Why Hiring Digital Talent Is Not Your Biggest Hurdle

by Richenda Vermeulen
September 24, 2019

It’s no secret that digital talent is in short supply in Australia.

Our annual research on digital success revealed that 88% of companies are struggling to find digital talent, with 42% saying it’s their biggest or a major challenge.

At the heart of the issue? There just isn’t enough digital talent to go around. With outdated training at universities and overseas opportunities poaching talent away from Australia,  the growth of digital roles is simply outweighing the talent available.

Figures from US Census data show that 95% of hires are made to fill existing positions, and most of those vacancies are caused by voluntary turnover. Not enough digital staff to go around may really just be a front for the greater need: retaining existing talent.

In our research, when asked what organisations use to attract and retain digital talent, 54% said shared interest in the organisation’s core values. For not-for-profits, this rose to 78%.

Given the huge number of organisations battling for digital talent, It’s clear companies can’t simply focus on filling up their hiring pipeline. They need a clear focus on retention.

When it comes to retaining digital staff, here are the three levels of effort we see across industries.

Level One: Being A great place to work

Soft benefits like values alignment are a bare minimum, alongside flexible work culture, health and wellbeing benefits, and even additional leave for volunteering days. These benefits serve everyone in the company – so they won’t just impact digital. Equally well though, these benefits don’t serve the specific needs of digital.

The fact is, there’s a lot of great places to work. If this is the key strategy for retention of your digital staff, it’s likely they’ll be able to find equally great places to work. A positive culture is increasingly becoming the industry standard, and may not be enough to retain your digital staff.

Level Two: Investment in training

Our research showed that organisations that ranked higher on digital success (which correlated to revenue growth) have been investing in more training, not less. Interestingly, this bucks the last five years of ABS trends which shows most companies doing less on-the-job training. These higher-ranking organisations recognise the unique challenges of working in digital: a constantly shifting landscape, rapidly changing technology, and a need for specialisation. If training isn’t encouraged and supported, staff can feel overwhelmed as they try to keep up.

After training hundreds of digital staff across Australia through ntegrity academy, we’ve seen the effects of upskilling first hand. This training enhances the baseline of digital knowledge in organisations, and expands the career trajectories of participants. Instead of a linear journey from implementation to management (which ignores desires to further technical skills), it allows employees to become specialists in their fields and extend their career aspirations at your company.

Further, investment in training needs to be integral to how the business operates. In our research, we found that digitally successful organisations prioritise a culture where learning is central. An effective training program should address specific gaps and pain points within your organisation. This could be as simple as running regular lunch-and-learns to share knowledge internally, or more high-level such as building external training into your budget.

Level three: Personalised development

The rolls royce of retention is personalised plans for your digital talent aligns their growth with that of the business. This inextricably links their skill development with your organisation.

Setting them up with a coach or highly invested manager — and developing a training plan linked to their overall goals and performance — makes a huge difference in an employees growth and mindset.

In our work with clients, we’ve found this very useful when staff have high technical knowledge but low influencing skills. For example, we’ve worked alongside data analysts to help them become data-driven storytellers within the organisation. They’ve grown to drive decisions through their new skills of translating data into actionable insights that all stakeholders can understand.

This is not about upskilling people to move on to the next job. It’s about helping your highly poachable staff become world-class employees who see their growth explicitly linked to your company. This concept is high-touch, but offers a competitive advantage.

While you can’t change the digital skills shortage, with the right investments in training, you can absolutely influence retention.

Want tailored advice on creating a staff training plan and growth-focused culture?

Get in touch for a free 30-minute consult with an ntegrity digital strategist, or check out our digital training academy.