Digital transformation can be defined as the shift in business and societal structures associated with ever changing and evolving technology and its usage. While the upfront term is ‘digital’, this journey does not solely focus on technology. It’s also about its ‘human’ counterpart. Executives see the digital shift as a critical area that companies need to address this year in order to compete for business and consumers. Ninety percent of digitally maturing companies anticipate industry disruption caused by digital trends, however, only 44% are adequately preparing for it. Organisations across all industries should embrace the shift and develop a digital strategy to maximise the use of digital technologies and the impact it generates. This strategy should primarily concentrate on how the work gets done and by whom.

The shift to ‘going digital’ involves deconstructing and dispersing work across a global virtual workplace. This creates immense competition between companies to find and acquire the best talent as the demand for digital professionals rises to fill in the skills gap that this shift produces. Though the same 90% confirm that they have a digital strategy ready to execute, acquiring the right people to get the work done remains a challenge for most. To fully integrate digital transformation into their systems, businesses need to define the skills that they need, before taking advantage of the technology at hand. Not having the right people to actualise the plan is like building a home without a blueprint.

Difficulty in acquiring talent – of which most are likely to come from the most sought after fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – is already a known fact. One way to bridge the inevitable skills gap is to reskill and upskill your talent. This may mean retraining and transforming existing and traditional skills, or defining new skills and consequently acquiring the right person to take on the job. Either way, employee training and development will be key, and will have long term advantages for a maturing digital company.

Global leaders of top tech companies emphasise the need to consider using digital media to accurately match individual skills to a specific business requirement rather than just thinking in terms of traditional jobs. Investing in the education of your people – especially those who might get misplaced mid-career – is a must for employees to remain relevant and for long-term career security. Employers should also invest in a talent strategy that provides feedback and coaching to employees such as ‘hackathons’ where employees get to explore their passions. Creating the right team to realise your organisation’s digital strategy relies heavily on employee skills development. Businesses should understand the need to invest in and upskill these digital skills – to avoid talent becoming obsolete as your company digitally matures.

Digital professionals continue to be the most difficult talent to hire. However, retaining critical skilled, top performing and highly diverse employees is yet another challenge for employers. According to our 2016 Global Workforce Study base pay/salary is the key attraction and retention factor for employees. Employees want to work for organisations that offer fair and competitive base pay, as well as opportunities for advancement and career security. Our 2016 General Industry Total Compensation Survey shows that entry level professionals in IT development functions are relatively higher paid than the overall market across most countries in Asia Pacific. This demonstrates that companies are following the trend of offering better compensation packages to secure digital professionals.

While increasing base pay is a valid move for employers, digital talents seek more than just higher base pay. Factors such as career advancement and job security are also of importance to digital professionals in Asia Pacific, something which many employers tend to overlook. In general, job security is the second highest driver of attraction, and the fourth highest retention driver. One in four (26%) employees who express a desire for job security are worried about losing their job. Meanwhile, some Fortune 500 IT companies are seen to have an uptick in turnover. Despite these companies exceeding employee expectations for working environment and career advancement, the rigorous and intense transformation of skills has been threatening job security alongside the hyper-competitive talent market today. This need can be addressed by the employer without offering unrealistic promises of guaranteed jobs. As mentioned earlier, employers can offer better long-term career security through continuous training and upskilling of employees.

In addition to attracting and retaining critical technology talent, employers should also see the importance of creating a sustainable employee engagement framework, by using a traditional engagement strategy partnered with enablement and energy. The 2016 Global Workforce Study shows that 43% of tech employees report to being highly engaged, while 22% say they are disengaged. The top driver for employee engagement is the relationship between employees and leadership. Employees in both technology functions and the general population, become highly engaged when they see that their immediate supervisor understands their day-to-day work. Leadership needs to recognise this and provide avenues towards significant performance improvement.


About the Author

Towers Watson Media

Sambhav Rakyan

Willis Towers Watson


Sambhav Rakyan is the Data Services Practice Leader in Asia Pacific. To connect with Sam, email wtwapdata@willistowerswatson.com.