Depending on who you listen to, it’s easy to start seeing talent and technology as fierce opponents. In truth, they’re on the same team. But as digitalisation continues to accelerate, leaders are increasingly recognising that the team is not evenly distributed. While technology is abundant, the digital talent needed to realise its value is scarce.

Digital talent isn’t, of course, limited to those working in technology. It’s a way of doing things that involves a certain mindset, focused on a more fluid, agile, proactive and customer-focused way of working.

We developed our Digital Talent Study to equip organisations with credible information as they navigate their individual paths through digital transformation.

In this article, we share some of the key trends emerging from our 2020 study across APAC to help you design and improve your business strategies and create a new digital standard to attract and retain the best talent to your organisation.

The impact of digital disruption across APAC

It’s clear from our survey that organisations across APAC are feeling the impact of digitalisation, with 88 percent of companies feeling the impact predominantly in their internal processes as well as on structure (69 percent), organisational culture (67 percent) and approach to market (64 percent).

When it comes to jobs, 87 percent report that digitalisation is impacting the content of existing jobs. Over half (55 percent) said it’s creating new jobs and around a third (30 percent) said it’s reducing jobs.

These findings are perhaps unsurprising. We know digital transformation is on the mind of every CEO, especially after the digital acceleration in 2020. In an IBM study, 60% of respondents reported they have accelerated their transformation strategies and 66% completing initiatives that previously encountered resistance.

Attracting, engaging and rewarding digital talent

With the large-scale adoption of digital transformation technologies brought about by the pandemic, organisations have become more trusting of what tech can do for them. But they also realise that they need people with the digital mindset and capabilities to translate these technologies into business success. The problem is, the competition for talent is fierce, and organisations are failing to attract and retain the people they need. Our Talent Survey shows that 83 percent of respondents are facing scarcity of talent, and 70 percent confirmed that their inability to meet candidates’ expectations is their biggest challenge.

The competition for digital talent is fierce. Organisations are failing to attract and retain the people they need. Click To Tweet

Here are some recommendations to overcome this hurdle.

Build a culture that supports digital transformation

Organisations outside of the IT, tech and startup sectors are on the back foot when it comes to attracting digital talent. Often the perception is that more traditional businesses don’t offer the right culture for digital talent to innovate and succeed. And it’s not only perception – 42 percent of organisations recognised in our survey that their employer brand is inadequate to attract digital talent and 33 percent said they don’t have a digital climate.

In our survey, 42 percent of organisations recognised that their employer brand is inadequate to attract digital talent and 33 percent said they don’t have a digital climate. Click To Tweet

To combat this, organisations need to develop a brand and culture conducive to digital transformation. Leadership must set the tone, embracing more agile processes and mindsets to change ways of working.

Digitalise the recruitment experience 

One way of building the employer’s digital brand is through the earliest touchpoints in the employee experience – the recruitment process.

This might mean digitalising the process itself – utilising tech to create a digital recruitment experience as well as adding substance of the process, through integrating more tech-related recruitment steps (e.g. hackathons) and connecting candidates with your top tech talents to inspire them.

QR code and SMS-based solutions can be used to empower candidates, by enabling them to apply for vacancies quickly and easily through their mobile devices. Bots can also be used to reach out to candidates about specific vacancies and start taking them through the screening process.

Promote continuous learning

All (100 percent) of the respondents to our survey recognised that the ‘possibility of career paths and development’ is important or very important in motivating and retaining digital professionals. In addition, 99 percent recognised the importance of ‘learning new skills – technical and/or behavioural.’.

Organisations are already responding to this trend - 82 percent of our survey respondents said they are working on upskilling existing employees. It’s important to note that while creating upskilling opportunities is now a common practice in most organisations, upskilling primarily focuses on helping employees become more skilled at their current position, new requirements of the positions or the next position in their career ladder.

But to build a future pipeline of digital talent, improving employee effectiveness at their current jobs is not enough. Companies also have to focus on reskilling. Upskilling and reskilling are words usually used interchangeably but there is a subtle differencebetween them. Reskilling is “the process of learning new skills so you can do a different job, or of training people to do a different job.” With AI and automation revolutionising and disrupting established roles and professions at an unprecedented pace, reskilling has become an indispensable practice for a company to remain competitive in the space of talent scarcity. We need to realise we have talents within the company – we just need to better equip them for the future.

In addition, to stand out in terms of creating continuous learning opportunities, organisations have to look beyond traditional learning programs and offer space to digital talent to learn and experiment. ‘Space’ here includes assigning a budget for those experiments and allowing for mistakes – in this way you show real commitment to constant learning.

Develop a compelling total reward package

Our survey findings show that it’s not common for companies to have a separate reward and benefits policy for digital talent. However, to mitigate the scarcity of talent, 67 percent of companies offer additional incentives above their standard pay policies, including sign-on bonuses, additional fixed payments or premiums for market scarcity.

Over the longer term, organisations need to think about what their unique offering can include when things like company share packages and other items favoured by startups which might now be off the table.

Strategies for attracting, retaining and engaging digital talent need to go beyond salaries. Focusing on salaries alone is not a long-term solution to build a pipeline of digital talent for the future. Paying more (up to a point) for talent is always possible, but competitors can and will do the same.  Instead, we encourage organisations to look holistically at their business and their EVP. Organisations need to know that reward is a threshold requirement for most digital talent, rather than an internal motivator. 

Organisations need to know that reward is a threshold requirement for most digital talent, rather than an internal motivator. Click To Tweet

Plan for the future

To ensure company demand for talent and specific capabilities in the future are fulfilled, HR today must develop a strong understanding of the business’ needs and think far more strategically about hiring and development requirements. They need to be asking questions like:

  • How will our business evolve? What tasks will have to be delivered in the future?
  • Which of them will be automated?
  • What capabilities and skills will we need in five years?
  • What is the best way to acquire new capabilities? Buy? Train? Outsource?
  • Which jobs can evolve in a new direction?
  • Which employees can learn the new skills needed by the business?

Technology also helps here. Workforce planning tools with predictive analytics can help anticipate supply and demand for certain skills, significantly reducing forecast error rates. 

While technology has a key role to play in digital transformation, it can’t be a standalone solution. It’s only when you put people first that you can plan more effectively for the future and build a digital culture that will attract the right talent and inspire employees to perform at their best. This is the new digital standard for talent.

To learn more about digital talent trends, download the Korn Ferry Digital Talent Study 2020 for APAC.


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About the contributor

Miroslawa, heads the Asia Pacific for Pay and Engagement Delivery. She leads a regional team that runs employee engagement surveys, using the results to support organisational strategy application and action planning workshops. Mirka has over sixteen years of experience in helping clients analyse reward trends. Her expertise includes linking engagement data and building employee engagement programs to support business performance.

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