But digital talent strategy isn’t just about meeting today’s fast-changing digital business conditions; it’s about future-proofing your IT workforce, making it more resilient and better able to evolve and develop more and newer capabilities to align with changes in the ways we work.
Using a construct like the Gartner Digital Talent Management Framework ensures you take a structured, life cycle view of key areas in an integrated, digital talent management strategy.
Any CIO seeking to build a future-ready workforce in support of digital initiatives must ask:
How do we plan for a future-ready IT workforce?
How do we identify and recruit digital talent with the desired skills and competencies?
How do we renew and maintain the currency of the existing workforce’s skills and competencies?
How do we retain and motivate the workforce for improved experience, engagement and commitment?
How do we release and manage staff transitions out of the organization and beyond?
How do we measure and link the IT workforce performance and impact to business outcomes?
Integrate workforce planning with an information and technology (I&T) strategic planning process by engaging with business leaders and other key stakeholders in identifying and prioritizing shifts in the roles and skills required to execute I&T strategy now and in the future.
Apply a holistic and integrated approach to building workforce capabilities through the life cycle of talent recruitment, renewal, retention and release.
Assess the effectiveness of talent management strategies and programs by linking individual and team performance objectives with business outcomes, measuring and recognizing workforce contributions to digital business success.
Using a talent management framework
The Gartner Digital Talent Management Framework takes a life cycle approach to digital talent management, running from recruitment to renewal and retention through to talent release.
CIOs and IT leaders can use this approach to identify and prioritize digital skills and talent needs and devise appropriate strategies to evolve and develop the workforce in line with changing business priorities.
Focus on the following four key elements of recruitment to identify, attract and hire high-potential talent.
Job descriptions and talent profiles. Focus job descriptions on work outcomes and core competencies for success rather than on technical skills or credentials. Long wish lists of technical skills, degrees and work experience requirements narrow the talent pool and discourage otherwise qualified talent from applying. Clearly articulate how the job contributes to the organization’s mission or strategy, its societal impact, and the personal and professional growth opportunities it offers.
Employer branding. Intentionally cultivate and position your IT organization’s brand to effectively attract top digital talent. Communicate and deliver a compelling employee value proposition (EVP) to create the experience desired by candidates and employees alike.
Selection. Leverage a tech-enabled recruitment process that is unbiased and promotes diversity, equity and inclusion. Use data and artificial intelligence tools to screen, assess and identify high-potential talent in a time-effective manner. These technologies also help to deliver more engaged and personalized experiences to candidates.
Onboarding done right can ensure a long-term and mutually satisfying relationship between employees and organizations. Extend the process beyond a few weeks of orientation to six months or even a year to ensure that employees organically connect with the organization’s culture and have time and space to evaluate and enhance their skills and competencies to meet performance expectations. This is especially important in hybrid/remote work environments where culture may seem more remote.
To ensure continuous renewal of workforce capabilities that support the changing needs of digital business, focus on these two imperatives:
Skills and competencies development. Recognize and enhance the skills of your existing workforce instead of simply hiring new talent for evolving digital business needs. Promote a culture of upskilling and reskilling that allows top IT talent to seek diverse opportunities and personalized learning paths to become versatile, high-value contributors. Institute Connector managers who can better understand the motivations of employees and develop them accordingly.
Succession planning and management. In an increasingly competitive talent market, CIOs face disruptions like impending retirements of key leaders or the loss of talent having scarce skill sets. Embracing succession planning and management as an ongoing process can enable organizations to:
Bounce back from disruptions
Seize new opportunities
Feel confident that they have capable IT talent to fill the void in pivotal roles
Discern factors that impact employee engagement, and develop a total rewards strategy to motivate and retain employees for the long term.
Employee engagement and experience. Benchmark their employee engagement scores to identify areas of improvement. The global shift toward a remote IT workforce has changed how work environments, productivity and responsibility affect one another. Adopt a more intuitive and empathetic leadership style to keep employees healthy, motivated and efficient in a virtual setup. Conduct pulse surveys to collect and assess feedback from employees. The results will demonstrate the effectiveness of hybrid/remote workplace designs to enhance employee experience.
Total rewards strategy. Compensation is essential to attract top IT talent, but money is not the only driver of employee engagement, motivation and retention. A total rewards strategy is a more comprehensive way to deliver the organization’s EVP through five elements — compensation, benefits, career management, performance recognition and work-life balance. Create personalized and relevant humanized employment deals to appeal to a range of employees. For example, in the public sector, the compensation element is not as lucrative as in other industries, but that can be balanced by highlighting other attributes like sense of purpose and shared mission.
Former employees may rejoin the company or become valuable customers, partners and brand advocates, so transition planning and offboarding become as essential as onboarding.
Transition planning must take account of the full range of job moves, including transfers/promotions, mergers and acquisitions, and layoffs, to ensure that the employee experience is positive for those entering and flowing through and out of the organization. Smooth leadership transitions are especially important and can be improved with programs, such as high-potential development plans, mentoring and buddy systems.
Offboarding needs the same care as onboarding. In the case of voluntary turnover, conduct an exit interview that allows a departing employee to feel safe to be candid about why they are leaving and to provide valuable feedback on what’s working and what’s not. Ensure that feedback is used as the basis for improvements in employee engagement and retention practices going forward. This process also needs to connect to succession planning and management practices. Ideally, internal candidates (especially for leadership and critical roles) will already be earmarked to move into the soon-to-be-vacant role.
Alumni relations is a greatly underutilized relationship. Virtually all Fortune 500 and a significant number of other companies have corporate alumni groups on social media websites like LinkedIn. Consider such networks to be a potential source of future employees and customers (themselves and referrals), brand ambassadors and an excellent resource for intelligence.
Lily Mok, VP Analyst at Gartner, works on the IT Strategy, Execution and Organization team. Ms. Mok focuses her research on helping CIOs and HR leaders develop strategies and programs to build a future-ready workforce.
IT talent remains scarce and expensive, even in the face of potentially weakening economic conditions, putting key digital initiatives at risk.
And beyond today lies the longer term need for IT to develop more and newer capabilities to align with new ways of working.
A digital talent management framework provides a rigorous approach to future-proofing your IT workforce.
This article has been updated since its original publication in June 2021 to reflect new events, conditions and research.
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