Much has been written about foreseeing and driving innovation to stay competitive in the high tech industry. The need to anticipate new industry trends, technologies, and successful business models in order to stay at the forefront has no doubt kept many high tech CEOs wide awake at night. Because innovations are increasingly becoming the driver of sustaining competitive advantage, talent is the key to delivering on these new ideas.
The battle for talent has just begun
Automation in robotics might have changed the way we produce or assemble goods; however, it can’t replace the human talent needed to create new business models and related technological innovations. Because the high tech industry relies increasingly on innovative people with innovative ideas, it is disconcerting to see an overall shortage of white-collar talent possessing the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), business, design thinking, and people-centric skills necessary not only to come up with innovations and business models but also to lead teams in executing them. In addition, as technologies stemming from the high tech industry are increasingly embedded into products of almost every other industry, the demand for top talent has accelerated exponentially. In short, the battle for talent has just begun.
Contingent workforce for infinite capacity with ultimate flexibility
Winning the talent battle has required a considerable shift in strategy. Formerly, contingent talent was relied on primarily to fill temporary gaps in skills availability; however, this is no longer the case. Companies are seeing increased utilization and reliance on a contingent workforce. According to Workforce 2020, a study conducted by Oxford Economics and sponsored by SAP, 83% of executives indicate they’re increasingly using contingent workers on an ongoing basis, not just as a temporary stop-gap.
This new strategy brings with it a number of advantages. Most important in a hyper-innovative and digitized economy, it allows tech companies to add specialized and new skills that they might not have readily available in-house. The cost savings can be considerable, as contingent workers are usually not entitled to many of the benefits received by regular employees. And because contingent workers are understood to be temporary by definition, companies can quickly scale down on these resources as needed without the HR complications associated with laying off full-time employees. Thus, companies gain unprecedented levels of flexibility to respond to and test innovations and commercialization strategies.
Of course, there are downsides to using contingent workers. From a legal perspective, there is an increased compliance risk. High tech companies need to be vigilant in assuring that contingent workers are classified correctly to avoid government fines and penalties, as well as lawsuits from contingent workers who believe they have been wrongly classified and deprived of benefits to which they are entitled. Furthermore, high tech companies rely heavily on trade secrets and intellectual property for innovation and continuous success. Employing contingent workers who lack loyalty and commitment to the company can result in a knowledge spillover that generates opportunities for a competitor.
Mitigating these risks while taking advantage of the considerable capacity, talent, and flexibility that a contingent workforce can supply requires a new management style – one that minimizes the risks to achieve maximum reward.
Managing talent to drive extraordinary results
So how can high tech companies manage their talent for maximum results in this new digital age? The challenges are not insignificant. For one thing, they now need to manage and inspire not only their regular employees but also their contingent workers. To meet the challenges of delivering on innovations and business models and of inspiring creative thinking, it is to their advantage to have a high level of diversification within teams. Therefore, tech companies frequently have or strive to create teams that are multi-generational, multi-gender, and multi-ethnic. Ensuring that each team member, regardless of background, feels respected and valued, is encouraged to give feedback, has a sense of accountability, and is recognized in a meaningful way will go a long way toward cultivating innovation. Creating a company culture that nurtures, supports, and motivates these teams is key to driving innovation and creativity and, in the end, extraordinary results.
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