation.
HR and IT must come together to give digital businesses the edge. Although these two departments have long been isolated from each other, the demands of the digital age mean that technological talent and business intelligence must learn to work together to ensure that hired talent matches with digital business needs. Workforce analytics capabilities can be a huge asset here.
Social media and other non-traditional recruitment options are the new normal when it comes to finding new talent. Candidates with the necessary digital expertise are in high demand, and so companies must cast their net wide to find the people they need. Creative recruiting strategies used by successful digital businesses include hackathons, contests, and thought leadership events.
Just as the nature of performance is changing for today’s digital businesses, so too is the nature of performance reviews. New dynamic teams that are working together in a different way and are contributing new value to the digital business can’t be assessed using old methods; instead, tools that support new approaches like frequent performance feedback, tailored personalized development, and visibility of accomplishments are best.