How to win the war for skilled talent
Thanks to technology, the way we work is set to change forever. You need only look at the impact of driverless cars to see just how disruptive the next generation of technology will be. In fact, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report, as many as 375mn workers (or 14% of the global workforce) might need to switch occupation categories because of digitization, automation and artificial intelligence (AI). It’s a mammoth shift for workers, but it’ll impact business too. Tomorrow’s business leaders will need more analytical, digital-savvy skills than ever before if they want to keep up with the blistering pace of digital transformation - but will companies be able to find these skills? Research by the Korn Ferry Institute forecasts that the existing talent shortage will reach its worst levels in 2030, whereby an expected 85.2mn job openings will go unfulfilled worldwide. In previous decades, the ‘war for talent’ dominated the headlines, but looking forward it seems that it will be the skills gap that will define the business agenda.
An analytical mind
Many tout data as ‘the new oil’, and as a result, data literacy has quickly become a highly-coveted skill for today’s business leaders. Gartner has even gone as far as to predict that, by 2020, 80% of organizations will have to start to roll out data literacy initiatives to upskill their workforce. One such company, powering ahead with such training is data visualization giant, Tableau Software. The firm recently launched Academics, a program that has helped around 680,000 students and faculties use Tableau’s software, and on top of this, it has also partnered with British training partner AVADO, to launch apprenticeships and training programs in the UK. In an exclusive interview with Gigabit, CEO Adam Selipsky, said: “Recent estimates from the IBC suggest that between now and 2025, the amount of data in the world that's subject to analysis is going to grow 50-fold. I think a lot of organizations are just going to get crushed under the weight of that data whilst many others are going to see brand new opportunities to develop insights and make better decisions based on all of that data. Regardless of whether your organization sees data as a problem or an opportunity, there's an urgent need for analytical capabilities to deal with it, and again, to make better decisions faster.”
It’s no secret that many businesses have a diversity problem. In fact, according to stark research conducted by INvolve, more people called David and Steve lead FTSE 100 companies than women and ethnic minorities. Diversity matters but recent research shows that it also pays: in a 2015 study, McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Bringing a broad range of perspectives, diversity is a critical asset for businesses looking to address the talent gap. For Neelam Sandhu, Senior Director of Business Operations, Office of the CEO at BlackBerry, one of the biggest hurdles lie in the lack of female role models in male-dominated fields. “Women don’t have those same role models or examples as men to look up to or emulate,” she observes. “But I do think that's changing. For example, we can see that two leaders of General Motors – the CEO and the CFO – are both women.” Another hurdle lies in education. “We need to increase the pipeline of women in STEM and that starts with education,” adds Sandhu. “We need to work on creating an environment where women feel comfortable learning STEM topics. Not only is the professional environment male-dominated, but the education environment is too. So, creating that environment or community where women feel comfortable in STEM is important.”
Any CIO will admit that digital transformation isn’t just about new gadgets and technologies, it’s also about the people. At its annual Dell Tech forum, for example, Dell Technologies singled out workforce transformation as a crucial stand of any digital disruption program. Within the firm, Dell Technologies has implemented what it describes as ‘reverse engineering’, for example, whereby it pairs more seasoned employees with new graduates to encourage cross-generational peer-to-peer training. “I think it’s been a huge learning curve for us,” says Dayne Turbitt, Senior Vice President of Dell EMC’s Enterprise Sales Division. “We paired legacy employees with millennials and this helps to break down the paradigms you develop over decades of business. It makes the business open to new ideas, it fosters a new culture of innovation. We’ve done some amazing things in the past year and it’s down to this speed of innovation.”
Many procurement professionals will tell you that their job is no longer a support function, it’s a business driver. With procurement now at the fore of many business strategies, skilled workers in this field are in high demand. Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) has played a pivotal role in the professionalization of procurement across the world, offering a range of highly-valued training courses. Sam Achampong, Regional Head & General Manager of CIPS MENA, believes that this is crucial to the upskilling of the procurement field. “We work very closely with companies to create a licensed procurement function whereby everyone in their procurement team is qualified to do procurement. We have created the infrastructure to make qualifications available through an increased number of study centers, universities and accredited degrees. For people, we have also set up a number of professional networks that support these people so that they can continue to share knowledge.” Achampong also underlines the importance of working with local communities, noting: “The key thing is or us to be working with local people in this region, so we've worked very hard with the prominent local organizations to make sure that we are helping the capability development of Middle East locals to get credible procurement qualifications and skills.”
Looking forward, it’s clear that if you want to build the workforce of the future you need to act proactively. Business leaders should be vigilant about workforce gaps and be aware of the skills needed in the future. They should also create a robust plan to hire, upskill and contract the right skills and be sure to establish a dedicated cross-functional team, with a forward-thinking HR team. In a recent survey, McKinsey pointed out that 75% of executives were optimistic that reskilling and training would help to fill at least half of their talent needs. Amid the war for talent and hiring difficulties, businesses need to be productive if they want to tackle the challenge of skills and training. It may be easy to get caught up in talk of digital disruption or supply chain transformation but without the people behind it, it’s near impossible.
“We should never underestimate the power and need of human interaction,” agrees Johan Reventberg, President EMEA at JDA Software. “The risk is that if your company doesn’t educate and train your workforce, you will leave the people behind. If people get left behind, they will then be a threat to themselves and to the companies because they're not going to keep pace with the company. If we don’t train our people, we're not enabling the workforce of the future.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.