25 Mar 2021

Avoid self-inflicted wounds in global war for TMT talent

Study after study finds that technology, media and telecom companies face severe talent shortages. The gap often can be explained by the simple fact that demand for talent far exceeds supply. But to what extent do TMT companies add to their talent shortage because of ill-conceived recruiting and employee retention practices?  

From a talent and skills perspective, many potential employees can pick and choose jobs that pay well enough while also meeting their need for job satisfaction and career development. With a potential hire sitting in the driver’s seat, a company can’t expect to win the competition for talent by simply offering more money or even those prized avocado sandwiches in a sparkling company lunchroom. This may seem obvious to most line managers and human resource professionals, yet the talent shortage endures.  

Recent Willis Towers Watson research found that the difficulty in identifying, attracting and retaining key talent was at the top of Executives’ concern along with inadequate solutions for rapid technical “up-skilling” of existing staff to match the pace of digital transformation.  

In contrast to a 2016 study on TMT risk megatrends, respondents redefined “compensation” risks beyond pay and benefits to include a general lack of employee lifestyle choices, and too-few internal development programs to engage and retain vital digital talent.  

Our latest research indicates that talent has climbed up the risk ladder as companies take a more holistic view of how enterprise success depends on having the right talent in the right places. Well-trained, highly motivated and engaged employees help companies construct a barrier against risks arising from any direction.  

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has added urgency to the need for better talent and skills management. A July 2020 McKinsey Global Survey concluded that Covid-19 has accelerated the digitization of customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations “by three to four years.”  

The Willis Towers Watson Flexible Work and Rewards Survey 2021 further highlighted the accelerated pace of automation and its impact on talent as critical factors in the re-organization of the workplace in the post-pandemic era. Employers that create a flexible workplace with automation, adaptable policies and enhance employee experience will be better positioned to compete in the new world of work.  

Some companies have begun recruiting employees without a digital pedigree, instead seeking employees who exhibit such traits as curiosity, creativity and a willingness to innovate. Walt Disney and other companies are finding that these employees can be trained to gain digital skills while adding a higher level of creativity and innovation to the enterprise. As an example; Disney’s CODE: Rosie program brings female employees with non-technical roles into new jobs within the company’s technical operations.  

Technology employees are also being given opportunities to better integrate with other functions. CompTIA, in its Cyberstates 2020 report, noted: “Beyond technical skills, businesses are also looking for technology professionals that can speak the language of the business, collaborating with other departments in order to drive technology-fueled business results.” 

Employee satisfaction must be part of the equation. It’s important that companies expand their tech talent pipeline. But this is of only short-term value – and an expensive mistake – if TMT companies fail to recognize that employees want more interesting work, better opportunities, and have little patience if they feel badly managed or unchallenged. 

Diversity & Inclusion 

Our latest research confirms that most companies care about workplace diversity and inclusion, but D&I implementation and execution varies. Even the very definition of D&I varies widely from company to company and among countries. For too many TMT companies, workforce diversity and inclusion are blind spots. 

At the risk of overstatement, we find that U.S. companies too often apply simple metrics to measure the success of D&I programs. Companies in Europe and Asia are less likely to apply specific metrics. They often take less formal steps, such as encouraging hiring managers to have an open mind about diversity and inclusion. Neither approach leverages the operational and financial benefits and competitive advantage of a genuinely diverse workforce. 

At Willis Towers Watson, we describe D&I this way: 

  • Innovation doesn’t happen in a silo. If inputs are limited, then outcomes are also limited.  
  • To solve critical problems, we need to foster an inclusive culture that encourages diversity of thought, ensuring visibility for ideas and innovation on a global scale when faced with global challenges.  
  • This is achieved when all colleagues have the chance to contribute. 

TMT companies best at the talent game apply the same creativity to people management that they do to the development of new products and digital services. The trick is to identify best practices, modify them to fit the business culture, and to see that the best practices are applied consistently and monitored for effectiveness. 

Fredrik Motzfeldt is Senior Technology, Media & Telecoms Client Leader at Willis Towers Watson. You can follow WTW on Twitter LinkedIn

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