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Ep 422: Digital Talent


So today is the international publication date for Digital Talent, the book I’ve spent the last couple of years writing with Mervyn Dinnen. We’re incredibly excited that everyone can finally get to read it and wanted to record a special show to discuss the themes and some of the significant learnings from our research. In a disrupted and technology-enabled world of work, the ability to attract, recruit and retain people with digital skills can be the difference between business success and business failure. Our book explores how employers can do this successfully.

I am absolutely delighted that Trish McFarlane, host of the legendary HR Happy Hour podcast, has agreed to be our guest host and interview Mervyn and me for this episode. Enjoy the conversation!

In the interview, we discuss:

• Why we wrote Digital Talent

• How digital skills are critical to a company’s success

• Speed, quality and humanity in Talent Acquisition

• Personalizing talent experience

• Aspiration vs Reality

• Hybrid, remote and talent intelligence

• Work Tech trends

• What are cutting edge employers doing to attract digital talent

• Total talent thinking

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcasts.

Interview transcription:

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Matt Alder (1m 5s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 422 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. Today is the international publication date for Digital Talent, the book I spend the last couple of years writing with Mervin Dinan. We’re incredibly excited that everyone can finally get to read it. I wanted to record a special show to discuss the themes and some of the significant learnings from our research. In a disrupted and technology-enabled world of work, the ability to attract, recruit, and retain people with digital skills can be the difference between business success and business failure.

Matt Alder (1m 48s):
Our book explores how employers can do this successfully. I am absolutely delighted that Trish Macfarlane host of the legendary HR Happy Hour podcast has agreed to be our guest host and interview Mervyn and me for this episode. Enjoy the conversation. Hi, Trish. Hi, Mervin. Welcome to the podcast. Could we just kick off with you both introducing yourselves? Trish, would you like to go first?

Trish McFarlane (2m 13s):
I would love to. Thank you. I’m Trish McFarland. I am the principal analyst at H3 HR advisors, former HR practitioner for my entire career. I’ve done just about everything related to human resources because I’m so passionate about that as a topic overall, have been a blogger for a long time, an analyst now for a long time, and also a podcast for a long time. Since about 2013, have been the co-host of the HR happy hour and we actually recently changed the focus of the podcast and are now calling it At Work in America. It’s going to be a much more story focused podcast. Other than that, I have twins, a boy and a girl that are turning 18 soon and I’m about to be an empty-nester, so lots of things going on in my world.

Matt Alder (3m 2s):
Wow. I’m a massive fan of the podcast as well and really interested to see where it’s going next. Mervin, would you like to introduce yourself to everyone?

Mervin Dinnen (3m 10s):
Definitely. Thank you, Matt. It’s great to be on the chat with you and Trish. I’m Mervin. I’m a writer, analyst, commentator, influencer, apparently, around HR talent Work Tech trends. I co-author books with Matt and I co-author white paper reports with Matt. I also write my own reports and blogs, talk at events, and generally do things like that. My kids are all grown up and left home, and this is what I do now.

Matt Alder (3m 42s):
I think you’re breaking the record for most appearances on this podcast. It’s either six or seven now. I can’t remember. I’ll count at some stage, but obviously, welcome back as always. As I said in the introduction, this is a special show. We’re going to be talking about mine and Mervin’s new book, Digital Talent. It just made sense to get someone else to actually ask us questions about it rather than us talking about it between ourselves. Trish has very kindly agreed to be the guest host for this podcast. On that note, I am going to pass full control of the show over to Trish.

Trish McFarlane (4m 18s):
Thank you so much and thank you for asking me to guest host. I’m very passionate about the topic that you all have written about and I’m a fan of your previous books. I think this will be a very interesting discussion. With that said, I mentioned your previous book back in 2017, you all wrote Exceptional Talent: How to Attract, Acquire, and Retain the very best employees. Beyond the obvious short answer of what’s changed being the pandemic, what really changed and inspired you to write this book on Digital Talent specifically?

Matt Alder (4m 55s):
Exceptional talent was a very generic look across all kinds of industries and all kinds of disciplines about what was going on in the talent space. We wanted to write a follow-up, the difficult second album as we called it as we were writing the book, and really wanted to focus on what was at the time. One of the biggest issues for the employees that we were talking about is the digital transformation and having the right talent and skills in the business to be able to do that. Now, we started the book before the pandemic, then the pandemic hit, and it soon became very clear that this topic was even more important.

