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The Talent Development Mandate: How Digital Leaders Succeed

Feature Article | March 24, 2017 by Renata Janini Dohmen

According to Leaders 2020, a recent study conducted by Oxford Economics and sponsored by SAP, the majority of leaders around the globe are not developing talent through lack of training and lack of contact.

In today’s fast-paced business climate, how can leaders slow down and invest in their employees? What are the best ways to develop talent?

These are interesting questions and a dilemma that is increasingly affecting leaders across businesses of various industries and parts of the world. The reality is that leaders cannot slow down. The pressure is way too high and business disruptions are no longer coming from the usual competitors or places. In a world of high connectivity, leaders are now called to work differently and, most importantly, to lead differently. And that is the path that will enable them to be successful in the digital economy.

In a fast-paced world, how can leaders slow down and invest in employees?

Here are three tips for talent development in the digital age.

Understand that “Digital” Is More Than a Buzzword

Employees today reflect the experience they have as consumers on to their expectations in the workforce. They demand enhanced user experience, faster accessibility, ease of use and greater mobility in all company services that they consume. They call for fast and customized services that allow them to receive what the need, when they need it.

Formal learning is no longer limited to classroom training, and requires the necessary mobility to allow anyone to obtain information online via courses, webinars or videos, anytime and anywhere. Peer-to-peer learning is also no longer restricted to a specific setting and the increasing use of technology enables work colleagues in different offices and time zones to connect at their own convenience for the best learning experience.

Leaders moving the needle in talent development in a digital world are the ones who understand that the use of technology is an ally to achieve competitive advantage, to facilitate innovation and to promote a learning culture within the organization.

Embrace Diversity as an Investment

Learning is boosted when experiences among people are shared and collaboration is fostered. Moreover, diverse perspectives to solve a problem can promote a wealth of ideas that build on each other, resulting in innovative outcomes that were potentially not even thought of at the very beginning. That in itself is a tremendous source of development for employees, one that can largely contribute to increasing employee engagement and to enhancing company revenue and profitability.

A diverse workforce is a reflection of the diverse communities employees live in today, especially in the virtual world, and being able to bring such diversity into the workplace allows companies to understand how to adapt their internal services to meet the needs of an increasingly demanding workforce. Younger generations learn differently from the way older generations learned in the past, and companies that are able to understand and translate such differences into more collaborative ways of developing employees, where learning happens with a purpose, are those better positioned to win in the digital world.

Listen and Act on Employee Feedback

Listening to and acting on employee feedback continues to be a must-do for any business despite the internal and external factors that may impact and influence it. Being able to listen to Millennial executives and their thoughts on digital leadership offers senior executives a shortcut to where investments on learning and development should be directed to and where the greatest ROI will potentially reside. That, paired with advances in technology, allows them to make decisions on the right investments that will prepare people across the organization to grow, be empowered and lead in the years to come.

In addition, learning should be seen as a continuous process. Better yet, it should be embedded in the culture of the organization and not seen as a one-time initiative. As leaders role model and communicate that learning is part of the strategic imperative of their business, they are encouraging people to have an open mind, to look for opportunities to learn in everything that they do and to be multipliers. Any event becomes an opportunity to share, collaborate, teach and learn, in a very fast, inclusive and cost effective way.

Resources are scarce and time is precious for leaders and businesses. But realizing that there are possibilities out there to help companies adapt and strive in the digital transformation is probably one of the most important steps leaders must take. And take it now! Indeed, leaders cannot slow down.

Learn more insights from the Leaders 2020 study by Oxford Economics and SAP here.

Renata Janini Dohmen is vice president of Human Resources, Southeast Asia, SAP

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