Developing Digital Business People for Digital Business

Why is a focus on Digital Business People so important now?

People 2 300x218 Developing Digital Business People for Digital Business

Well. the idea of ‘Jobs for Life’ disappeared some time ago now and its demise was one of the forerunners of what’s been a significant change in the relationship between employers and employees, staff, or ‘People’. People is arguably is a more empathetic way of recognising those who actually make your business tick.

Unfortunately, though, there’s still too much rhetoric around ‘people are our greatest asset’ which is becoming increasingly transparent. Engaging and energising your people increasingly has a coaching bias – including  ‘upwards’ these days.

So, amongst the many ‘People’ game changers fuelled by digital technology, those particularly worth noting are:

1. The Changing Role of HR

It’s time for the traditional HR function to move away from its transactional comfort zone and start to contribute to the strategic Digital debate and help businesses position themselves to take advantage of Digital Business 2020. Compliance and risk management have a part to play, but they need to be seen as enablers of performance – a platform not a ceiling.

HR will need to be alert to changes in the broader economic and social context
and assess the confidence and organisational awareness to identify the implications for
organisations and be prepared to act on them
see CIPD

2. Increasing Age Diversity

Beyond ethnicity or country of origin, in the workplace, age too now brings its own challenges. Just for the record the various strata are:

Post War (Born 1928 – 1945); Baby Boomers (1946 -1965); Generation X (1965 – 1976);
Generation Y or Millennials (1977 – 1994); Generation Z (1995 -2012) see Social Marketing

Inevitably they have different values, different ideas, different ways of getting things done and different ways of communicating. Brian Solis, however, talks about Generation C and the notion of ‘always connected’ which distinguishes the ‘digital natives’ from the ‘digital immigrants’ who generally struggle with this.

Recent research from the CIPD showed that not enough businesses are dealing with the challenges this age diversity presents – a key issue to overcome is stereotypical thinking. And, it’s not an issue that can be ducked. Aging populations across the world mean that people’s working lives need to be extended not only because of the economic benefits but because of their own sense of personal value too.

Solutions for breaking down the barriers include ‘upward mentoring’, using the digital cognoscenti within the business to be change catalysts and, not least, leadership that ‘walks the talk’ in this space.

3. Moving to Networked Collaboration

Social media is to blame for the liberation of inter-personal communications. People who are used to this freedom and immediacy in their personal life increasingly expect it in the workplace too. The gatekeeper role of traditional IT functions is now being severely challenged and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) adds more headaches for the risk management and compliance functions. Social media policies abound, but take a leaf out of Zappo’s book – “Be real and use your best judgment’’.

So, welcome to the irresistible networked age where people are just as likely to look outside the business rather than ask their managers for answers to their business problems. This can only be good, most threats to existing business models come from outside the industry you’re in. So, new knowledge is required which is outside what is known by managers and their experts.

Social collaboration tools will play a key part of changing the way we work and share information –they can improve engagement and motivation too. A word of caution, though, like any new technology they need to meet a demonstrable need and widespread adoption can take time. For example, a study conducted by Gartner last year stated that 80 percent of attempts to gain benefits from using social collaboration tools will not be seen until at least 2015.

There’s a productivity benefit to networking in this way which has a positive effect on the bottom line. A McKinsey study recently found that social technology can improve the productivity of knowledge workers by 20-25% – that would be good to have wouldn’t it?

4. Digital business people Skills

Digital skills are in short supply – only 16% of companies in a Forrester Survey believe they have the necessary digital skills. It is expected that there will be around 900,000 unfilled ICT vacancies by 2015 according to an EU report. Graduates in the so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics are in short supply – many countries are looking to immigration to cover the skills shortfalls.

The rapid introduction and assimilation of digital technology has highlighted the lag between the ‘frozen’ business curriculum of yesterday and the needs of today’s digital world – let alone addressing the needs of Digital Business 2020. The specialism inherent in today’s silo businesses hasn’t helped either – what’s need now is a fusion of digital and functional skills such as IT and Marketing. Big data, for example, demands a blend of scientific analytical skills and commercial savvy to optimise the benefits of the insights that can be delivered. So new roles are emerging like the Chief Digital Officer or Marketing Technologists.

Underpinning all of this is the need is to develop a culture of lifelong learning – one set of skills won’t be enough – frequent reskilling will be a necessity. Here technology is beginning to deliver up-to-date, online, on demand learning options such as MOOCs – although they get mixed reviews at present.

5. Recruitment

Given the skills shortages identified earlier, it’s no surprise that competition for talent will make or break digital business success according to Gartner. The recruitment process has been revolutionised by digital and social media where the digitally engaged work on building their personal brands as thought leaders as well as supporting corporate brands as brand ambassadors.

LinkedIn offers an online CV and Twitter feed and Facebook postings add personal colour – perhaps too much sometimes! Klout , Kred and Kaggle (which uses gamification) analyse not just a job candidate’s LinkedIn profile, but also their activity on specialty sites specific to their professions, such as the open-source community forums StackOverflow and GitHub (for coders) Proformative (for accountants), and Dribbble (for designers).

Increasingly, too, businesses are using different employment models such as Elance to build ‘talent clouds’ or ‘swarms’ to deal with specific business challenges – not to mention the increasing use of corporate flexible working models.

So, as you will have recognised, there are a number of common strand running through these five areas, the people ‘emancipation’ provided by technology and social media, the increasing shift of control and choice from employer to the employed, the demand for newer more contemporary skills to sustain businesses in the Digital Economy!


If you’d like to discuss how the digital world could be affecting your business, then do contact our Knowledge Community members. For related topics see also Digital Business Leadership, Digital Business Marketing, Digital Processes and Digital Business Strategy.