Matt Alder (5m 39s):
Before, most employers were involved in some digital transformation. When the pandemic hit, every company was doing it. We were looking at whole industries that hadn’t had to even think about digital transformation before – restaurants, theaters. All these kinds of businesses suddenly have to have digital skills within their business to really move forward in the new world that the pandemic was creating. It became even more important. The pandemic really accelerated a lot of the things that we were talking about in the book. We had to have a bit of a pause, go back, and rethink some of it, but the themes are very, very relevant and it was really just the pace of change that had speeded up.

Matt Alder (6m 22s):
It’s a book about digital transformation and having the right skills in your business to be able to do that.

Mervin Dinnen (6m 28s):
Well, I think Matt’s pretty much outlined it well there. I think for me, the first book, Exceptional Talent, was, I suppose, looking at the fact that the employee journey, so even before you’re a candidate from applying through interviewing, onboarding, and then development, and staying with the business, this journey was now underpinned by tech. It was a seamless journey, intuitive, and a lot of companies were possibly still taking more of an analog approach to hiring, onboarding, talent management, and stuff. We were trying to showcase what a lot of companies were now beginning to do in terms of making it more digital.

Mervin Dinnen (7m 10s):
For me, I think the second book is more about the fact that digital transformation is really an organizational change, but we don’t treat it as such. We don’t support our people as such. We just say, “Guess what? You’ve got an iPad now,” or “Guess what? This is the way you book your leave. This is the way you reclaim your expenses. You can now collaborate through this tool and we’ll just watch from afar.” We don’t really prepare our people for that. We give them digital tools, but we don’t check if they’ve got the digital skills, the digital knows. I think for me, with this book, we’re coming at it from a slightly different angle, which is what is the purpose of digital transformation and how are we adapting?

Mervin Dinnen (7m 53s):
What we do internally to help our people and our future employees be able to become Digital Talent.

Trish McFarlane (8m 1s):
I love the way that you both frame that and the topic really has evolved over these past few years. Since you wrote the first book, Mervin, you touched on some of the changes with digital. It sounds to me like it went from much more of a tactical approach, or even maybe an approach people weren’t taking back in 2017, and now because of being thrust into different work scenarios and different work, maybe locations because of the pandemic, you mentioned digital skills specifically. Could you talk a little bit about how having good digital skills is really important for employees and how we need to focus on those?

Mervin Dinnen (8m 45s):
The important thing from my point of view is that our employees are comfortable with how we want them to operate. At the beginning of the book, I start with a very straightforward example of reclaiming expenses. When, in line of your work, you incur expenses, you should then reclaim that from the business. We actually had a small focus group with four or five people from the same organization talking about how that had changed. They used to go in, fill out a petty cash slip. I know going back a long time, but actually, not too long ago, people were still doing this even when they had all the tech of work and everything and just reclaiming it.

Mervin Dinnen (9m 27s):
It’s reimbursed either in cash or goes into your payslip. The focus group had was people of different ages. There were millennials, they was an employee who had been there for over 30 years, and they all said how difficult they found it now to reclaim expenses. In fact, to the point where, unless it was a significant amount, they didn’t bother. The millennial employee actually was the one who said, “I think they’ve made it difficult on purpose so they don’t want us to reclaim unless it’s a big amount.” This was almost a light bulb moment. It’s such, I suppose, a small part of day-to-day work, and yet, here is somebody in their late twenties thinking that the company had overcomplicated something.

Mervin Dinnen (10m 14s):
It didn’t cost them anything and the employee had all the costs. I did some reading at the time, I can’t remember the lady who wrote it, but there was a lot of stuff about shadow work, all the work that the organization used to do, which is now being pushed on to the employee. It, I suppose, took down a route of, “Well, how does this play out?” If we are going to do that, how do we ensure that the employees we’ve got are ready to adapt? Have they got a digital mindset? Do they think that way? Do they still think in an analog way? Do they still approach work in that way? The whole relationship changes and, I suppose, the digital skills are all different things.

