January 16, 2018

To Develop and Retain Digital Talent in the Digital Age, Challenge Them


There isn’t much room in today’s market for businesses that don’t stay in touch with the latest technologies. The problem, however, is that many companies have trouble finding and retaining the talent they need to fully embrace the era and implement digital transformations in their organizations.

More than half of companies report that their digital talent gap is widening, according to a new study from LinkedIn and Capgemini.

“As technologies continue to advance, digitally talented candidates are in high demand,” says Sarah O’Brien, global insights director at LinkedIn. “These are employees who can do things like update your IT systems, design mobile apps, or develop the artificial intelligence engine driving your digital products and services.”

Appealing to Digital Talent

With digital talent in high demand, companies must offer these coveted candidates the best packages possible if they are to woo them away from competitors. If digital workers feel they’ll be stifled or bored at your company, they’ll go work somewhere else.

“Start by making sure you look the ‘digital’ part,” O’Brien says. “Analyze your employer brand in relation to the needs of digital employees.”

Good questions to ask as you carry out this analysis include:

  1. What messages do we send digital employees?
  2. Does our environment welcome, support, and challenge digital talent?
  3. Do we represent the stories of our existing digital employees on social media, in videos, and in other branded content?

“Sharing your mission and values can help tell your company’s story in an inspiring way, showing why each particular role is critical to the team, company, and beyond,” O’Brien says.

Digital workers also need assurance that they will have access to continuing education. Technology changes constantly, and skilled workers know they need to evolve alongside it. Digital employees are so concerned about this that 60 percent of them invest their own money in skill development, according to LinkedIn’s report. More than half of digital employees say they’ll move to another organization if they feel their digital skills are stagnating.

“To make sure candidates aren’t choosing to upskill with your competitors, it’s important to understand the needs of your ideal candidate and show what your company has to offer,” O’Brien says. “Shine the spotlight on your training programs and help digital candidates see how the role could challenge and transform them by highlighting the path to new skills, more responsibility, and promotion.”

briefcaseThat said, it’s not enough to offer any old upskilling program. Training and development opportunities deemed tiresome and uninspiring by digital employees are almost worse than having no opportunities at all. Forty-five percent of digital employees find their employers’ existing programs “useless and boring,” according to the report. When that happens, digital employees “take matters into their own hands and [invest] their own time and money” into upskilling, O’Brien says.

If workers use their own resources to keep their skills current, they won’t feel any loyalty to your organization. They’ll happily deploy their self-cultivated skills for your competitors.

“It’s up to the employer to provide digital employees with the tools, motivation, and time to learn new skills,” O’Brien says. “Employers can also consider ways to engage employees by offering incentives – whether monetary or not – whenever they acquire new digital skills or complete learning courses. This fosters a positive environment and reinforces learning as a top priority.”

Retention Is Key to Success During a Talent Shortage

Even if your workers are relatively happy, there’s likely another company out there willing to make them happier. In the face of a talent shortage, digital workers are in high demand across the board. As such, they will be courted frequently by competitors. It’s up to your organization to give digital employees a reason to say no when opportunity comes knocking.

LinkedIn’s report found that challenging opportunities and the chance to improve skills are the top reasons why employees stay with their companies.

“Since skill redundancy tends to be a key worry among digital employees, help ease these fears by charting the skills needed for each job level to provide employees with a clear career development path,” O’Brien suggests. “Other reasons employees said they stay at their companies include being excited about the future of the company, great work/life balance, and opportunities for internal advancement. But ultimately, you’ll find that when you create opportunities for digitally talented employees to grow and learn in their careers, you can increase engagement and boost retention.

Who Are Digital Employees, Anyway? A List of Digital Job Titles:

  1. Automation/robotics engineer
  2. Behavioral scientist
  3. Chief analytics officer/chief data officer
  4. Chief customer officer
  5. Chief digital officer/chief digital information officer
  6. Chief internet of things officer
  7. Crowdfunding specialist
  8. Data architect
  9. Data engineer
  10. Data scientist
  11. Digital project manager
  12. Digital solution architect
  13. Drone designer
  14. Enterprise architect
  15. Full stack developer
  16. Growth hacker
  17. Head of automation
  18. Head of robotics
  19. Information security/privacy consultant
  20. Integration architect
  21. Personal web manager
  22. Technology architect

Read more in Retention

Jason McDowell holds a BS in English from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. By day, he works as a mild-mannered freelance writer and business journalist. By night, he spends time with his wife and dogs, writes novels and short stories, and tries in vain to catch up on all of those superhero television shows.