Four steps to digital transformation: People

9 August 2018

Through our conversations with CEOs and Executive Team members we have identified four essential ingredients for digital transformation. In last month’s article we addressed the importance of Culture. In this, the third of four articles, we address the importance of People.

Traditional businesses should look for people who are credible amongst the Digerati. Senior executives need to be able to set the vision and strategic direction with the tactics to get there; have the ability to make the cultural shift; build a team and educate people across the business. They should have strong relationships around the industry to drive this process. Hiring digital professionals who have both start-up and big company experience affords companies an advantage.

According to a serial digital entrepreneur and Board advisor, in addition to appointing exceptional digital talent it is also important, initially, to move the best talent from the legacy business to the digital operation. Engaging and preparing careers for high performers in order to grow future talent is essential and lower risk. There can be a risk in hiring people externally as it takes them time to assimilate themselves with the business, so organisations need to understand who their top talent is – the ‘A players’ and high potentials – and have clear retention strategies for their top talent.

Make Digital Organisational-wide
According to a former digital executive and current CEO, truly successful digital businesses ensure that digital capability is prevalent across all areas of the business. This necessitates a need for a person’s digital technical skills to be fully evaluated irrespective of the discipline they are being appointed into, whether it is IT, Marketing or Sales, etc. In order to support this process, ‘live interviews’, where candidates are presented with a problem with real data and given a specific timeframe to present back their recommendations, allows for more rigorous assessment, which can be extremely insightful and helpful. For example, are they able to deal with the information in real-time under pressure and think on their feet? How do they frame their response? Does their response show authority in the space? Genuine digital people love the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, so this approach can work well from a recruitment perspective.

The Right Personal Qualities
In addition to having credibility in delivering, they must also possess the softer skills (diplomacy and interpersonal skills) – the characteristics of the individual are equally as important as skills. The digital leader is a change agent, so there needs to be a level of impatience in what they do. They need to be non-hierarchical and collaborative, with the ability to empower and inspire others to succeed, rather than being introverted and concerned with self-preservation. The psychological make-up of the archetypal digital professional tends to be left brain and orientated towards analytical (less command and control; more customer centric); and innovative, working across the business, rather than in a silo – this all requires the right culture and organisational structure to enable it.

Lay Out the Digital Future
To do this, it is important to lay out a statement of intent and principles that the organisation will stand by; to define clear, manageable and realistic priorities to implement immediately and for the future that will make the biggest positive contribution. At this stage, it is essential to conduct a thorough assessment of the existing team against both current and future business needs to determine where the gaps are and how they may be addressed. Often there is no ‘silver bullet’ and a combination of interim and permanent recruitment along with developing internal capabilities is required.

In our final article, we explore the importance of Leadership.

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