Talent, not technology, is the key to success in a digital future

talent 2019

(Unsplash, 2019)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Scott Snyder, Partner, Heidrick & Struggles


When it comes to translating technological innovations into real business results, technology is relatively easy to come by; it is talent that is often the limiting factor.

Companies have to simultaneously fill today’s roles and plan for future ones, most of them non-existent at the moment. Indeed, in a survey we conducted for the forthcoming book Goliath’s Revenge we found that only 27% of small companies and 29% of large companies believe they have the right talent for digital transformation.

Through our research we also uncovered six strategies companies can employ to ensure they have the people to accelerate digital innovation.

1. Honour institutional knowledge

Though it can be tempting to focus on new technical talent in a digital transformation, the better approach is a model that integrates new digital talent with the domain knowledge that comes from legacy employees. And it’s important to provide the right structures, incentives, and rewards to enable high performance in these integrated teams.

2. Go beyond the three ‘D’s of digital roles and skillsets

Beyond the designers, developers, and data scientists that everyone is battling for today, companies must explore what new roles are likely to emerge in digital disruptors. These may include product incubation managers, behavioural scientists, journey mappers, business modellers, solution finders, and emerging tech specialists. Maybe soon you’ll need an AI specialist in your HR department – and if you will, the time to think about it is now.

3. Invest in preemptive skill development

Once you’ve identified the skills and roles, invest in building the right talent ecosystem, which will typically include internal people, external hires, partners, and freelancers. It will be critical to empower your employees with continuous digital learning programmes, job mobility, and skill grafting to retool themselves and play their part in transforming your organization.

4. Groom “venture general managers” to scale your innovation opportunities

Most general managers who are skilled at running an existing business unit or function don’t have the necessary entrepreneurial or digital skills to also drive a disruptive innovation opportunity. The ideal leadership profile for people driving those parts of the business, especially for future roles, is what we call a “balanced T” venture general manager.

These managers favour skills such as capital raising, design thinking, lean startup execution, calculated risk taking, creating go-to-market strategies, and venture scaling, in balance with product and technology expertise that is directly relevant to the market being pursued. Beyond these competencies, venture general managers, or “intrapreneurs” possess an entrepreneur’s mindset along with the savvy and domain knowledge to navigate the typical corporate blockers and incubate and scale a breakthrough opportunity.

5. Optimize the AI-human balance

If you want to truly keep up with the deluge of AI-based applications and innovation opportunities, you need to quickly find an equilibrium between machines and people. To make the best use of your data, you need to classify which activities should be optimized for machines, which for humans, and which for a hybrid model. This classification involves difficult decisions about reskilling, shaping talent, and ensuring your workforce is the correct size in the face of a future dominated by AI. Putting off this classification effort allows your competitors time to gain an advantage that will be hard to overcome later.

6. Improve the digital dexterity of your leadership team

Digital dexterity is a measure of how well leaders and teams demonstrate awareness of technology, customer focus, disruptive innovation, an experimental mindset, and a passion for rapid execution. It focuses on the attributes an organization needs to have across its leadership team to enable a two-speed organization – one that is both executing on the current business model and evolving towards a more digital future.

Rather than try to find one digital saviour to own digital transformation, evolve the individual roles of your senior team (as shown in the table below) to leverage digital dexterity and win in a digital future.

Towards successful disruption

Obviously, reshaping your workforce to thrive under digital disruption is a challenge, especially given that the digital future is a moving target. And talent, we’ve found, is only one of six major areas companies need to change to create a long-term competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The others include delivering step-change customer outcomes, pursuing breakthrough and continuous innovation, using your data as currency, accelerating through innovation networks, and reframing your purpose.

It’s a tall order. But starting by having the right people with the right skills in the right roles to win will far outweigh picking the right technology, algorithm, or cool startup to work with. So make sure you get the human part right.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

The world’s e-waste is a huge problem. It’s also a golden opportunity

Is it true that the G20 wants to arrest tax evasion of multinationals?

Climate change is a security threat. We must act now

Youth Entrepreneurship Issue of the month: JEN, organisers of JADE October Meeting, on why JEs should come together

Anti-vaccination scaremongering: What should we know about anti-vaccine argument?

