For a company not purely digital that aims to make a big shift towards digital, there’s another issue it must be aware of: the company must integrate digital in its core business. It means that digital skills must come skills that are highly valued within the company. Both on business and tech sides.
A strong signal may come from the salaries of the employees: an employee with business or tech digital expertise (each company will have to define what it defines as being “expert”) may well have the same salary or even a higher one that an experienced project manager, a middle-level or top manager if his/ her contribution is significant to the company. That way, people will be able to choose to develop the skills that they are really motivated about and not only choosing the path of “I became a project manager / a manager because it was the only way to have a better salary within the company”. This is something that may appear quite obvious, but in reality, most traditional companies today value mostly only the “project / management” path. No wonder you have so many people with the title of “VP, Director, Head of, manager…” even though sometimes in reality they only manage barely themselves!
Actually, the real question should be “what is the value this person brings”? If he’s a recognized expert who has recognition from his peers, who knows how to strengthen the skills of junior staff, who is making external speeches that benefit to the company’s image and attracts more talents… Probably he should be recognized at higher salary level than some managers who whould have less impact. See at what’s happening in Silicon Valley where some developers are “rock stars” there. No shame, it does not mean that experts are better than managers in this case. Just that you can succeed in either way, by being a very good expert or a very good manager. Of course, salary is not the only motivation factor, especially for experts: they mostly look for challenges to grow their expertise, recognition from their peers, etc… But CxOs should not hide behind the “salary is not all” to avoid thinking on what are the career paths that are valued in their company and how.
On top of that, acquiring digital skills is one important thing, staying on top of the wave is another important thing. Technologies, skills are changing faster and faster, making it difficult for a single person to master everything. Companies must foster the sharing of expertise between people, by creating environments where sharing is valued against siloed ways of working. There are various practices you can implement, for example:
- Internal regular meetups to share about the implementation of new technologies, new business approaches (test & learn, A/B testing, etc…) on different projects, or through informal meetups (like BBL sessions, also known as “Bring Back your Lunch”)
- For tech team, encouraging them to contribute to opensource projects under their name and the name of the company. Extend this mindset to create internal opensource initiatives, where team A can contribute to applications developed / maintained by team B, etc…
- At a management level which has a more global vision of what is done in the company, help teams to spot which other teams in the company have expertise that can be useful and create the conditions for them to cooperate. This may sound obvious, but you’d be suprised to see how often operational teams may be blinded by their day to day tasks and not thinking about going to look for help elsewhere, or how they may be reluctant because asking help may not seem natural.