CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 14, 2018
Forward Thinking

The scramble for "digital talent"

Attracting technically skilled individuals to industrial supply chains is a challenge, but there are steps companies can take to get the right people in place, according to a report from The Korn Ferry Institute.

Some industrial manufacturing companies, such as General Electric (GE) and Siemens, have been working hard to transform themselves into digital enterprises that focus as much on software, apps, and services as on making industrial products. One of the biggest hurdles that these companies face on the path to a digital transformation, however, is finding and developing "digital talent," according to the "Digitizing Industrial" report from the advisory firm The Korn Ferry Institute.

A survey of supply chain executives by the institute shows that companies are struggling to find people with the right mix of talent. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they "have individuals who possess the leadership to drive change in the organization but who lack the right technical skills." Another 27 percent said they have "individuals who possess the right technical skills but who lack the leadership to drive change in the organization." The remaining 20 percent said they have "individuals who possess neither the right technical skills nor the leadership to drive change."

To attract university graduates and top talent from digital pure-plays, the report recommends, companies should tell their transformation stories and emphasize that they are as much tech innovators as companies like Google and Apple. For example, when heavy equipment manufacturer Deere & Company is recruiting new employees, it makes sure that hiring managers promote the fact that the company is the largest operator of autonomous vehicles on the planet, according to the report.

Korn Ferry also recommends emphasizing how industrial companies have the potential to use advanced technology to address some of the world's most pressing problems, such as water and energy conservation. Finally, traditional industrial firms can convey that they offer opportunities for employees to develop leadership skills that may be lacking at pure-play tech companies, says the report.

Leading-edge companies are also looking at how they can make their internal talent more "digitally ready," according to the report. This approach is beneficial because existing employees already possess deep knowledge about the company's products and processes. For example, control engineers are well positioned to become key members of digital teams, the report notes.

Blending the traditional, industrial culture with a newer digital culture can be challenging, the report notes. It is essential that the company conveys the same message to all their employees about what direction the company is taking. The authors recommend creating a robust internal communication plan that explains to all employees the company's new digitization strategy and why it needs to evolve into a digital enterprise.

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