Connectivity and collaboration in the ICT industry: the key to socio-economic development

We can’t rid Asia of natural disasters. But we can prepare for them

A bad marriage can be as unhealthy as smoking and drinking

Multiculturalism, social diversity and tolerance

France and Germany can’t reach consensus regarding EU’s top jobs

This is why mountains matter more than you think

Why is the World Health Organisation so much needed?

Syrian Government’s ‘different understanding’ of UN role, a ‘very serious challenge’ – Special Envoy

Human rights: breaches in Russia, the Rakhine State and Bahrain

3 ways to fight stress at work

What UK and EU risk if Brexit “wins” these elections

Human rights breaches in Hong Kong, Russia and at the US-Mexican border

UN, world leaders, condemn Sri Lanka terrorist attacks targeting churches, hotels, which leave more than 200 dead

Monday’s Daily Brief: Independent UN experts on Myanmar, UN chief renounces attacks in US, Libyan airport violence, UN spokesperson on Kashmir, and FAO and Italy on development

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: “Am I a real Boy?”

Cleantech innovation is being stifled. Here’s how to unlock it

Tunisia wants to change inheritance rules to boost gender equality

Resisting EU budget cuts

Italy solves the enigma of growth with fiscal consolidation: The Banking Union

Norway initiates WTO dispute complaint against US steel, aluminium duties

This is what Belgium’s traffic-choked capital is doing about emissions

ILO: Unemployment to increase by 8.1 million in 2013-2014

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: hate speech, dementia, Libya and Yemen, human rights in Brazil and Lebanon

Implementation of tax transparency initiative delivering concrete and impressive results

The next talent opportunity for the digital workplace? Neurodiversity

MWC 2016 LIVE: Industry looks to reduce mobile gender gap

What cryptocurrencies will do to the integrity of politics

How to create responsible supply chains in the age of globalization 4.0

G20 LIVE: “Our response needs to be robust…otherwise we will only find the fire we are trying to put out”, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just lit up G20 in Antalya Turkey

Member States agree to Commission proposal to support Irish beef producers impacted by market uncertainty

Darfur: Inter-communal tensions still high despite improved security, Mission head tells Security Council

5 facts you should know about the world’s refugees

UN must bring more women police officers into the fold to be effective – UN peacekeeping official

Antitrust: Commission imposes binding obligations on Gazprom to enable free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets

This Japanese TV show about work-life balance is a big hit – here’s why

The new North America trade deal USMCA punishes German cars

It’s time for financial services to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Here’s why

Traditional knowledge at ‘core’ of indigenous heritage, and ‘must be protected’, says UN Forum

UN rushes to deliver aid as key Yemeni port city is ‘shelled and bombarded’

NEC @ European Business Summit 2014: The Digitally Enabled Grid

INTERVIEW: Poverty, education and inclusion top new General Assembly President’s priority list

Eurozone: How can 200 banks find €400 billion?

A sterilised EMU may lead to a break up of Eurozone

More ‘political commitment’ needed urgently for HIV prevention: UNAIDS chief

Overseas investment falling, developing countries largely unscathed: UN trade agency

INTERVIEW: ‘Defend the people, not the States’, says outgoing UN human rights chief

Ebola fight ongoing amid evidence of ‘several massacres’ in DR Congo’s Ituri province

Four lessons for a successful switch to value-based healthcare

Data capture, not disclosure, is the way to meet our climate goals

Ahead of State of the Union the European Youth Forum highlights lack of action on youth employment

How populist and xenophobic movements in the EU tear apart European businesses and startups

On Google antitrust case: “Let’s face it, some companies want to hurt Google and it goes as simple as that”

This is the state of the world’s health, in numbers

UN court increases sentence of former Bosnian-Serb leader to life imprisonment

EU makes key TTIP document public as protests get louder

More Stings?

Comments

  1. Excellent article Scott. I wrote a Linkedin article highlighting the observations in my field of what I call a “knowledge gap”. Even though we know we should retain institutional knowledge, the change in the market diluted the legacy employees leaving this gap. New technology emerging give us a sense of confidence however, if you look below the surface of reporting you will find very little retention of the origins of the knowledge. Do you think that as technology becomes more dominant that we as humans will become disengaged from the original algorithms?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s