Technology alone is not enough: why your talent matters

Technology alone is not enough: why your talent matters.

Amongst the organisations that undertake large scale digital transformation projects, the majority realise less than a third of the impact they expect to receive. Despite wanting to make the changes to improve the digital landscape of their companies, there is a disconnect between the technology and implementation. This article explores why talent is the missing link to making sure new technologies are successful.


Exploring the impact of operational excellence on digital transformation and how to use the right talent to realise operational excellence within a business by upskilling current employees and recruiting new talent to the team.

The past three years have brought unprecedented levels of turbulence to the market, and this has reached across every sector, from finance to retail to hospitality. The impact of Covid, the fall out of Brexit, the uncertainty of numerous supply chain issues, an unexpected war waged by a global superpower, and now a clear indication that we’re heading into a deep recession.

Those businesses that are still standing are likely to have already been through a number of changes to keep afloat. They might, in fact, believe that they’re now ready for anything that might get thrown their way.

But the truth is, keeping up with customer demand in a digital age is only going to become more competitive. And while many may think they’ve embraced the digital technology to see them through, in reality the adoption of this technology has been haphazard for most – with business leaders reporting that they see less than a third of the success they expected from their investment in digital transformationi.

But what is it that’s holding businesses back from reaping the benefits of their new technology? Well in our experience, the main thing that goes wrong is companies believing that the tech alone will be enough. In reality, without the presence of talented individuals to drive and execute the necessary digital changes, as well as establish operational excellence, the desired results cannot be achieved. The role of talent in digital transformation cannot be overstated, as their expertise and capabilities are crucial for harnessing the potential of technology and maximizing its benefits. It is imperative for organizations to recognize the significance of acquiring and nurturing the right talent to ensure a smooth and effective digital transformation journey.

What is operational excellence?

Operational excellence is a measure that refers to the maturity of a company’s operations and its ability to improve over time. It’s an organisation’s commitment to strategy and purpose. It’s the investment in people who deliver value that’s connected to the company’s vision. Operational excellence is the measure of continual improvement, both at a company level and an individual employee level.

And this means that it is wrapped up in the talent within the business – their commitment to action and improvement. Without this, introducing new technology and undertaking digital transformation is unlikely to have long term impact.

Technology needs talent

So, when business leaders are looking at the team driving their operation, they need to make an assessment about the kind of people that make up that team. Are they innovators? Do they have the curiosity to ask questions about the way things are done and how they might be better? Are they empowered to suggest and make changes that can have incremental impact? Are they scanning the landscape for what’s on the horizon? These are the kinds of traits that digitally savvy employees bring to the table, and it’s these team members that will be able to drive forward operational excellence.

This is a culture that needs to be nurtured, from the CEO through to the front line. It’s a way of encouraging every employee to take ownership of their role in improving safety, efficiency, productivity, value. It’s a culture that views innovation as more than just new technology, but instead sees technology as a tool to unlock new capabilities, new ways of operating, small improvements that cut costs and increase value.

Those companies that get the best from their digital transformation talent are, unequivocally, the ones who have the best talent management programmes. Usually, these have 4 main aspects to them:

  • Reskilling and upskilling existing talent
  • Attracting tech-savvy talent from outside the organisation
  • Integrating new talent into the organisation
  • Partnering with other companies to access their talent pools

Closing the skills gap and finding the right tech talent is clearly an obstacle for improving digital performance – and this isn’t just at the frontline, but also at executive level. This is why it’s crucial to take a holistic approach to talent management – where upskilling executives is proving ineffective, bringing new talent into the c-suite may be more realistic. If talent can’t be found in the marketplace, then working with organisations that already have the leaders necessary to succeed may be the right path forward.

What’s crucial is that the onboarding and integration of new hires or external talent is prioritised – that their skills are prioritised and where necessary, disseminated in a way that has long term benefit to the company by strengthening its digital capability.

Re-skilling a workforce for the future

The future of work is going to require reskilling for vast number of employees who have built their career in product age and don’t yet have the technical knowledge to move into a more digital era. Companies need to stay competitive and need to find ways of embracing sustainable growth that keeps up with the values and demands of their customers and improves overall customer experience.

But to do this, the workforce will need to build up digital skills that it currently doesn’t possess. Recent research suggests that 43% of companies report existing skill gaps, and a further 44% expect to see gaps open up over the next five years.ii

Businesses will play a huge role in this reskilling process, and those that are able to show their team members the value of acquiring these skills and get their buy in are far more likely to close the skills gap and find a place in the digital age.

Reskilling programs for the future of work need to focus on building employees’ skills in critical thinking and decision making, leadership, advanced data analysis, agile working, artificial intelligence, project management and programming – all skills that will be in greater demand within the future workforce.

However, fewer than half of all organisations feel confident about designing effective programmes for these reskilling projectsiii, and many are beginning to understand the role external stakeholders and training partners will have in supporting this skills growth.

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