As digital transformation disrupts the workplace, one factor more than any other will determine which companies turn digital to their advantage. That critical element is people: the talented employees who are able to use existing digital technologies and adapt to evolving methods and new approaches. Without these employees, companies will struggle to benefit as they should from the latest advances—everything from Industry 4.0 and robots to artificial intelligence, data science, virtual reality, and new digital business models.
The technologies themselves will be evolving and relatively easy to exchange, but the workers capable of using them will be scarce. In fact, we expect a severe shortfall in digital talent around the world by 2020, when, according to a Gartner study, 30% of tech jobs will be unfilled owing to digital talent shortfalls. According to recent BCG research, even today, the biggest perceived technology challenge is not data security or the need to invest but a lack of qualified employees. Digitally talented people are already so highly in demand that many large, traditional companies must reinvent themselves to attract them. Our research shows that only 25% of the digitally skilled people found in online recruiting databases today are working at companies with 10,000 or more employees.
Companies should respond to this challenge by building new pools of skilled digital employees. To do so, they must understand who these potential employees are, where they can be found, and how they can be attracted and retained. Companies also need to know what kinds of talent can be nurtured within the existing employee base; digital talent must come not only from the acquisition of new personnel for specific jobs but also from the development of digital skills in existing roles.
Lastly, companies must bring the entire organization along on the journey, creating a true digital culture and inculcating in their employees a deep understanding of the company’s digital imperatives and a mastery of select skills across all functions. If the growth in digital talent outpaces the ability of the rest of the workforce to keep up, the company as a whole will be left behind.
To build and retain a strong pool of digital talent, companies must answer four important questions. They need to understand who is available on the market and who makes up the core of digital talent already in place across the business, and they need to identify the new digital job profiles and the number of digital employees required in the near future. They must next understand where to find the required employees over the medium and long term—and how to recruit and retain them. Finally, they need to understand what digital skills need to be nurtured and developed among their existing workers. Without skilled staff, there can be no digital transformation.