But many organizations are coming to a gun-fight armed only with a knife
In the war for digital talent, one killer statistic stands out: an alarming 90% of companies lack digital skills[i]That statistic alone should spur even the most apathetic of organizations into action. However, many are not heeding the warning signs: only 46% of companies are investing in digital skills and only 4% of companies we interviewed are aligning their training efforts with their digital strategy. This is a surprising and worrying trend, particularly given that skills are so key to success in the new digital economy.
Inaction is not the only issue – innovation is also a concern. Many organizations continue to lean on traditional methods to build skills, such as recruitment drives and training. More radical methods (such as targeted company acquisitions) and more innovative approaches (such as setting up start-up incubators) are relatively unused, with just 13% of companies tapping into such approaches[ii].
This conservatism is surprising given the success stories that exist. Walmart Labs is a good example of an organization that has built a strategic acquisition portfolio of mobile, social and technology firms. These companies have ranged from mobile-related agencies focused on product development — Small Society, search engine Kosmix, point-of-sale development startup Grabble — to a real-time search engine called OneRiot[iii]. These targeted acquisitions build skills in key technology areas across the business.
Similarly, on the incubator front, the Nike+ Accelerator program provides selected start-ups with the opportunity to develop products on the Nike+ and NikeFuel platforms. Chosen companies get support and access to Nike’s development tools, office facilities and technical platforms. Nike also supports these companies by providing access to Nike executives and external mentors[iv]. This sort of incubator approach gives you access to talent that would be difficult to source through traditional means.
Innovation does not need to stop with acquisition and incubation. Consumer goods major P&G entered into an employee exchange program with Google. The initiative was launched to scale up its Internet marketing initiatives, and enable cross-pollination of skills[v].
At the beginning of this piece, we intimated that companies are coming to the digital skills battle seriously under-armed – essentially trying to win a gun-fight armed only with a knife. This is because the old approaches are no longer tenable. Even the skill-sets and DNA of today’s talent are changing. Today, and increasingly so in the future, technical talent will need to speak the language of the business while business professionals must have a complete understanding of IT, way beyond a vague grasp of the right acronyms. Markus Nordlin, the CIO of Zurich Insurance, sums it up perfectly: “I believe that the successful leaders of tomorrow, in any business or industry, are going to be true hybrid professionals who have spent some time in IT but have shifted to operations and vice-versa.[vi]” The quest for such “hybrid professionals” is already underway – 50% of new marketing hires in 2013 came equipped with technical backgrounds[vii].
Building these new talent pools requires a new approach and new weapons in your armoury. It’s a different battle-ground and a fierce one, not least because of the chronic shortage of digital talent. To understand how to arm yourself properly for the battle ahead, please read our full paper on the subject, The Digital Talent Gap: Developing Skills for Today’s Digital Organizations.