In the context of the new challenges posed by digital innovation and emerging technologies such as virtual reality, the metaverse, or artificial intelligence, which have revolutionized how organizations interact with their customers, digitalization, and innovation strategies are overshadowed by practical and thorny questions. Who has the capacity to translate these new dimensions of the digital world into tangible results within an organization, and who and how can ensure durable talents, motivation, and possessing future skills, are just two of these.
By Claudia Sofianu, Partner, leader of the Income Tax and Social Contributions department, EY Romania
Recent research conducted by EY USA, gathering the opinions of 600 technology, marketing, and finance directors from around the world, reveals an acute need for organizations to find solutions in a context where attracting talents with developed digital skills is becoming increasingly difficult. As companies face increased personnel fluctuations and strategic changes, finding competent talents to ensure digital innovation is becoming more urgent.
At the same time, employee retention policies have become a top priority in top management strategies. In this context, how can leaders change their approach to attracting and retaining employees with digital skills? Who are the employees who need to demonstrate digital skills, what skills can leaders promote and manage, and how will digital innovation revitalize employee satisfaction?
Creating the right environment for identifying, recruiting, and motivating talents with digital skills
According to the results of the mentioned research, 67% of respondents reported an increase in the turnover of staff with data science skills since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Overall, the difficulty of identifying, recruiting, and retaining talent is seen as the biggest obstacle to digital innovation, after regulation.
To counter this phenomenon, most of the study participants (60%) indicated that the responsibility for attracting and retaining talents with digital skills is currently shared between the CEO, COO, and CFO. The remaining 40% say that the responsibility currently falls on the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Thus, although digital talent has in the past been associated only with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the function led by him, it will now be necessary to extend the responsibility to the CEO level.
CEO involvement is at least one way to differentiate from competitors, as attracting and retaining talent is not just about skills and rewards; it is also a matter of purpose and organizational mission. In this sense, top management must collaborate to design a suitable framework for employees, a comfortable environment in which to perform and create, to feel valued and appreciated.
Creating such a value proposition to attract talent, including those with data analysis skills and digital competencies, requires a collaborative recruitment approach across departments and greater collaboration among top management members. Identifying a mission that resonates with current and future employees will require an approach from all angles, not just from the perspective of employees and what is offered to them, but also in terms of working at the top of companies.
Cultivating the relevant skill set for the organization in the context of continuous digital innovation
Regarding the type of competencies identified by top managers as the most difficult to find, 57% of respondents to the questionnaire applied in the mentioned research positioned technical skills related to data science (data science) in the first place, while a large part of them confirmed that behavioral skills (soft) remain in high demand, including teamwork (55%) and creativity (54%).
Comparing the results obtained from the EY questionnaire, it can be seen that the business environment in Romania is facing the challenges identified at a global level. Thus, according to a report presented by the Ministry of Education in 2022 regarding the state of education, out of the total number of bachelor’s graduates in 2022, only 8% are in the field of Information Technology and Telecommunications, most of them being graduates in business, administration, and law – 27%. High percentages are also in the engineering, processing, and construction area – 17%, as well as in health and social assistance – 14%. The low level of graduates connected to the data technology field has led to innovation in the development of talent strategies (upskilling, reskilling) for some companies in Romania.
Retaining talents through digitalization investments
Half of the respondents to the EY USA study said they focus largely on improving skills and competencies, while the same proportion focuses on recruiting new employees who demonstrate the desired skills at a certain level.
An important aspect when talking about organizations’ efforts to retain their talents is represented by their appetite for investments in digitalization and innovation. In this regard, 60% of respondents to the EY questionnaire indicated that they managed to retain more employees after understanding the importance of investments in this area. It is thus understood that optimizing digital experiences for employees is vital to ensure talent retention.
Top management must take this into account, especially since employees’ preferences to work in a hybrid or remote system seem to exist indefinitely. Providing digital experiences within the company will improve employee satisfaction, but it will also help improve efficiency and the company’s position as a more attractive workplace.
At the same time, top management must be able to take on more and more responsibilities in the digital innovation area of companies, both in terms of identifying and cultivating digital skills and in terms of supporting collaborative recruitment processes between functions, internal mobility of talents, and the development of internal programs to improve digital skills.