Ways to recruit - and retain - top digital talent

Organisations across the globe are struggling to recruit and retain the brightest digital talent, with a key problem being that digital skills are always in demand and changing, says Forrester analyst Martin Gill.

Many business schools also fail to educate graduates on a mix of business and technology skills, he says.

The recruitment industry, meanwhile, is being disrupted by websites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn. These websites provide candidates with more information about potential employers, who can then reach out directly to the people they want to work with.

“If e-business leaders are serious about finding, recruiting, and retaining today’s top digital talent, they need to rattle some cages and challenge their organisation’s preconceptions of talent management,” writes Gill in the Forrester report Recruit and Retain Top Digital Talent. .

“This means a fundamental rethink of where you look to find candidates, which firms you compete against, and your working environment and practices.”

Some organisations have an advantage when recruiting digital staff.

The lure of the agency or startup world seduces many of the brightest candidates. Martin Gill, Forrester

“While some e-business professionals see an upside in transforming a digital dinosaur, the lure of the agency or startup world seduces many of the brightest candidates,” notes Gill.

He says these digital masters do not attract great talent by accident. Among other things, they launched their offices in major digital hubs so they have easier access to talent.

They also actively promote their digital credentials to potential candidates. Netflix and Spotify, for example, actively promote their digital credentials by sharing aspects of their engineering culture, their design methodologies, and even their code with the open source community.

Gill says these companies also make digital fundamental to the business, not an afterthought or a “bolt on”.

For more traditional firms, digital is often a standalone team in a separate office, he writes. This can backfire as digital teams risk being seen as “either the too-cool-for-school hipsters with the beanbag chairs that no one takes seriously or a second-class team relegated to the basement”.

He advises companies to work with their HR and recruitment team to build the organisation as a digital employer of choice.

“Build a modern work environment that encourages collaboration and innovation — this means giving employees the tools, the physical environment, and the freedom to challenge organisational norms to innovate,” he writes. “Then use YouTube videos, press releases, or blog posts to show potential candidates what it’s like to work at your firm.”

As well, he advises building and maintaining a proactive candidate network on key social platforms like LinkedIn. “Don’t think that this is a one-off exercise. It’s an ongoing process with multiple candidate touchpoints.”

Creating a modern, progressive work environment is important.

Digitally savvy employees thrive when given the space to innovate and the tools to help them collaborate,” he states.

“Build a professional physical environment that encourages co-location of technology and business teams, supports agile practices like daily stand-up meetings, and fuels innovation.”

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