Where Is Digital Talent?

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Let’s do an exercise. Let’s think of “talent” just as we understand it in HR and mentally form the first words we associate with it. In our mind’s eye, generic terms like competence, skill and knowledge will file past. Going in deeper, let’s think of the talent our organization needs, also in general terms without going into specific details. Probably the terms that have surfaced so far will now be accompanied by adjectives like international, multicultural, digital… Let’s stop here. We are going to pause at this point to reflect on the next idea, digital talent, and we are going ask ourselves the following questions around this idea: What is the state of the digital competencies of the members of our organization? Is it apt? What are we doing to attract and retain the best digital talent? Do we really know how to manage this?

Immersed in the booming digital economy and well into the 21st century, this ostensibly patent need is part of the great core competencies for the workforce in any organization, regardless of the sector it belongs to. Yet it still continues to pose challenges for managing both talent search and retention.

Digital Literacy


In the 2015 predictions, the famous Bersin report by Deloitte (“Predictions for 2015: Redesigning the Organization for a Rapidly Changing World”) reminds us how important it is to promote and work on competencies, particularly the technical and digital skills, as these directly affect the overall company performance and business success. Similarly it reminds us that the shortage of such skills in the workforce is a critical problem that has been pointed out repeatedly in studies published in recent years.

The study called “The Digital Talent Gap: Developing Skills for Today’s Digital Organizations” by Capgemini Consulting in collaboration with the MIT Center for Digital Business in 2013 analyzed companies around the world. The study backs the Bersin findings and underscores the need to solve a predicament it exposes through the next fact: it is estimated that about 4.4 million jobs will be created the Big Data area in 2015, but only one third of them will be covered. This is just a sample figure; the conclusion of the study reveals an even more compelling data: 77% of companies believe that the lack of digital skills is the main hurdle for their digital transformation. This shortage pervades throughout the organization and it is not confined to technological departments or companies that fall within the ICT sector. Where is the source and how can we fix it?

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves what the level of technological literacy in the current workforce is. To shed light on this, here is some more data drawn this time from the studies conducted last year by the European Commission’s initiative, the Digital Agenda for Europe: 47% of the European population does not have sufficient digital skills and 23% has none of them. The labour force data is more positive, but no less striking: 39% of European workers do not have the necessary digital skills and 14% do not have any.

HR’s hour


The light such data shed so far show quite evidently that the problem is much deeper than it may seem at first sight, and solving it involves far reaching measures to address the problems from the social basis.

What do we do then to guide our company on the digital journey that the reality we live in imposes upon us? While governments and social agents work in their fields, in HR let’s do our bit as far as our considerable possibilities allow us to go.

The Capgemini Consulting study has identified a number of errors in practices for developing digital competencies undertaken by companies, among which notably is the lack of investment. Most of these failures are directly linked to the HR department which is not normally actively involved in the development of these skills and instead concentrates all efforts on promoting traditional skills. Furthermore, selection processes are still performed largely in the traditional way and training plans are not aligned with the digital needs of the organization.

After uttering mea culpa to acknowledge these mistakes, let’s find solutions. Obviously it does not just depend on HR, but the initiative and leadership for change can come from the department. How? By creating a roadmap in collaboration with all areas of the organization—from Marketing to R&D— for the first step towards the digital transformation of the organization: to create a powerful team with the best digital talent.

Going a step further, with the role of the HR Director in mind, we propose this person be one of the main agents of change. I recently had the opportunity to listen to Alberto Díaz, a founding partner of Digital Migration Partners, in a talk he gave at INESDI (Digital Business School) called “The Need for the Digital Transformation of Talent”. Here Diaz pointed out the challenges that an HR manager faces upon undertaking this journey. It seems more than appropriate to share these in this article as an example of a roadmap:

  1. Audit the state of digital talent
  2. Audit the state of the digital organization/culture
  3. Accompany the CEO on this journey
  4. Enable and protect the leader of change
  5. Implement processes
  6. Detect resistance to change
  7. Reconcile the industrial and digital world
  8. Redefine the company mission and values
  9. Adapt the way of working (organization, processes)
  10. Add speed and agility to corporate culture

After this brief analysis and drawing conclusions from these data and examples, will you venture to lead the search for digital talent in your organization?

By Irene Giménez, Content Management Specialist

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