Mervin Dinnen (10m 58s):
One is a mindset and the other one is just being comfortable, whereas with doing things digitally and now remotely, sometimes, it takes time, but we don’t necessarily support our people. There was some research from PWC that I use in the first chapter of the book and things like booking leave and stuff. People are quite happy to do online, but anything that was a bit personal, they actually wanted to interface with an HR staff. They didn’t just want to do it online. Again, organizations have to think, “Are we making this a poor work experience for our people or are we actually making it better? Are we giving them a better work experience?”

Mervin Dinnen (11m 40s):
We look at, in the opening, I suppose, a number of scenarios of what digitization means and how it impacts what our employees do on a day-to-day basis.

Trish McFarlane (11m 50s):
Yes, I agree. It’s interesting when you give that of maybe technology or the employer, making things difficult on purpose, especially as it relates to maybe expenses. I’ve been in that position myself. I wonder if the difference is maybe those of us who have been in the work world a little bit longer than the millennials. For example, are the leaders less ready to stand up and maybe make that remark that something is being made more difficult? Do you see that maybe the transformation needs to actually, not only just come right from maybe younger generations, having a better understanding of what digital skills they need, but maybe it’s also on those of us who are in the leadership roles?

Trish McFarlane (12m 31s):
Did you find that at all when you were doing the research, Mervin?

Mervin Dinnen (12m 36s):
We did. Most of the research we see shows HR professionals as being not overly comfortable themselves in a digital environment, but that is beginning to change. I think that it’s, I suppose, HR or the people, particularly HR leaders who have to say, “Look, this is great. We’re buying this whole new system, this whole new platform for our employees, but it’s got to be something that our employees want to use. It’s got to be something that actually helps them to do their job better, helps us to get more of the data and information we want, and actually helps them, maybe, to do things faster, to focus on maybe more high-value work.

Mervin Dinnen (13m 18s):
I think that it is beholden to HR leaders, in particular, to actually be comfortable with these things and to, I suppose, lead the way in making sure that the digital environments we have are ones in which our employees can really thrive.

Trish McFarlane (13m 36s):
Yes, I agree. Matt, I want to throw this one to you. One of the things Mervin talked about was that employees really still want to feel cared for. That is how I’m interpreting what he said. They want digital skills and digital technology for certain transactions, maybe certain areas of the work they’re doing, and maybe not in some of the other more personal areas. Could you talk a little bit about from a talent acquisition perspective as candidates are relating to the organization and to maybe the recruiters and the hiring managers, where is that line of, I guess, digital readiness from a candidate perspective, and what can organizations be doing to show that these candidates and potential future employees are being cared for, but also supported digitally?

Matt Alder (14m 29s):
Yes, that’s a really good question. I think the talent acquisition aspects of this are fascinating. It’s such a challenging time for employers when it comes to an acquisition at the moment, particularly when it comes to recruiting people with digital skills because every employer is effectively fishing in the same talent pool. I think what we’re seeing and what we’ve seen accelerate during the pandemic is companies having to move quicker, but also, maintain the quality of the recruitment experience and the humanity of the recruitment experience, and also really get across the quality of the employment experience that people will be having when they join the company.

Matt Alder (15m 15s):
There’s a really interesting balance going on. We’re seeing some incredible leaps forward in technology with things like AI and automation, everything from automated sourcing to automated communication within the recruitment process. I think what we really talk about in the book is the importance of the balance between those things. Technology is allowing recruiters to be better at being recruiters, to be better at having that human connection. There are some great case studies in the book for organizations that are really building those relationships with the talent who they may need an advance.

Matt Alder (15m 59s):
There’s one particular organization in the book. They’re actually building talent pipelines that are five, 10 years long in terms of spotting people with very specialist skills who might want to join their organization. We’re also seeing companies using chatbots and automation to actually improve the quality of the candidate experience, give people more information, and make the whole thing feel, feel much better. It’s really interesting and it’s just incredibly important. I think the companies that are really winning in talent acquisition at the moment are the ones who have that speed within their process are implementing technology that’s helping them to do things, to find skills, to do things like to find adjacent skills, to think differently about the talent that they need for their business, and not necessarily be constrained by some old ways of thinking about what talent looks like.

Matt Alder (16m 53s):
Using technology to do that, but really amping up the human relationship part of it and giving people that great experience. That really comes together for me in terms of where this is going, which I think is personalization. In the book, we talk about personalization of the employment experience, personalization of the candidate experience, personalization of recruitment marketing, all these kinds of things. I think that is really the key to all of this, to use technology to enable the humans within all of these processes to give a very personalized experience. That’s what really will help employers stand out.

