How to nurture the next generation of digital innovators

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photo of victoriaGuest blog: Victoria Greene, branding expert and freelance content creator

Victoria is the founder of Victoriaecommerce and regularly shares her business advice with entrepreneurs looking to make a success of their online business. Big fan of social storytelling & customer-centric content.

The digital transformation of the business world has transformed the talent management landscape, ushering in a new generation of tech talent whose skills are becoming ever more essential for an organisation that hopes to compete in the data-driven digital world.

Business leaders in all sectors have begun to recognise the value an in-house digital innovator can add to their team, both in terms of future-proofing, and being able to hold their ground on increasingly popular digital platforms.

However, the height of demand for digital talent means the best recruits can more or less take their pick of employers. Meanwhile, many businesses are left sifting through a varied pool of talent with no guarantee that they will be able to hold on to their newly-hired innovators.

Yet this is not so different from any other search for talent. After all, your employees need room to grow, and if they are stifled, and their ambitions ignored, they are less likely to remain in your employment.

Today’s digital entrepreneurs know their worth, and they appreciate being offered the recognition and opportunities they deserve. So whether you are developing in-house talent, or planning to hire an up-and-coming digital innovator, it is vital to implement talent management best practices, and provide an attractive Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that caters to the specific aspirations of this new generation of skilled individuals.

Embrace change

For your business to take its place amongst the digital leaders of the modern era, it has to be prepared to embrace the change that this progression necessitates. With the rise of marketing automation, and the growing reliance on increasingly more sophisticated AI systems, long-standing roles are undergoing dramatic transformations.

For some of your team, these changes may be unsettling, unwanted, and even discouraging, as experienced employees may begin feel that they have been superseded by technology, with no recourse to re-establish their sense of belonging.

In order for the transition to go smoothly, it is essential to provide guidance, clarity, and support to your team, as they find their feet in their new digital environment. Take the time to identify individual aspirations, and give staff the opportunity to develop talents that will enable them to move forward with confidence.

Provide training for any new technologies or procedures that are adopted by your business. No one should be left to fall by the wayside, so monitor each person’s progress throughout your business’s digital transformation in order to identify concerns and address them proactively. You may even spot some unexpected hidden potential along the way.

Look out for in-house talent

When searching for digital talent, remember to consider the skills and aspirations of your existing employees. In particular, if you are branching out into new areas of digital technology, this could be the perfect opportunity to foster a promising team member’s enthusiasm for the field.

Similarly, if you have an employee with relevant digital knowledge and skillsets that have previously been untapped, this could be the time to let them showcase their abilities. By placing trust in your employees and giving them the chance to shine, you not only strengthen working relationships, but also instil confidence in your staff.

Where there is a choice between recruiting a more experienced individual, and providing developmental opportunities to your existing employees, it can be a tough call to make. In many cases, it is preferable to expand the role of a trusted member of staff, rather than take on an unknown. However, depending on the extent of their new responsibilities, you may still need to hire someone to fill their former role.

As with any investment, you will need to weigh the costs against the likely returns, keeping in mind your EVP and how your decision may impact your staff, as well as the business as a whole.

Offer a challenge

The thing about innovators is that they are always ready to push the boundaries of your expectations. While up-and-coming digital talent may be keen to develop their skills and gain experience with your business, if there is no visible progression, or option to better themselves, there is a good chance that they will become restless and move on.

Offering employment with purpose is good practice in all sectors, and no less so when nurturing talent within the digital sphere. One of the keys to effective talent management is to understand each employee’s perceived limits, relative to their potential for growth. This will enable you to offer meaningful challenges that run in line with their career pathing objectives.

It is not uncommon for talented individuals to give themselves less credit than they are due. Therefore, it is your role to take calculated risks, based on your confidence in an individual’s abilities, even when they lack that confidence in themselves.

Provide mentoring

Employee development can take time, attention, and often a lot of reassurance, depending on the goals and personality of the employee in question. Providing mentoring is a useful way to diminish some of the pressure on your staff as they develop new skills and move into more advanced roles. In addition mentors are able to build powerful working relationships with their mentees, while developing valuable experience in training and development practices.

Mentoring can cover anything from sharing knowledge and wisdom collected throughout one’s time with the business, to updating standard working practices to incorporate the use of new technologies. The important thing is to ensure that your team are mentored in areas to which they might aspire, or which could benefit them in the future.

This could mean teaching them to evaluate analytics data, allowing them to manage sales via your ecommerce system, or even giving them the ability to handle content creation and distribution. Whatever the skillset might be, mentoring empowers your staff, while focusing on the skills which they are most keen to develop.

Reward innovation

Give your digital talent the freedom to drive positive change within your business. Be transparent with your team about your business objectives, and ensure that they understand the motivations and ethics of your organization. Armed with this knowledge, your innovators can then tread new ground with confidence, being sure to steer their choices in the direction that is most appropriate for the business as a whole.

Reward your team for positive innovation, and help them to identify obstacles that may arise. Not every venture may prove to be a success, but your assurance and encouragement will help your staff to remain steadfast, and remind them that they are still meeting the overarching goals defined by your organisation.

people joining handsYour staff are the greatest investment your business can make, and everything you do to empower your team will benefit you just as much as it does them. By helping your employees become the best that they can be, you strengthen your business with a pool of highly-motivated, talented, and loyal individuals, equipped with the skillsets that your business needs in order to thrive in the digital age.

Whether your organization’s digital talent comes from within, or is recruited externally, fostering their development is a process that will impact your entire business. Yet, as you embrace digital solutions and usher your business into the future, the benefits will significantly outweigh the efforts required to get there.

In the meantime, by building a person-centred management strategy, and providing your team with the opportunities and the conviction to achieve their goals, you will continuously build your business reputation.

Over time, this will make you a more and more attractive employment prospect, to the effect that, in the end, rather than searching high and low for the top digital talent, they may come seeking you instead.