By Chris Underwood, Managing Director at Adastrum Consulting
Data and digital technology are shaping every area of our lives, from the way we shop to the way we travel, and the impact is hugely apparent in the changing way we work.
Finding the right talent with the right leadership skills is an ongoing challenge for employers. With the impact advancing technology has on every level of a business, digital know how is no longer the reserve of specialists, making the right skillset more important than ever before. Retaining talent is equally as important, especially in growing areas as employees expect agile workplaces that offer training to keep on top of digital advancements.
We have witnessed first-hand the effects of emerging technology across all industries, resulting in businesses needing to quickly familarise themselves with both the opportunity and risks of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Machine Learning (ML), to stay ahead. All too often we see organisations consistently make the same mistakes in their employment approach and miss out on the best income.
- Hire to complement your current skill-set
It’s tempting for businesses to hire employees based on their existing leadership team, going by what has worked well and what hasn’t worked as well in the past. Although it’s beneficial to take this into account, the business world is rapidly changing, which means the more traditional business models are being moulded to suit a more modern approach. This is the same with leadership teams – what may have previously worked well, might not be as valuable in the future. Newer skills are required to operate in our fast-evolving digital world and businesses must adapt to keep on top of trends. Ask what problems you need someone to solve, not what industry knowledge they have. Hire for your own weaknesses and skills or knowledge gaps.
- Plan for success
Succession planning should feed into any talent management programme as it helps identify future talent potential and how it can be developed – the right skills, knowledge and experience. Too often we see businesses invest significant time and resources on strategy execution and fail to acknowledge succession planning at all. Regularly seen as the ‘poor relation’ of talent management, if not looked at correctly, it can affect your overarching talent management programme and can have serious repercussions. Ask what skills the next generation of leaders will need and develop a plan accordingly.
- Broaden your talent pool
Organisations tend to seek new talent based on the same small, original pool of candidates that they’ve used before. Hiring from competitors is not always the most forward way of thinking when sourcing the most valuable talent; it suggests that you will be employing followers, not leaders.
Be inventive and search for talent in other industries/professions, as many skills will transfer over to each sector. Look for businesses or industries that have solved the problem you have. A fresh pair of eyes may be exactly what the business needs to help its leadership team thrive, as individuals from other sectors may be able to see problems clearer than those who work in it every day.
- Focus on more than top performers’ ability
It’s easy to fall into the routine of focusing on current top performers and moulding them to fit the requirements of another leadership role in an alternative team. For example, performing well in sales does not mean that they will be more effective in a senior management role. This is not always the case and they may need extra support to help develop the required/correct leadership and management skills. Promotion without development can waste not only money but also valuable time that could have been spent assisting the business’s transformation.
Consider candidates who may not be the ‘easy’ option, but the ones who already have the required skill-set as well as personal qualities such as aspiration and motivation. Think outside the box and don’t stick to what you already know.
- Appreciate purpose
A strong sense of purpose is an attribute all great leaders share. Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela and Richard Branson all had very different leadership styles and behaviours, but all have one thing in common – purpose.
It’s important for business leaders to understand the process of leading with drive and why it is so important for success. When hiring, this should be a trait that is apparent at the earliest opportunity, especially when looking for senior talent.
Finding the right talent is not as simple as it once used to be, especially in the whirlwind amount of technology and automation shaping how businesses operate to date. Opportunities presented by digital technology are endless, which simply means organisations must have the right leadership and skills in place to harness them and drive growth. With this in mind, it’s important to understand the common pitfalls many fall into when hiring and how to avoid them.