Trish McFarlane (17m 36s):
I’m so glad you said that personalization piece, because when I’m thinking about whether it’s for me personally or thinking about someone I might be hiring, that feeling of caring does come easier through personalization, right? Sometimes technology can seem quite cold or it has in the past. Maybe there wasn’t that focus on it. Could you talk a little bit, Matt, about we are in a time of great resignation or a million other phrases for that? Recruiters themselves are also understaffed and feeling quite a bit of pressure. on one hand, they’re turning to these digital technologies and using those types of skills to help them more than ever before, but how are they then balancing out the actual journey that you all mentioned that employees and candidates go through?

Trish McFarlane (18m 24s):
Is there still a disconnect you’re seeing, or are we actually truly turning the page on recruiters feeling like they are empowered through digital technologies?

Matt Alder (18m 37s):
It’s an interesting question. I think one of the things that we covered in exceptional talent was the idea of this seamless journey. Someone joins a company, they go through a process, they go from an L&D process, they go through talent management or whatever that might be, and eventually leave that company. it basically feels like one joined-up experience. What was interesting to me during the first part of the pandemic was that lots of organizations were talking about internal mobility. it’s like, “we need to see what skills we’ve got within our business and how we move those people around effectively,” and lots of talent acquisition teams, who, at the time, weren’t necessarily doing much external hiring was dying to focus on that internal mobility part with all of these things.

Matt Alder (19m 23s):
What really struck me was there was a great sense of aspiration in terms of, “Well, this is what we need to do. We need to understand skills. We need to move people around. We need to give people this exceptional experience through all the stages of everything that they get, every touchpoint we have with them as an employer,” but very few companies are able to do it. I think what came over in those internal mobility conversations that we’re having, some of them are affected in the book. More of them have been on the podcast. People didn’t have the technology, the processes, or the strategy to be able to do that effectively. I think that this joined-up process, this joined-up experience, a lot of it is still aspirational for many employers.

Matt Alder (20m 3s):
I think that sometimes in our industry, we really celebrate success and we celebrate innovation. We put brilliant case studies in books and on podcasts of people doing amazing things, but I think, we have to remember, for every one of those companies that are doing, there are a thousand, 10,000, or a hundred thousand companies who haven’t quite got there yet. In the book, we talk a lot about strategy, a lot about really thinking about how this is going to work, plotting a journey to go towards that seamless, beautiful, technology-enabled, personalized human experience. I think it’s aspirational for almost every employer, but what has been really clear through the pandemic is that is the direction of travel. That is where companies want to go and that’s where TA teams want to go as well.

Trish McFarlane (21m 0s):
Thank you. I think that’s why a book like this is so critical to have right now as a guide because I think sometimes when you’re looking online or maybe you’re talking to other HR professionals, other business leaders, it might feel like you and your organization are so far behind. It’s actually refreshing to hear that it is still quite aspirational for many employers and that we’re all in this process at varying stages of that. You can take value from some of the research and some of the case studies you all are offering within the book. Mervin, I want to turn to you and talk a little bit about, obviously, we’re in a time where we’re seeing a lot of remote work.

Trish McFarlane (21m 40s):
We’re two years into the pandemic at this point of the recording and of your book launching. Can you talk a little bit about hybrid, remote learning, and remote working, and just how we’re having to rethink the talent intelligence that we have in our approaches to this?

Mervin Dinnen (22m 1s):
Thanks, Trish. Yes, the last two years have seen a big change. I think that when I’m asked about hybrid working, remote working, working from home, I suppose, there are two or three points I always make first. The first one is that’s certainly in the UK, over half of the jobs done in the economy can’t be done from home – construction, utilities, healthcare. A lot of those can’t be done from home. We are talking about the minority, but a fairly significant minority, about 45%. Obviously, a lot of the digital commentary around the world of work are all people who can work from home or work remotely so the narrative is weighted that way.

