Future-Proofing Your Talent: How Agile Talent Practices Can Drive Digital Transformation

January 10, 2019 Marinus van Driel

What kind of talent will your organization require in the next five years? In today’s volatile and complex world, digitization, artificial intelligence and automation have moved the goalposts for workforce development.

Make no mistake: These factors are disrupting the world of work. The skills required to succeed in organizations are shifting — and this is having a profound effect on workforce planning and on the career paths of employees.

HR faces the new challenge of understanding which aspects of jobs can be automated — and of understanding the broader impacts, including the human element for the people involved, of digital transformation. In the face of technological disruption, it’s challenging to confidently predict what any role will look like in five years’ time. So how can HR teams coherently plan the skills and competencies that will be needed at each level of the organization amid the constant advancement of technology?

Here’s how you can use agile talent management to future-proof your talent and take advantage of the competitive advantage that technology now provides, based on research in our recent white paper on the topic.


Update Your Competency Framework
Today’s volatile world means employees need to fit into constantly adapting, agile project teams. It’s unlikely that your existing competency framework was designed to support agile working and digital collaboration.

Digital and technical skills will undoubtedly be needed in your organization. But at every level, individuals will also need strong interpersonal skills and evolved abilities. These “future-proof” competencies that allow employees to thrive in a 21st-century workplace are:

  • Learnability.
  • Agility.
  • Curiosity.
  • Drive to succeed.
  • Data handling.
  • Strategic solutioning.
  • Business acumen.
  • Virtual collaboration.
  • Digital communication.
  • Mental endurance.
  • A coaching mindset.

No matter what the job role is, these competencies will be required for success.


Build, Borrow or Buy Your Talent
You have three options for equipping your organization with the necessary skills:

  • Build: With a global digital skills shortage, it isn’t easy to hire specialist digital talent. Investing in your existing workforce is something that every organization can and should be doing.
  • Borrow: Creating partnerships — for example, with universities and other organizations — can provide short-term access to talent and expertise.
  • Buy: Purchase consultancy expertise either at an individual or organizational level. Or you could subcontract assignments to a third-party organization.

Realign Your HR Business Processes
It’s no longer enough to provide annual or semi-annual performance reviews. Your talent will need continuous and forward-looking feedback. Key performance indicators will change frequently as individuals change roles and move across different project teams.

Your reward and recognition practices should become more flexible — and more focused on the competencies and measures of success you want to encourage.

Focus on maximizing the “employee experience” in your organization. Remember, 80 percent of your organizational success will be driven by 20 percent of your people. If you don’t reward your key talent appropriately — or provide the right environment — you’ll lose them.

Make Roles More Fluid
With digital transformation, job roles are changing at a faster rate than ever before. One solution? Enable your talent to evolve at speed by moving away from traditional career ladders to fluid career maps. This can be done through articulating talent needs of the future and encouraging talent movement in the organization, with emphasis on enabling individual growth as well as building depth and breadth of capability.

To articulate needs of the future, workshopping what “good” (and also “bad”) might look like in the future can be very powerful. Subject-matter experts, line managers, incumbents and other key stakeholders can develop “success profiles” that help you forecast talent needs and create targeted development and retention initiatives. Ultimately, these insights will fuel the development of flexible, engaged workforces with deep expertise in a range of areas.

Additionally, an openness to gig working will serve your organization well. Gig working is rapidly becoming a dominant trend, particularly among knowledge workers. By harnessing gig workers with the right skills and attributes, it’s possible to bring the right talent to bear on the challenges of the moment.


Utilize Smart Talent Data
A key ingredient to future-proofing your talent is using smart talent data. You can significantly enhance the way you recruit and manage talent, and improve the candidate experience, by integrating your recruitment and HR systems. The resulting data can provide talent analytics that will help you make smarter talent decisions — and prove the value of your services.

By leveraging data, you can create “organizational heat maps” that highlight the jobs, geographical areas, departments and teams where talent is available or specific development is required. Digital transformation will necessitate ongoing development of existing employees. Proactively manage and develop your talent, whether that’s by facilitating internal mobility, creating development programs, offering coaching or mentoring, or by giving people the opportunity to work on specific projects. Successful organizations will be those that provide continuous learning and effective retraining programs.


Don’t Crush Your Culture
Emphasize people over process. Throughout the constant flux of changing roles and agile working, it’s vitally important that your organization retains an effective operational culture. Fundamentally people are at the crux of any major organizational change, whether it’s technology-driven or not. Therefore, your culture should be a key ingredient that attracts and empowers people as well as engages them so they want to stay. Strive to create a culture where employees don’t fear technology or automation, but instead recognize and appreciate how technology can help them do more, create bigger impact and enjoy their work.

Read the white paper "Future-proofing your talent": https://insights.humancapital.aon.com/talent-assessment/future-proofing-your-talent

About the Author

Marinus van Driel

Marinus van Driel, Ph.D. is a Managing Director within the Talent, Rewards, and Performance practice at Aon. His responsibilities include providing strategic, expert advisory, and transition management services to clients related to implementation and maintenance of enterprise-level talent assessment systems. Marinus holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology.

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