Talent strategies for the digital age

Talent strategies for the digital age

Work in the digital age is changing — radically and rapidly. Results of Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey suggest that the ways organisations attract and develop talent worldwide also need to change.

The vast majority (86%) of the nearly 10,000 survey respondents across 119 countries said their organisations must reinvent their capacity to learn. Almost as many believe workforce experience must be rethought to improve productivity (84% of respondents) and leaders must be developed differently (80%).

Technology is at the heart of many workplace changes.

Automation is increasingly making many jobs more data-driven and machine-powered. Freelance and contract work is on the rise, and more and more workers are paid by the task as technological advances alter where, when, and how services are rendered. This alternative workforce and disruptive digital business models support more team-based work practices and flatter hierarchies, which require leadership adept in dealing with more ambiguity and comfortable with adjusting to rapid change and engaging with internal and external stakeholders.

By itself, technology is no magic solution, said David Swanz, head of contingent workforce solutions, Americas, at UK-based global recruitment firm Alexander Mann Solutions. “Without a firm understanding of innate human drivers that influence the behaviours of employees and candidates, investment in digital tools is unlikely to have any meaningful impact on the success of talent strategies.”

Manjit Biant, ACMA, CGMA, is a UK-based finance function trainer and university lecturer who works globally. He suggested the key for finance managers is not to fight automation and artificial intelligence (AI) but to exploit them by focusing more on strategy and the things that technology cannot do well.

Finance managers and HR professionals may need to convince C-suite leaders of the necessity to reform organisational culture, Biant said. “I was in that situation,” he said. “Fortunately, the senior leadership realised that they needed to change from hierarchical to flatter to survive in a competitive market. You have to recognise and make those changes or become extinct.”

Recruit, retrain, and reward

To evolve talent recruitment and retention and not fall behind as the work environment changes, Deloitte, Biant, and Swanz suggest organisations consider these digital age strategies:

Recruitment. Recruitment was an important issue for 70% of respondents in the Deloitte survey. Their biggest challenge was finding qualified experienced hires (61%), followed by identifying full-time talent with the right skills (37%) and finding qualified entry-level hires (34%).

One strategy to counter recruitment challenges is to mobilise internal resources. An internal hire doesn’t have to be a perfect fit to be offered a chance for professional development and growth. An organisation can reskill an internal hire for a fraction of the cost of hiring an external candidate.

A second strategy is to recruit from the alternative workforce. “Default to hiring full-time is outdated and redundant,” Swanz said. “Make it default that all roles have the potential to be temporary, permanent, remote, or job share, and there will be more applicants — and technology is key to managing this change.”

Social networking platforms, for example, can be useful to tap the alternative workforce, he suggested.

A third strategy is for organisations to upgrade their talent recruitment technology. Only 6% of the respondents in the Deloitte survey rated their recruitment technology and processes as best-in-class; 81% rated them standard or below standard. More than half of respondents expected to increase the use of technology for searching, screening, assessing, and selecting talent in the next three years.

Learning and training. Technological advances such as AI and robotics are expected to change work demands and skills requirements. More than one-third of respondents in the Deloitte survey (38%) said they will eliminate jobs due to automation in the next three years. Ninety per cent of respondents said their organisations are redesigning jobs. About one-fourth of C-suite executives polled in the survey said they are reskilling their workforces.

One strategy to promote continued learning is for top leaders to become mentors and coaches, Biant suggested. “That takes a mental change. Training and development for senior leadership does need to take place for that to happen.”

Another strategy is to build work-centred learning programmes that help workers upgrade their skills in the course of their day-to-day jobs. These programmes could involve virtual learning with the help of augmented reality devices, easy-to-digest training modules that can be consumed when it is convenient for the worker, or training that is integrated into teamwork.

Rewards. Rewards are most useful as a workforce strategy for full-time workers, as 51% of respondents said their organisation’s rewards are effective or very effective for accommodating the needs of full-time workers. That dropped to 35% for part-time workers and 28% for alternative workers.

One strategy to make incentive programmes work better is to let workers customise rewards, which then can be earned through individual, team, or company-wide achievements. A second strategy involves letting business leaders own the rewards budget and allocate it as necessary to promote retention and performance. A third strategy provides transparency about pay, which allows workers to take different roles in the organisation, moving up, down, or laterally.

— Paul Gosling is a freelance writer based in the UK. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Sabine Vollmer, an FM magazine senior editor, at