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How to Overcome Challenges in Recruiting Digital Professionals

Because of the high demand for digital professionals, it can be tough to recruit and hire them. The situation is only exacerbated by the tight U.S. labor market, in which finding professionals in all areas is harder than it was five years ago. A digital gap, where there are not enough digital professionals to fill available slots, exists.

There is a gap between the number of digital workers needed and the number available.

A recent survey by the firm Capgemini and LinkedIn found, in fact, that 55% of companies think that not only is there a digital gap, but that it’s growing bigger. Fifty-four percent think that the lack of enough digital talent is impeding the programs aimed at digital transformation.

The answer likely lies in business strategy aimed directly at overcoming the challenges in the digital gap.

A recent Harvard Business Review article tackles this, itemizing three methods that companies have used to overcome the challenges in finding enough digital talent. As the article says, the digital talent gap is particularly wide for large and traditional companies whose base may be in manufacturing. They are not jazzy start-ups, but they need technology news and digital transformation.

Some companies create separate units to accelerate digital talent and the associated traits, like innovation.

Method 1: Create a Separate Unit

Many of the companies that have encountered difficulties with the digital gap have created separate units or accelerators that are dedicated to digital work – and not only to work, but to the innovation and disruption that go hand-in-hand with digital transformation.

The accelerators are sometimes collaboratively run with universities, and exist in cities, which tend to draw more digital talent than far-flung manufacturing locations.

While accelerators can work, there also tend to create their own set of internal company challenges. If not managed well, they can develop organizational cultures that are very different from the main company’s. They can also seem distant from the parent company, and make it hard to integrate the employees with company goals and objectives.

The answer is to manage for integration of the separate units and company, and to appreciate the considerable added value that accelerators are capable of producing.

Method 2: Internal Training

The second method is to train existing employees in digital and related skills, such as artificial intelligence and data science. The first step is to identify workers who are proficient in technology and develop training programs.

Capturing motivated employees earlier can improve productivity and hasten digital transformation, while ensuring that the employees have already proven they are a cultural fit.

This method, though, needs to be carefully managed so that the digital transformation isn’t occurring in only one department or division. Digital transformation, after all, isn’t just one set of processes, but a commitment to innovation and data-driven thinking.

Method 3: Employee Brainstorming of Ideas 

The third method was asking employees to, in various ways, brainstorm ideas both for finding digital professionals and thinking up digital solutions for the company. The ways to do this could include contests, suggestion boxes, and meetings devoted to brainstorming.

Employees who are asked to brainstorm digital solutions can often be identified as those who could be part of a team testing out solutions. One company, for example, tasked employees with brainstorming digital transformation ideas. They then choose the leading ideas and formed a team to talk to the C-suite about why the ideas were operational and how they added value.

The authors caution, however, that this can be a risky strategy, as the workability of the ideas – or even their alignment with company goals — is not assured. Employees whose ideas are not chosen could also develop morale issues.

Nonetheless, all three methods have potential for allowing companies to recruit more of the digital talent they need.