DIGILENNIALS: The most important employee your organisation doesn't have

White Papers | June, 2016

By Mike Lim

It's time to stop talking about Digital

The technology that revolutionised everything from our daily interactions to mass manufacturing is now commonplace. We haven’t as much reached the digital tipping point as flown right over it and made our way full steam down the other side. Today, we’re as likely to find our colleagues attempting a digital detox as a juice cleanse. So much so, in fact, that it’s now often easier to measure the have-nots than the haves.

There are now more than 3.7 billion mobile users, or more than half the world’s  population, according to We Are Social1. In Asia, there are some 1.2 billion social media users and 1.6 billion active internet users, and these figures are still growing at an astonishing rate - 13% on average in the last 12 months alone.

While penetration in the West has slowed from its historical peak, Asia continues to transition to a digital economy at a much faster pace than other regions. And at the heart of this digital transformation is a growing understanding that once embraced at a grass roots level, the combination of the right people and right technology has the power to transform organisations.

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BY 2025, KEY NEW TECHNOLOGIES LIKE THE  INTERNET OF THINGS, 3D PRINTING, AND ADVANCED ROBOTICS, ARE FORECAST TO LEAD GDP GROWTH OF 30% IN SOUTHEAST ASIA ALONE, AND UP TO 22% IN CHINA2.


Our World... Evolved

One of the most transformational aspects of modern business is the democratisation of trade. This is why you can buy clothes from a small Californian hipster boutique in India, find a suspension spring manufacturer in Wuhan China supplying parts to a large automotive OEM brand in Germany, and order your favourite pastries from that small family-own bakery halfway across the world. Technology has unlocked global business, freeing up what was once the preserve of big business and global economies. According to McKinsey, around 12% of the global goods trade is now conducted online via international e-commerce3. And start-ups are now the drivers of this change, with the majority (86%) engaging in some form of cross-border activity.

McKinsey terms this “digital globalisation”, and points to how this fundamental shift has turned millions of small and mid-size enterprises into, effectively, global exporters: “Today, even the smallest firms can compete with the largest multinationals.” And they have an audience of billions. The same report highlights how almost one billion people have international connections on social media, with some 360 million taking part in cross-border commerce.

All of this points to a global economy in a state of extreme flux. Technology is changing faster than ever, people are changing with it, but are organisations doing enough to keep up? Simply upgrading your technology or installing new digital practices alone isn’t enough. As McKinsey concludes:

"IN THIS INCREASINGLY DIGITAL ERA OF GLOBALISATION, LARGE COMPANIES CAN MANAGE THEIR INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS IN LEANER, MORE EFFICIENT WAYS… THIS IS A MOMENT FOR COMPANIES TO RETHINK THEIR ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURES, PRODUCTS, ASSETS, AND COMPETITORS."
 

So what for business? 

How are the most progressive companies across Asia keeping up with this revolution, and in many cases leading the way in their markets? The answer lies in their approach to digital transformation. For example, Ogilvy China realised that to be more compelling to their clients, their digital capability had to be ubiquitous throughout all their business lines rather a single separate service offering. Last year, IDC noted that Asian businesses were embracing digital transformation at phenomenal rates4. In fact, it predicted that around 60% of the top 1000 enterprises in the region will have it at the centre of their corporate strategy by 2017.

 IDC forecast that 2016 would “witness the mega transition in the digital era. Enterprises will ‘flip the switch’, committing to a massive new scale of transformation in order to stake out leadership positions in the hyper-digital economy.” At the heart of this change is a fundamental new truth – it’s happening organisation wide, not just across verticals. It has heralded so much more than simply a skill change; today, organisations are evolving their culture, and at the heart of that are its people. 

GE recognised that industrial companies are in the information business whether they like it or not. It announced the formation of a new business unit, GE Digital, in September 2015, which will lead the charge in industrial internet age. The firm will also move its corporate headquarters to Boston to be closer to top engineering academic institutions and technology research & development.

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Recent research from CapGemini and the MIT Center for Digital Business found that three quarters (77%) of companies considered missing digital skills as the key hurdle to their digital transformation5. Survey after survey has confirmed the same point – digital skills are increasingly vital to any organisation looking to operate, compete and succeed on a global level. 

In particular, at DHR we’re increasingly seeing organisations seek out early adopters, those that recognise emerging technologies and trends. These are the employees who spot new thinking and absorb it into their skillset, complementing existing skills.

Simply having digital knowledge alone isn’t enough, however. Increasingly, we’re seeing organisation’s looking for individuals that not only understand the multi-layered, nuanced digital landscape, but can also apply that across the business to different teams, verticals, and clients.

We call this new talent the “Digilennials”, and in our opinion it is these people that exhibit
the right mix of business experience and trend foresight that are driving businesses across
Asia forward today.

Spotting a Digilennial

The Digilennials aren’t always necessarily young, but they are on the pulse of technological change. They keep up-to-date with digital developments, spot new trends as they emerge, and are constantly looking for the next big thing and how it can impact their team or business unit. They’re as likely to be an engineer or consultant as they are a coder, and are as happy talking strategy as they are big data.

But what really sets them apart is their ability to use this information to inform better business decision-making. Digilennials are adept at turning a high concept, deep tech idea into a workable solution that can be developed and sold on. They appreciate the intricate relationship between technology, marketing, and sales, and are committed to breaking down organisational silos. Above all, they have a passion for digital transformation that makes them a key change agent across the business.

Is your business ready? 

Research has shown that companies in Asia are seeking to fill the talent gaps by carefully analysing the competitor landscape, with 38% identifying key Digilennials from within their own industry. However, more interestingly, almost a third (30%) are now looking further afield and identifying key talent from outside their core industry6.  However, simply acquiring new Digilennial talent alone is not enough. Careful steps must be taken to ensure that both the business and your clients can fully realise the benefits of unleashing a Digilennial:

Recognise

Digital transformation is an organisation wide process, confining it to a vertical or team will only breed issues further down the line. Recognise the need for new thinking in specific areas of your team or business unit.

Determine

Not every Digilennial will fit every business; some will seek the analytical skills of a big data expert while others may need the social prowess of an omni-channel retailer. Determine what particular skills are of most valuable to your team and, ultimately, your customers.

Identify

Whether you look internally, externally, in your industry or beyond, finding the right talent to meet both the needs of your business and customers is complex process. Employ the services of an experienced team of consultants to help identify ideal candidates.

Enable

Once on board, your Digilennial is unleashed to drive operational change across the business. But start small; align them with key internal stakeholders from the front and back office. Connect them with IT and marketing. Empower them to break down silos.

It’s time to stop talking about digital. The longer businesses fetishize technology that is now widespread and commonplace, the longer they will take on the road to digital transformation. Organisational change can begin with the simple spark of an engaged new Digilennial, who brings a passion for digital along with a business nous that will drive real evolution across teams, departments, and clients.