The digital talent arms race


One of the most fashionable business fads these days is for incumbents from traditional industries to claim that they are no longer an (insert your industry here), but a is now tech company. As an example, Domino’s is now claiming to be “a tech company that happens to make pizza.” This may sound noble, but do these incumbents have what it takes when it comes to delivering upon that promise?

A vital component to survive in a digital age, is having the right competence. According to a survey conducted by CapGemini, 90 percent of responding companies were lacking necessary digital skills. As a result, incumbents everywhere are doing everything in their power to attract new talent within various fields of technology. However, there is a vast difference between hiring a bunch of IT-resources and being a technology company at the core. This requires both technical talent to have a strong understanding of business as well as the other way around. Organizations should look for resources who have paid their dues at both the daily operations side and  the technical side of the business.

Future employees will need to combine excellent digital specialist skills with deep functional business knowledge. They should be comfortable with short delivery cycles and able to operate across silos and within cross-functional teams. They need to ensure they are ahead of the technology curve as well as having a profound understanding on how new technology will affect their business.

In order to fill this gap, incumbents are investing massive amounts on digital transformation programs. However, the challenges arise when internal culture, governance structures, corporate hierarchies stay the same. Expecting digital talent to conform to a stale corporate culture is just as meaningful as attempting to force a square peg through a round hole. There are numerous reasons why digital talent do not want to work for your company, and Fast Company created a list of reasons that basically stated that a lot of big companies aren’t structured to deliver on the expectations set when hiring digital talent.

This often boils down to leadership, as true talent thrive when they are given the opportunity to do great things and make a real difference. There is no room for empty promises in this game, and you need to go all in if you want to become a truly digital company.

A digital leader must be able to communicate an overall strategic vision, while at the same time not assume a top-down managerial style. Employees need to feel informed and involved without creating a consensus culture. Decisions should be made on the foundation on facts rather than assumptions, and there should be no room fo re-matches based on internal politics. Leading digital talent is just as much representing your team(s) and following the principles of servant leadership as setting a strategic direction for your company or department.

At the end of the day, all of this is easier said than done. Digital leadership is not appointed, it is earned.



2 thoughts on “The digital talent arms race

  • February 16, 2017 at 10:05 am

    … is not a bookstore, but a logistics company (and more), DNB here is Norway says they are a technology company not a bank, and the list goes on.

    One challenge is to understand all the 12 Gutenberg moments happening at the same time, but even more challenging is the question: how do we transform from a bank or a pizza bakery to a technology company?
    – innovation from within or spin-out new companies?
    – from “waterfall thinking” to agile processes (Lean Innovation/MVP)
    – from fear of failing to celebrating and learning from failure
    – sharing ideas openly (even with competitors)?

    Innovative leaders from public- and private sector meet March 16th in a “by invitation only workshop” on Aker Brygge (Oslo) to discuss this challenge. Contact Truls Berg or Trygve Skibeli if you´re interested knowing more about that workshop.

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