Mervin Dinnen (22m 44s):
I think the other thing, again, it’s UK data. Leaseman did something last year and found that something like 43, 44% of people working from home don’t have a dedicated space. I have, kids grown up, left home. I have a room. I shut the door, I’ve got a desk in it. Nobody’s about to interrupt me during this chat, but obviously, there are quite a few people doing high-pressure jobs from home who don’t have a dedicated space. They may be sharing that space with a spouse, kids, or there are things going on around. Of course, for the younger workers, the under 25s, again in the UK, 72% of them have no dedicated space.

Mervin Dinnen (23m 31s):
Particularly those who are younger, who maybe are flat sharing with a friend or two, they’re basically working in their bedrooms and, at night, sleeping in their offices effectively. Whilst we talk about it, we have to remember that it’s not the right solution for everybody. I give an example of two people I know very well. One is a guy in his early thirties. The other is his father who’s in his late fifties. The guy in his early thirties is single. He can’t wait to go back to the office or couldn’t wait to get back to the office to just be with people. That human connection is so important for him. He doesn’t mind his commute into town. He listens to podcasts and stuff. Whereas the older guy, his father, actually doesn’t want to go back to the office ever again.

Mervin Dinnen (24m 15s):
He doesn’t want to do the commute. He can do everything he needs to do from home. He’s got all the comforts at home and so it’s not that simple. Sometimes, the remote flexible hybrid work in conversation is presented as something that’s very straightforward. It’s what everybody wants. Yes, it’s what a lot of people want, but what they want is balance as well. We did some research about two, three years ago, which is talked about in the book, amongst 14,000 job seekers in Europe. We found that there was a keen interest. This is before the pandemic, there was a keen interest in working from home. People felt that they had the tools in their current job to be able to work from home.

Mervin Dinnen (24m 59s):
The problem that flagged up was that several, and it was over a third, reported feelings of isolation when they were working from home. I think we need to bounce all of that and we need to do what is best for our people. Having said that, it isn’t just location, it’s time. It’s got to be asynchronous working as well. Matt and I are a great example. We live 500 miles apart in the same time zone, I have to say. 500 miles apart. We don’t do any of our writing together in the same room. We write at different times. We work on projects, reports, and research for clients where we’re inputting it at different times, and it works perfectly well for us.

Mervin Dinnen (25m 44s):
We’ve both got dedicated spaces, but yes, it has to work for everybody. I think that a lot of it comes down to leadership and, obviously, culture. If you’ve got a culture that supports that, you trust your people, and it’s not the old-fashioned, “Yes, I don’t want you working at home. I want you sitting in front of me where I can see what you’re doing,” kind of attitude, which some businesses still have, then you’ll never go into successfully adopt it. I know there is a narrative around the great resignation that people are leaving jobs because they want to find jobs that they can do remotely. There is an element of that. There are certainly data, again, mainly in the UK, Europe, that older people, probably 50 plus, some are leaving jobs because they found a way to maybe work from home and they would prefer to do that and maybe not work full-time because over the two years of the pandemic, they found a different rhythm.

Mervin Dinnen (26m 43s):
I think it’s complex and it’s not a one size fits all, but I think for all organizations, it has to be an option. Now, you did mention remote learning there as well. I kind of have that one-off slightly more briefly. The research we’ve done over the last 2, 3, 4 years has consistently shown that employees want access to knowledge as and when they need it. They don’t really want to learn at a specific time set by the organization. They want to know it’s there and they want to be able to access it as and when they find that they need to know things. What we found in a piece of research we did at the beginning of the pandemic is we cover in the book is that there are problems with remote learning.

Mervin Dinnen (27m 28s):
Some of it’s to do with the tech, some of it to do with interaction, certainly, anything to do with performance management and those kinds of conversations, zoom isn’t the best platform for conversations like that. What we found was that almost every company in the research says that the employee experience is the most important thing when they choose to invest in tech, but there are actually only about 20% consulted their employees before investing in tech. It’s gotta be a great experience and we ask our employees what they want, but ultimately, it comes down to cost. It comes down to budgeting. It comes down to IT. It comes down to what fits in with our other systems.

Mervin Dinnen (28m 10s):
That’s when possibly the employees aren’t getting the greatest learning experience remotely.

Trish McFarlane (28m 18s):
Thank you. I agree and I’m glad that you bring up the technology aspect of that, Mervin because there are a lot of times when if you’re in a leadership role, you are trying to listen to your employees. It’s not that you’re not listening, but sometimes we’re making tech selection choices that aren’t really solving may be the root problem. We’re just addressing symptoms. Matt, I want to throw this one to you actually, because I know that you’ve written quite a bit about work technologies. What are you seeing that are the work technology trends that are going to start addressing some of these more systemic challenges that Mervin’s talking about?

