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Hiring the right talent for your digital transformation

In May 2019, a Sea Bream was contacted by a recruiter for an iOS developer job.

There's an arms race afoot to snag top IT takent, and sometimes it can get out of hand. In an effort to find out how crazy it can get, a software developer created a fake LinkedIn account for a fish. The picture on the account was of a Sea Bream. The description honestly said "It lives under the sea", but the location was less truthfully listed as "Inside of a pineapple". The resume described software development experience, which even for a smart fish would be a tall order. However....... it worked! The fish was hooked by a recruiter (I assume via an automated process) offering to talk about a job worth a $72K salary and $20K bonus.

Now before you go out and start creating fishy profiles on, let me hasten to add that claiming marine heritage is not a good strategy to either land a tech job or to attract the right digital talent. However, the issue of snagging the right talent for digital transformation is real. As companies rush to digitize operations, the race to land the right talent is heating up. What do you do as a leader to gain an edge?

How to Develop a Strong Digital Talent Farm
Infosys did a global study of 1000 leaders to figure out what successful companies are doing to develop digital talent. An HBR article summarizing the results provides important insights.

The key to having great talent for digital transformation is to develop it the old-fashioned way - hire great raw material, develop them and incent them to keep improving. There's a big difference between staffing digital experts in a tech startup and in mature organizations undertaking digital transformation. Here's why.

a. The pace is different: Yes, larger companies would love to emulate the rapid pace of startups, but the reality is that hiring for a current skill (vs. hiring for potential as well) doesn't work well for larger organizations. In any case, since technology changes every couple of years anyway, you're better off hiring someone who is a constant learner.

b. You need to hire for both technology and change management: We know that digital transformation is about 10% technology and 90% organizational change management.  Don't get me wrong - I'm not suggesting we get technically weak people who are strong change leaders. Get strong people who can do both.

c. Digital transformation needs "applied" technology: The most successful digital transformation experts have an extremely solid understanding of the core business, multi-functional processes and the business model itself. They understand that technology is merely a tool do all three of these better.

In closing:

So what exactly should you do to develop great digital talent? The HBR article mentioned above suggests four things. a) Look for potential, not credentials, b) Hire for soft skills in addition to technical ones, c) Hire teams, not just individuals, and d) Incentivize your employees to grow. That's great advice. In addition, I'd suggest that the digital talent game isn't just one of hiring new talent, but of systemically improving digital literacy in the current organization too. While it can exciting to play the game of angling for the biggest fish, let's not forget the #1 rule of digital transformation i.e. it's not a fishing expedition!

Go forth and transform.



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