Send In The Unicorns

by | Apr 12, 2022 | Employee Experience

To get digital right, you need the right people.

The global pandemic sped up the inevitable, which was the move towards digital experiences and digital expectations. But the acceleration of digital transformation has left us – especially those of us who work in User Experience (UX) and Employee Experience (EX) – facing a widespread catch-22 situation:

We need digital transformation talent… to help us to attract the talent we need to help us to digitally transform!

What’s worse, the talent we need is likely to pay little attention to organisations that are in the process of digital transformation, when compared to what they perceive as digitally solid companies.

No surprise, then…

There’s a treasure hunt for critical thinkers; those who are data-driven, creative, and innovative enough to re-imagine the digital customer journey, with the technical ability to it pull off successfully once it’s been re-imagined.

That blend of technical and soft skills? Rare.

It’s notoriously difficult to find talent that understands the latest digital tools, never mind those skilled enough to use it with a bit of training. And retaining them? Another story altogether, especially in the context of the so-called “Great Resignation”.

MTN’s a good example

In February 2022, mobile operator MTN announced its hiring quest for 150 digital experts, to help it keep pace with growing digital demand.

The expansion drive includes positions like:

  • UX and UI designers;
  • Product owners;
  • Performance marketers;
  • Digital content specialists;
  • E-commerce experts;
  • Full-stack developers;
  • Scrum masters; and
  • Business analysts.

Problem is, according to the 2021 ICT Skills Survey, there remains a chronic shortage of all types of ICT skills required to help South African organisations succeed in the digital economy.

This remains the biggest challenge in the sector, posing a huge threat to our country’s 4IR progress.

The survey, carried out by Wits University’s Joburg Centre for Software Engineering, in partnership with the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), found that significant digital skills gaps persist, as organisations battle to fill tens of thousands of vacancies.

What’s the answer?

It may feel like you need to “steal” the right people – or at least, offer more money and bigger benefits to seduce them away from your competitors. Except, this technique isn’t sustainable.

And for many unicorns, it’s not only about money and benefits. They matter. Of course. But it’s important to ensure that you’ve ticked the EX boxes too? Because those unicorns want outstanding EX – especially when working remotely. Here’s what that looks like:

  1. Do the research

Define what you want to achieve. How will EX support business goals? What tools are needed? What type of tech is missing? What type of training is required? What might the effect be on workflow? And what are the indicators of success?

  1. Know thy unicorn

Digital talent differs in character, attitude, and values. These are not the same people you were hiring ten years ago, five years or even pre-pandemic. Get to know them. And when you ask questions, listen to the answers.

  1. Actively listen

On that note, carry out surveys with existing staff to determine where your company can improve in terms of EX. Work hard, also, to ensure that your people feel able to contribute meaningfully to brainstorming sessions.

  1. Offer learning that’s built in

The talent you need for digital transformation often has a highly adaptable and thirsty brain. So you don’t necessarily need to look for people with specific skills; rather, look for people who can learn specific skills. And then provide them with a “proper” education – even if it’s informal – in the form of online courses and self-instructed learning to fill knowledge gaps.

  1. Show them their future

Many digital natives value personal development and exciting job content more than they do long-term employer relationships. Fair enough. So you’ll need to cultivate a strong sense of progression and purpose. For instance, ensure that you use digital talent in non-IT departments – if you don’t, they’ll they end-up leaving the company due to a lack of professional progression.

  1. Prioritise digital tools

This one feels obvious – but perhaps it isn’t.

A basic hygiene factor of hiring for sustainable digital transformation is ensuring that the relevant digital tools are in place to serve your employees.

At the entry level, this looks like rock-solid, user-centric EX. More strategically, it may look like leveraging AI to measure the effectiveness of your employee journey – like you would, let’s say, for customer satisfaction testing.

  1. Remember internal branding

This sounds nice when they talk about it at conferences, and it is ‘nice’, but it’s also one of those things that actually works. When you develop an authentic “employer brand”, you empower existing employees to help amplify your organisation through their own networks.

  1. Messaging and comms

An effective EX system enables easy collaboration and teamwork throughout departments. Obviously. But how about this? Does your talent know what they need to do for a promotion, to be upskilled, to valued and listened to, to feel included and part of the team, to access the right resources, or to be praised and recognised for excellent work?

Some ideas from clever companies

Have you considered any of these?

• Sifting out existing employees that have innovation, problem-solving, and technical skills
• Eliminating unnecessary steps in the hiring process, so ensure that you’re never too slow to snap up skilled talent
• Working with recruiting partners who are also digital professionals
• Using surveys, focus groups, and interviews to analyse what works for your people and what doesn’t
• Using analytical platforms with intuitive dashboards to make better strategic staffing decisions
• And, of course, calling in the pros. We can help. We’re standing by.