The consequences of digital transformation features high on today’s HR leaders’ priority list. Faced with a skills gap, how can practices adapt to attract the workforce of tomorrow whilst up-skilling the workforce they have today?
ChapmanCG hosted an HR leaders roundtable event alongside Bayer in their Singapore offices for an in-depth roundtable discussion focusing on the skills required for the digital workforce. Bayer’s Head of Human Resources, Rahul Kalia shared his thoughts on the digital skills gap as did Lim Zhi Rong, Head of HR, Twitter Asia Pacific, with a deeper look at the important role of HR in global digital company.
Digital Transformation and Skill Gaps
Our first presenter, Rahul, kicked off the session discussing how HR leaders can make sure employees are able to keep up with the latest digital transformations that are taking place in their industries. When it comes to businesses as old as Bayer, who have just reached their 156th birthday, this can be a key challenge and they have learnt a lot over the past few years.
Specifically within the agricultural sector that Bayer services, more technology is being integrated. For example, we’ve seen the integration of drones to support the reduction of pesticides. With this, there have been issues. The result of the new industrial tech has seen a ‘Digital Leapfrogging’ where farmers are utilising high-tech devices, but in many cases are yet to master smartphones.
Alongside this, younger generations are no longer entering the agricultural field. Millennials and Generation Z have shown little interest in the sector, creating a gap in the skills market. Pair this with the amount of acquisitions taking place in the sector and it has become a struggle to find new and hireable talent.
Adapting the Company Model for Growth and Exploration
Rahul has found that there are options available to explore when it comes to dealing with this. He used the example of Bayer’s merger with Monsanto, the agrochemical and biotechnology company based in the US. He found that this was a fantastic opportunity for two equal entities to come together and define a new organisation.
The businesses saw a complete reset, forming a new start-up culture that was more agile and adaptable. This in turn created an environment that made learning safe, giving employees the space to explore and be able to fail.
This new space for learning and development has allowed Bayer to look at changing the competency model of their business to weigh up current vs. fit for future skills. This provided more room for curiosity within new technology to be explored, future-proofing skill-sets for Bayer’s growth.
Exposing Employees to New Experiences
An important first first step for Bayer when exploring this new room for adaptability was taking stock of their current leadership team before identifying how, and where, their skills needed upgrading and refreshing.
Taking the time to question the working styles of the 150+ members heading up the company and understand whether they had driver or derailer personality types, was imperative to giving them an idea of where development was required.
From there, collaborative partnerships with other companies provided the opportunity for a new talent development programme that enabled Bayer’s employees to level up their skill sets. Those on the programme joined other companies for 2-3 months, working on business projects to gain insight into other industries, sectors and technology.
To battle the skills gaps in emerging talent, they head on a two-year journey that sees them buddy up with colleagues to learn and develop, as well as hot-desking and Q&A time with leaders of the company.
Matt Boardman of ChapmanCG did query the pace of the education system and whether it is up to companies to re-educate people to think outside of the box. In response, Rahul expressed how companies do need to hire for potential, and not necessarily on the basis of their education.
HR Practices in Digital Companies
The focus of the event then turned to the implementation of HR practices for digital companies. Lim Zhi Rong shared the philosophies of social media giant Twitter, looking at how they ensure their tech savvy staff are happy.
Primarily, they use an open–door policy where they place a high emphasis on communicating often and fearlessly. Rong went on to share the company’s passion for family, with staff benefitting from five months of paid parental leave.
On top of this, Twitter employees are given free rein to work wherever they want in the world, helping Twitter develop a global blueprint. When queried on how they keep their talent if they don’t have access to them, Lim explained that they only approve location requests when a candidate’s role, level and history have been considered.
The consequences of digital transformation have developed within the HR sector over the past few years, leaving in its wake a growing skills gap. Combating this requires companies to encourage employees to share their key skills, both internally and across their sector. It’s a development plan that will not only benefit you now, but will also attract the workforce of tomorrow.
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