Disrupt or be disrupted: Talent retention is your strategic advantage

By Pluralsight

Visit Fortune, Bloomberg or the Harvard Business Review and you’re seeing them: headlines about digital transformation. Don’t be tricked into thinking this is another buzzword – it’s not. Digital transformation is the top strategic priority for half of executives globally in 2017.

What exactly does digital transformation mean? Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder at Silicon Valley-based firm Constellation Research Inc., defines the term as “the methodology in which organizations transform and create new business models and culture with digital technologies.” We sat down with Ray to discuss how today’s leaders can create a successful digital transformation. This is the second post in a six-part series.

The secret weapon to successfully navigating a digital transformation is a resource you already have—your current employees.

Retaining the talent you’ve spent so much to attract to your business is a struggle, and you’re not alone in it. In a Payscale report ranking average employee tenure at Fortune 500 companies, you’ll see some well-known names at the bottom of the list. Google, Amazon and Sandesk all have average employee tenures of only one and a half years or less. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American employee sticks with a job for an average of four and a half years, and that time is even shorter for millennial workers—an average of three years.

Evaporating employee loyalty comes at a particularly challenging time for technology leaders. Every market is engaged in digital transformation that shows no sign of slowing down, and those business that keep and develop talent will be ahead of their competition, rather than paralyzed by a skills gap and a workforce that looks like a revolving door.

Employee engagement matters to your bottom line

While longevity is an important quality, the most valuable employees are those who resist complacency, take risks and drive the business forward. According to a Gallup study, employees considered talented, experienced and engaged outperform average employees by 18 percent and pass on their enthusiasm and knowledge throughout the organization. That can be the difference in millions of dollars of increased revenue—up to $12 million per 1,000 workers for highly skilled professions. 

One of the most valuable assets for companies that thrive in an era of digital disruption is a workforce of star team members who are invested in their jobs and the teams they work for. So, how do you create an environment for your employees that keeps them at your organization? 

Give your people the chance to do what they do best

Asking your employees what they want to learn and then aligning your organization’s priorities and projects is how to build retention. Allowing your employees to have a voice in the types of skills and projects they’re working on pushes them and your teams to explore and create new ways of reaching goals. Challenging conventional wisdom from the inside gives your company a competitive edge. Your star performers are your unique strategic advantage to seizing new opportunities in a business environment that’s changing faster than ever.

In some cases, the roles or skills these employees need may not be traditional or conventional. But, your organization’s ability to adapt and scale depends heavily on how well you are utilizing your best talent. Your employees will also appreciate the opportunity to develop new skills and have an active role in driving your business forward.

Typecast at your own risk

Silos are bad news for leaders who want to make their organizations more agile in today’s digital environment. If your employees know they can’t get the career shift or new skills they are looking for in your organization, they’ll look to your competitors to find that new position. And, if you don’t cross skill your employees, you will lose people.

“What you have to do is get away from the stereotypes that say, ‘Oh, that person is just a developer, they don’t need business skills, or wait, that person is actually in the business side of the house, they don’t actually need to know how to code. Those things don’t actually exist anymore.”

—Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder, Constellation Research Inc.

Cross skilling employees is more than just personal development. As your teams become interdisciplinary, they will have a better understanding of how each part of the business works and be empowered to contribute in meaningful ways. And you’ll find that recruiting becomes easier as your business keeps its best people and shows potential new hires the value your organization places on employee development.

Uncover your hidden talent

As your business adapts and changes, your interdisciplinary team will be able to handle challenges. When your organization needs to fill new positions, you’ll have a deep pool of talent to draw from in your own business—closing your own skills gap.

And who knows? You may find that your employees discover skills and roles they hadn’t initially considered that align with their personal goals and business objectives. When your employees and the skills they want to learn are at the heart of your business, you’ll discover that your organization is built to win and adapt for years to come.

Hear more advice from Ray Wang about successfully navigating digital transformation on YouTube.

About the author

Pluralsight is the technology skills platform. We enable individuals and teams to grow their skills, accelerate their careers and create the future.