How to #Win With Digital Talent in 2016 (Guest Post)

How to #Win With Digital Talent in 2016 (Guest Post)

We enter the new year with a barrage of existential headlines. Polarising political views in US and Europe, fueled by refugee and migrant crises, climate change initiatives and falling oil prices have left the global economy in confusion. Then, with the fresh memories of Champagne hangovers, a short Chinese trading day and plunging tech stocks served as a reminder for optimists to chill out. Happy 2016!  :)

BUT! Unless your name is Brazil, South Africa, Turkey or Thailand, 2016 will likely be a flat year. A water cooler conversation between 2015 and 2017.

This is particularly true for Southeast Asia's strongest economies – Malaysia and Singapore. Though the failing MYR will deliver Malaysian exporters with a price advantage, expect a collective cry from fatigued consumers as they see the foreign brands they love, increase in price. All of these things considered, 2016 poses challenges for foreign consumer goods brands, tourism & travel, and of course Petronas. So how? 

What can leaders do to ensure that their business is not as flat as the market?  In 1 word: minovations. 

"Minovations" refer to the mini, small, incremental innovations that you can implement during 2016 that seek to reduce costs and improve productivity. Bloomberg outlines some key areas to focus on, which include investing in data, e-commerce and seeking out operational efficiencies. It is important to note that the majority of these proven tactics require a workforce that is skilled and knowledgeable in the use of digital technology.

In other words, identifying and executing the "minovations" that will inevitably drive growth during a drought depends on how digitally savvy your employees are; or, as McKinsey & Co have coined, your "Digital Quotient."

As a leader, you can follow this 3-step process towards ensuring that your people drive growth for you in 2016.

1. Organise For The Future

While he may not have been a business guru, Bruce Lee's famous quote does hold water with organisational theory. The organisation of the future is fluid.

"You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup..." ~ Bruce Lee

Being fluid means being able to change and adapt quickly. To achieve this, organise your teams into flatter, more collaborative clusters that facilitates constant feedback. When your employees have the autonomy to make decisions and the freedom to speak up, you'll be able to react and implement change faster. There is also evidence for impact on your bottom line. 

Some tactics that should be on your radar include dynamic scheduling, embracing mobile project management and communication tools (such as Slack or Atlasssian), and increasing the frequency of employee performance reviews. In short, be open and transparent with your employees and experiment with new tools and processes. 

2. Improve Digital Talent At Mid-levels

It can be very tempting for a business to throw a senior hire at the problem of digital literacy. You hired a Chief of Digital? Job done!...

But, just like one star player can't win the cup, neither can one star hire transform an organisation. Minovations need to come from every level of the company. McKinsey & Company elaborates:

"While executive leadership is important, the most critical thing is midlevel talent: the “boots on the ground” who can make or break digital initiatives and are ultimately responsible for bringing products, services, and offers to market." ~ McKinsey & Co.

Of course, finding and recruiting digital talent is easier said then done. By embracing Step 1 and building a transformational culture that digital talent enjoy, you'll have gone a long way to attracting them, to you. But you'll still need to get the word out there. Linkedin Talent Solutions and Wobb – in Malaysia – are some platforms that can help increase your active talent pool.  

However, sometimes the best talent is a passive candidate. That's where specialist recruiting consultants, like Potentio, can help you build and recruit a team of digital ninjas that is right for you. 

3. Never Stop Learning

With step 1 and 2 in place, learning should occur organically between employees as they collaborate and learn from each other. But as my grandfather always says, “you have to keep your head up in the corners.”

That is, if you’re too focused on today, you'll be blindsided by the future and be out of the game on a stretcher. At the rate digital literacy moves, constant training and education is crucial. Casein point, Google only gives out 1-year certifications for their courses.

"Digital" is no longer a department. Development programs need to involve the entire company. Besides Google's Online Training, Facebook BlueprintUdacity and Coursera all offer free-to-affordable online training programs that you can leverage internally. 

In some cases, you'll need a hit-the-reset button on your employees’ mindsets. That's where Design Thinking Workshops from Potentio and other consultants can help. 

In any case, a business that grows during a slow economy is one that is good at problem solving – and solving problems requires a group of people who never stop learning. 

The End Result

If you want to see this process in action, look no further then Maxis. Their strong financial performance as of late can be largely attributed to Morten Lundal and his team's change in organisational strategy in early 2014. 

They flattened their organisational structure, brought in #HRTech powerhouse Workday, improved digital skill at ALL levels and constantly run digital workshops and training for themselves and their partners. 

With 2016’s fate all but predicted, as a leader you have a choice as to how you’ll spend 2016. Will it be spent on trivial promotions that drive short-term spikes? Or will it be on your employees? Ultimately, it’s your people who will create and implement the hundreds, or thousands of small minovations that will drive longer-term growth.

About Chris Greenough

Chris Greenough is a Co-Founder and Partner at Potentio, a boutique recruitment agency in Malaysia that specializes in digital and creative talent solutions. Previously the Head of Strategy for Asia at APD, he and his co-founders believe that a successful business requires an artful balance of People + Technology. 

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