Digital Darwinism Won’t Take Any Prisoners

POSTED: 17.05.2019.

Since I will be leading a round table discussion at NT conference in about a week from now the organizers have asked me to write a blog post – and briefly describe what am I gonna talk about with other panelists. And so I sat behind the keyboard and realized – there is so much to talk about in this limited time frame. Yet I will try my best to deliver key messages the IT industry should be most aware of.

 

IT needs a lot more people. There are plethora of jobs in modern IT world with no suitable candidates to fill these positions. Talent management faces real challenges. The war on talent is definitely on. How will companies attract the best talent? In my role as a GM I am fully aware that my company needs the best possible people it can get. And I also ask myself and our HR department – what are we doing about it? How can we give candidates the best experience? How can we attract, develop, motivate and retain high-performing employees?

 

Automation and AI are not the (right) answers

I know, there are a lot of questions and way less (good) answers. There are several issues to be addressed when it comes to talent management. The first one is skills imbalance. From one side we are hearing that automation and artificial intelligence will take over just about every job that can be automated. Automation is a powerful tool that needs to be handled with care. I can already foresee how automation will further deskill workers, reduce wages and eliminates jobs. I’ve read somewhere that nearly half of the jobs in the US could be automated by 2050! And people are blaming modern technology and digitalization for most of it. But it has to be said, that on the other hand digitalization also created a huge demand for skilled technology experts (for example machine learning experts, mobile solution developers, data scientist, architects, designers, security experts etc.). Still, according to the latest Gartner study, a third of all technology jobs will go unfilled by 2022 because of talent shortfalls. What can we do about it? Well, as people before us we adapt to the new conditions. Digital Darwinism won’t take any prisoners.

 

Different times, different people

Times are changing, that’s for sure. And so are we, the people. As digital natives, the so called millennials and generation Z, are entering the global workforce the work environment changes. These young(er) people have different, new expectations. They are looking for healthy work-life balance and opportunities for self-expression. Their individualism (and strong entrepreneurial spirit) should therefore not be restrained, but companies should enable them to express (articulate) themselves at work and with work. How? Well, I would guess by enabling them to work within agile autonomous teams where team members are empowered and where all opinions are seen as equally valuable.

 

If you have kids, you know this already: youngsters are also harder to please and to engage. In work environments this can be additionally challenging, especially with long term projects and if the new workforce has to work with something it considers outdated (technology or process wise). In order to retain this talent companies should allow them to experiment with new ideas, work part time, integrate education with work, allow work from home, offer career paths with social impact… Money is not the ultimate motive nor answer. Competitive compensation is definitely not enough for the workforce newcomers.

 

Takeaway, anyone? No matter how successful you are in hiring and retaining new talents or re-skilling your existing workforce for the digital age, you will need to engage external resources for specific skills/experience. Your talent pool will soon look way different, especially in the IT industry. One study estimates that freelancers will make up half of the full-time workforce by 2025 (in IT) and we have to get used to that.

 

An agile organization is the answer to business survival in the digital era

Changes are necessary. Digital leaders have to let some old habits go and learn some new behaviors. Agile means employee empowerment rather than rigid hierarchical organization structure. Leaders should drive the digital strategy while at the same time ensuring alignment and employee’s autonomy. Apart from empowering cross functional autonomous teams companies must also build the so-called “fail-fast” innovation culture where failure is an option if it helps to quickly learn things. A tolerance for trial and error approach is much needed. Iteration in project delivery (or product development) ensures immediate customer feedback and implementation of changes. In the big picture – by getting agile companies stay relevant and minimize business risks.

 

Agile also means competing on speed be it responding to competition threats or seeking new business opportunities. If your competitors are able to respond faster than you then I am afraid that “someone else is gonna eat your lunch”. That’s why it is crucial to have employees on board for every new strategic initiative because modern business is a team sport. In the case of internal misalignments or people opposing company’s strategic decisions the game of speed will be lost over and over again.

 

The need for openness

Another challenge of the digital era is how to get the company to openly communicate at scale. Here at least digital technology helps. Every company should create an internal social network for active collaboration of employees where everyone gets a voice. Secondly, transparent conversations should be encouraged. Leaders should become role models and share strategic dilemmas and intentions with the employee network. Finally, instead of problem solving only within dedicated expert teams you should try crowdsourcing your own employees (as broadly as possible) and co-creating solutions. I am sure if Darwin was alive today he would have not settled for anything less.

 

Author: Klod Kolaro
General Manager, Comtrade SII