The talent conversation is one of the hottest in the boardroom today. The digital tidal wave has created skill and capability gaps, with new roles that we couldn’t have predicted would even exist just a few years ago. It’s particularly hard felt in the marketing technology world where there are real concerns over whether or not there is enough talent to go around.
With the ever-increasing number of tech start-ups, expanding global tech vendors and enterprises transforming for the digital age, there’s a finite number of people with the right skillset at any one time. As CEO of Cognifide, I’ve worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, helping them to build a capability to deliver exceptional customer experiences 24/7.
So when your organization brings in or trains individuals with the right skills, it is vital to hold on to them for the long-haul, without getting into a salary arms race. Millennials and Gen Z are more focused than any generation before them on the lifestyle that an employer can offer them. Flexible working, company culture, training and an organization’s ethical and environmental stance are all subject to scrutiny. As the CEO, setting the appropriate culture and priorities will be key to keeping an attractive employee brand and a competitive talent advantage.
Faced with a lack of highly skilled knowledge around particular technologies, you’ll have to think differently about how you build teams. You won’t necessarily have all the players that you need in your workforce at any one time. At Cognifide, we realized long ago that we wouldn’t find the skills we needed easily in the market, so we doubled down on training and developing graduates or experienced engineers who were up for learning something new.
The best case scenario we’ve found for our clients’ digital project teams is to build a hybrid team of full-time employees, specialist contractors, and partner agencies, supplemented by interns and recent graduates who can develop within the team and become those high-demand workers of the future. Finding the right specialist partners is absolutely key when upskilling your own team on new technologies.
Of course, a collection of highly skilled individuals does not guarantee a well-functioning team. Culture is just as important when it comes to creating teams. Employing members of staff based solely on their technical skill set doesn’t guarantee that chemistry will create a cohesive team. While we have some very technically competent people, it’s not our number one priority when hiring engineers. A greater focus on soft skills and motivation is what helps us create teams with empathy, who care deeply about our company and customer success.
Reinforcing company culture at the on-boarding stage and consistently within teams defines how people treat each other and sets the scene for interaction and good communication. It may seem superfluous to the immediate problem of solving talent gaps but aligning the recruitment process with the day-to-day culture will make for better engaged employees who are more likely to build stronger bonds from the outset and less likely to leave you at a crucial period of delivery.
When it comes to digital marketers, the creators at the helm of experience technologies, the emphasis is often less on specific technical skills and more on finding candidates with the right attitude and a desire to learn. After all, marketing skills are transferable from system to system. It’s the hungry candidates, happy to put the hours in to teach themselves, who will stand out.
A growing trend across digital are skills coalitions; informal communities built for knowledge sharing and skills transfer. They are usually small groups created for mentoring within the workplace. It’s a great way to build some basic knowledge but not an environment in which to gain an in-depth understanding of new skills and techniques. However, it’s this kind of proactive self-service approach that will likely characterize the future spread of specialist skills, alongside more formal training.
A key priority for any CEO in the digital age has to be a focus on keeping highly skilled employees which means keeping them happy. This applies to every stage of an employee’s tenure, from recruitment to exit. And remember, when people leave, keep the relationship in good health; ex-employees can be advocates or terrorists. I know which I’d opt for.