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A People-First Approach to Digital Transformation

A People-First Approach to Digital Transformation

Changes in the world of work, evolving employee expectations and advances in technology are creating a perfect storm that is transforming the modern workforce and workplace. Pitched against a backdrop of growing skills gaps, the pressures for organisations to rethink their talent approach and systems is intense – because organisations need to be fit for the future.

Nobody is saying that technology is not important. However, success in digital transformation is about ensuring your people are ready for the future of work – getting the best people, in the right roles, being the best they can be. But how prepared are talent management agendas for this fast-moving world?

The answer for most organisations appears to be that they are not.

In our latest research with over 500 HR leaders, a whopping 68% said their HR systems were not fit for the modern workforce. Also, from research we ran in partnership with SumTotal in 2017, all aspects of people development – from learning to career development to talent succession – seem to be in disarray at a time when organisations need to be truly on top of their game.

However, as the September 2018 World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report says, there is an imperative to reskill and upskill our people to keep pace with the changing demands of work.

Eighty-seven percent of our research respondents highlight that skills gaps are going to increase significantly in the future.  Moreover, with the dearth of skills, the war for talent can only intensify. But, it’s not just about seeking employees with the right skills and attitudes, employers have a critically important role in developing those skills themselves!

Essentially, the best way of making sure that you are not increasingly fighting for ever scarcer resources is to grow your own. Investing in your people is going to become essential for the success of organisations for tomorrow. This is not just about the jobs of today!

Employee development is becoming a matter of survival

Across a variety of studies including our Transforming Talent in the Modern Workforce Report, the message is clear: personal and professional development and career progression are the top drivers for why people want to work for an organisation.

Whilst there has been much focus put on informal learning – encompassed by models of 70:20:10 and the growing clamour for micro-learning – what we must not overlook, is the importance of formal structures and strategies to support employees on their development and career journeys.

Whether that is through formalised career structures or individual talent review cycles that encourage employees to manage their career direction and build their expertise. It’s more than having a development plan though; it’s about investing in individuals’ succession and progression, talent pooling and bringing internal employee mobility and talent management from the upper echelons and top-tier talent, to the broader workforce. As the chart below shows, employee development and career progression rate higher than the swathe of factors embracing modern working practice, brand, reputation and organisational culture.

However, just recognising the importance of personal and professional development is not enough.

HR needs to mobilise stakeholders to accelerate talent development in the modern world

But, if, as we have seen here, the imperatives for changing talent management are so great, why are so many organisations lagging in the race? What’s holding them back? Moreover, what did the organisations who are more advanced have to overcome to succeed?

The reasons are simple. People and organisations change when they feel the pain of not doing so. Alternatively, the wiser ones anticipate the pain and move before it hurts. Essentially, to move from where you are today, you need to identify your burning platform. The challenge is that the size of the flames of the talent management platform for organisations is not always apparent.

But finding this clarity is critical. Significant barriers cited in our research include a lack of organisational urgency around talent management and time constraints. It is simply a matter of priority. In only 16% of cases is organisational culture not a barrier to changing talent management approaches to make it more useful for the modern workforce.

88% find other priorities and time an issue 

86% find managers’ skills and attitudes a major issue 

Also, with this lack of commitment, comes underinvestment in change with 82% reporting investment as a barrier to delivering the talent management solutions required by a modern workforce. With this in mind, HR’s key role needs to be to mobilise the commitment of its decision makers and stakeholders to act now and begin to transform their approach to talent management today- to prepare for tomorrow. Without this, HR will continue to find funding for change as a critical barrier to providing the talent management required to attract, develop and retain the skilled modern workforce they desire. It’s a big task. One that HR and L&D professionals should be much more assertive about.

HR professionals need to use this perfect storm of changing workforce, skills gap, war for talent and the need for upskilling and reskilling, as a reason to step up and start asking questions of their board and directors. Pointed questions about where their organisation has the biggest risks and how it should get on the front foot to make these challenges more of an opportunity than an impending problem. It’s not about asking for a seat at the table; it’s about taking a seat at the table. If you don’t now, it will be too late.

SumTotal and I are hosting A People First Approach to Digital Transformation webinar on Thursday, November 29th. Please join us as I explore what data you need to succeed and why talent management is a strategic driver for success.





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