You Have the Tools, But Do You Have the Talent? Thoughts from the @IBM #OutThink Tour 2016

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Recently, I was invited to attend the “IBM OutThink Tour 2016 event in New York City as an IBM VIP Influencer. Hosted at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, this event was focused on the changing role of technology and talent in the modern business.

At the center of the event was a talk delivered by Eric Lesser, Research Director at the IBM Institute for Business Value. The focus of this presentation was on a recently released IBM report, “Redefining Talent.” Central to the report were three questions: How does your organization manage talent in the digital age? What technologies are companies using with their workforce, and what implication do they have for both employees and HR service delivery? And finally, how can organizations unlock these tools to be more flexible, analytical and social?

To answer these questions, IBM surveyed over five thousand business leaders, 601 of whom were CHROs. Both the CHROs and the other business leaders (CXOs, CFOs, CIOs, etc.) were in agreement on the major trends expected to impact business in the next three to five years: industry convergence, the anywhere workplace and rising cyber-risk.

According to Lesser, industry convergence is a topic of special importance, since digital disruption has put organizations across the board on alert for an entirely new kind of competition. Business leaders everywhere fear being “Uberized”—that is, having a new entrant come seemingly out of nowhere to interrupt their business model. Common among these disruptive competitors is a leaner, more nimble business model that better puts customers and vendors in direct contact with each other.

This has significant implications for an organization’s relationship to its talent. To stay relevant, companies need workers with an entirely new skill set. They aren’t going to find all these skills dormant within their organization though. In fact, they often won’t be able to fulfill all their needs even through recruiting. Instead, it will be an all-of-the-above approach in which employers use training, recruiting, and third-party vendors to meet their business needs.

Lesser refers to this as capturing new fish in new ponds. And much of it begins with establishing a brand image in line with target skill sets (like GE did with their “What’s the Matter With Owen?” commercials). In other words, businesses must be in the habit of looking at talent through a marketing lens.

From an HR perspective, a new kind of talent means a new kind of relationship. How can the CHRO help design an environment that is going to attract and retain individuals with these new in-demand skills? What kinds of environments are friendly to these types of roles? With organizations always on the lookout to woo top talent away—think Uber’s recruitment efforts at Carnegie Mellon—HR must also ask what they can do to keep these employees engaged and passionate.

Ultimately, this leads to a focus on a more collaborative organization, one that looks not only to fill existing talent vacuums, but also to create learning opportunities and push the barriers of possibility. As always, this process begins in the C-Suite. According to the IBM survey, although nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of business leaders surveyed understood the impact of changing technologies on the workforce, less than half (46 percent) believed their organization was prepared to manage a more complex workforce.

So how can organizations become better prepared to meet the demands of a rapidly changing talent pool? In Blue Focus Marketing’s new video tutorial course “Social Employees: The New Marketing Channel,” we show how to build an effective, engaged social workforce—building an employee-first brand from the inside out. The course, released by, a LinkedIn company, first establishes marketing’s shifting role in the modern organization before explaining how to design a social employee pilot program—beginning with buy-in from the C-Suite. As more and more data demonstrating the value of social employees become available, the time to activate your workforce is now.

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