The impact of technology is almost always over-estimated in the short-term and under-estimated in the long-term. This is especially true when it comes to technology’s impact on the way that talent is managed (let’s define talent as anyone who adds value to an organisation, so that would be nearly everyone). Specifically, the significance of technology is often overlooked when it comes to how talent is attracted to an organisation, and how they are engaged so they do their best work and want to stay.
In the best run organisations technology is significantly impacting the way that talent is attracted, retained and engaged, and the lessons from these organisations provide a guide for the rest of us. Here are some of the most valuable direct benefits – and taken together they are indirectly benefiting and shaping work cultures too.
The world of attraction
Too many organisations forget that social networks increase transparency. So, if somewhere is a brilliant place to work people can see it, they understand what the place is like and how well led it is – and the opposite is also true. Websites such as Glassdoor are effective at telling it like it is, both good and bad.
That transparency feeds into broader perceptions of an employer’s brand along with the use of technology more generally. For example, the way an organisation comes across online – its website, social media, tone of voice, priorities and messages all shape that brand identity.
This has two practical implications. First, if the brand is everything that happens inside an organisation and connects, like an invisible thread, from the inside to everyone on the outside, then the organisation needs to know that everything it does and says will shape external perceptions. Much greater awareness and proactive management is therefore needed.
Second, the brand can be used to attract the brightest and best. For example, people were impressed when the billionaire founder of retailer Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, gave away the company so that the proceeds could be used to fight climate change. Technology enables the organisation not simply to sell, but to sell the organisation to current and future employees.
Engaging, challenging and retaining talent
There are several practical areas where tech excels at engaging and challenging talent, enhancing effectiveness and ease of operation. These tools have an immediate benefit and crucially they also prevent frustration, supporting and retaining talent as a result.
- Tools that facilitate teamworking, enhancing speed and consistency. These include Trello, Slack, Flowdock, GoToMeeting, WebEx.
- Tools that facilitate projects and tasks. Ensuring that projects are managed efficiently, with a successful outcome, is vital for talent to see their work have value and to avoid frustration. Some of the most popular tools here include Asana, ProofHub, Dapulse, Redbooth, Wimi and Milanote.
- Tools that enhance collaboration and make co-creation a central way of working – particularly appropriate for businesses focusing on service, innovation and technology. Useful tools here include Codingteam, Google Docs, Igloo and Quip.
Technology also facilitates another vital requirement for talent retention: communication. And, of course, the best comms are always two-way. The days are fast-disappearing of CEOs giving an occasional town hall speech, taking three questions and then disappearing. At the other end of the spectrum, however, the workforce is not yet ready for the CEO who decides to ask the world (customers, stakeholders and competitors as well as employees) whether they should stay in their job, as Twitter CEO Elon Musk did in an online poll in December 2022.
The best communications suit the culture of the organisation, the needs and preferences of the workforce, and the personality of the communicator or leader. Of course, it really helps if that personality is open, warm and engaging, as well as curious and with a predisposition to listen, reflect, learn and change, as well as to tell.
One of the other biggest areas where tech is enhancing organisations’ ability to engage and retain talent – and, most importantly, derive the greatest benefit from the skills and mindset of the talented employees – is in learning and development. Here, Indian executive education are leading the way. Institutions such as Hero Vired and UpGrad have no shortage of international partners lining up to support their work – which is nothing less than the upskilling of millions of India executives across the subcontinent and further afield. Crucially, these organisations and others recognise that the best learning needs a context, it needs to be practical, relevant and engaging, and it needs to help learners “future-proof” their careers.
Finally, the best employers understand that they need to tailor their employee benefits and proposition to precisely meet the distinctive needs of each talented individual: an approach of hyper-personalisation focusing on employee-centricity. Here again technology plays a vital role with employees constructing their own package of benefits from a wide menu available to them. And here again, as with all of the other technological innovations that help attract, engage and retain talent, is the need for leadership that is inventive, empathetic and people-oriented.
Today’s talent expects organisations to be tech-savvy: it helps ensure flexibility, efficiency and relevance. Most of all, however, talent expects leaders to have the right mindset: one that is open, focused on people, and constantly embraces the advantages of technology.