Future of talent is future of work

Long gone are the workers who kept the industrial model of the 20th century operating. Today, a new breed of worker emerges, knowledgeable, self-guided, tech savvy, able to work with creativity and flair. Above all these workers are connected. They just don’t do digital, they are digital. But being digital doesn’t belong to any one demographic: Digital is a mindset, and this mindset is changing the way companies work and the people they need.

How companies can harness new ways of working, acquire and nurture the skills they need and maximise the value of people (their most important asset) is the subject of a major new research project from Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work.

The project sets out to examine the future of work from the perspective of talent. What does talent look like in the digital age? Where will it come from? What structures does it need to thrive? How do companies harness and engage with it? Together with the Economist Intelligence Unit, we surveyed more than 500 line-of-business stakeholders across Europe to understand what the future of talent means in the digital age. Our initial analysis reveals a compelling set of challenges that need action today.

Cognizant_image2Right now there is a profound recalibration taking place between work and the individual. The imposition of work on our personal lives, how we collaborate together to get work done, how we gain value from it, get rewarded for it, incentivised and motivated to do it are all changing. This changing nature of work goes way beyond new hours or policies for working at home; we are talking about whole new norms for work. The traditional work model is breaking down into something much more iterative, transient and networked. Transitioning a company successfully into its digital future means addressing these issues.

Cognizant believes a big part of winning a digital future is building the right roster of skills. These go beyond harnessing big data and analytics, which many see as the prize from deploying digital tools and technologies across customer and supplier relationships. If firms in the UK are to succeed and want to win their digital futures, other capabilities will need developing and nurturing from within. Softer, interpersonal or social skills will determine how effectively clusters of workers can collaborate in a virtual network or maintain team cohesion when members are distributed across a wider network, sometimes internationally or even belonging to your supplier or customer’s organisation.

Results from our survey reveal how this new world of work is taking shape. Our research qualifies the present digital skills gap, with strategy and business modelling commanding a premium among respondents. Where the digital skills gap currently lies is in the front office, client-facing customer services, online sales and digital marketing techniques, such as search engine optimisation. However, the survey reveals this gap is set to spread beyond the front office into skills for data and analytic capabilities, security and privacy requirements, and initiatives around smart product development, all of which are all beginning to infuse processes that sit inside and outside the company.

It’s crucial to get the talent model right for the digital age

The digital skills gap seems to be following the crude laws of supply and demand. One third of survey respondents reveal the digital talent they need expect higher salaries than they can afford; 50 per cent of respondents reveal there is an insufficient local supply of digital talent. Getting the right talent in place at the right time also suffers from the perception that a “digital” project lacks a strong business case. There are also challenges with getting senior stakeholders on side with what needs to be done, despite the evidence from our survey that fragmented workflows and reduced worker productivity need addressing from the top.

Our research concludes that digital primes a colossal cultural change as the shift into digital accelerates. The physical footprint of a company will shrink. Smaller hubs will emerge. There will be new organisational structures emerging to break down the silos that have developed in companies over decades. These all point towards a wholescale, multifaceted cultural change. Companies will need to forge new digital career paths for people alongside innovative ways of motivating and rewarding talent. All in all, the organisational model is morphing into something more dynamic, fluid and collaborative.

Get it right and this new breed of talent can be used to harness innovation, drive customer co-creation and develop intercompany collaboration as deeper, more intense relationships with suppliers emerge over time. This is why it’s crucial to get the talent model right for the digital age.
The talent gaps we’re seeing today are moderate, but there is no doubt they will grow. The companies we talk with are beginning to re-examine how they repurpose their existing workforce to give them a digital mindset. They also recognise that attracting the best talent means refocusing their brand towards one of an “employer of choice” because the competition for digital skills is only just beginning.

Cognizant believes that through all this a new talent model is starting to emerge. What this means for the successful companies of the future will be examined in more detail in our forthcoming The Future of Talent report, due out early next year.

To reserve your copy of The Future of Talent report please e-mail the author euan.davis@cognizant.com