Matt Alder (29m 0s):
Yes, I think it reflects what I was saying earlier about strategy. I think that one of the biggest issues that we have in work technology, and we’ve had it for years and years and years, is this sense of shiny object syndrome. Someone invents something and we’ve got to have it because it’s going to be a silver bullet that solves all of our problems. It’s interesting because a few years ago, one of the biggest issues with recruitment tech, with HR tech was the lack of integration or how difficult it was to integrate different bits of software. Over time, that’s getting easier and easier. Actually, what it’s doing is it’s giving people more choice in terms of what they can plug into their tech stack.

Matt Alder (29m 46s):
I think the other issue is that there is so much money and investment going into the Work Tech space at the moment. It’s breathtaking. Every year, we think we’ve hit some new peak and then that’s dwarfed about three months later. It seems that that’s going to continue, which means that there are more solutions than there have ever been before. I think one of the problems with the people creating these solutions is they’re very often creating solutions to very niche problems. Things that are genuinely a problem, but when you look at it strategically on the list of a TA leader, an HR leader, they’re probably problem number 55 rather than problem number one, but shiny object syndrome can mean that people dive in and say, “I’m going to sort of fix that problem.”

Matt Alder (30m 35s):
I think what really needs to happen is, and what I’m seeing more and more of, people sitting back and diagnosing their issues, working out where they want to get to, and using technology as an enabler to get them there. It sounds really obvious, but it doesn’t happen very often. It doesn’t happen as much as it should be. I think in order to do that, you do have to have a very good knowledge of what the trends are in Work Tech and what’s possible. That’s really what we go into in the book. We’re talking about AI. We’re talking about data analytics. We’re talking about automation and how those things fit together, how they fit into HR and TA strategies.

Matt Alder (31m 22s):
Also, looking over the horizon slightly, we’ve got the metaverse. We’ve got the return of blockchain, all these other things going on. I think that technology space is very, very confusing because there’s so much stuff out there and so much stuff being created. Really, what we’re urging people to do is just take a step back and think understand what’s possible, understand what the trends are, but really take a look back at your organization and say, “What are we trying to achieve here and how can technology help us?” It sounds really simple, but it’s not necessarily a simple thing to do, but that strategic thinking, I think, is just critical in Work Tech moving forward.

Trish McFarlane (32m 10s):
I would agree with you. I think there’s so much to unpack there that you just said. You could do an entire podcast series just on that last little bit, and maybe you will. I think what my takeaway here is that when you talked about diagnosing the real issues, they sometimes don’t match up with how the vendors are actually designing their solutions. Having been on the vendor side as well, sometimes you don’t have maybe the development team in place or enough resources yourself to develop what you really strategically want to from a product perspective, even though that’s what clients and businesses ultimately need. I think that’s where a little bit of that finding creativity around certain niche solutions comes into being.

Trish McFarlane (32m 52s):
If I’m the buyer and I’m the one who’s looking to diagnose my organization’s bigger issues and what’s at hand, I think the important step then is to take what you all are finding in your research and your recommendations and marry that up with the way that they’re selecting a vendor partner to make sure that you’re both on the same page. Again, we don’t hear a lot about that particular piece of it so I’m really glad that you all are covering that in the book because it’s going to at least start getting the wheels turning for the reader in terms of who am I partnering with? Are they really trying to develop solutions for the issues that my organization not only has today but long-term?

Trish McFarlane (33m 36s):
Well, listen, obviously, there’s a lot here. We don’t want to give everything in the book away. You’ve both shared a good amount though so far. As we wrap this up, I’d love to hear from both of you, maybe Mervin first, on what are some things that you’re seeing cutting-edge employers are doing to attract digital talent and what can organizations do if they’re not doing those things?

Mervin Dinnen (34m 15s):
That’s a great question, Trish. I suppose I will start answering it. I suppose, putting a little bit on the end of what Matt and you have just said, we are investing huge in high amounts in work, be it recruitment technology, be it learning technology, and yet, data consistently come back that employee experience is poor, great resignation, candidate experience is very poor, and yet we’re spending billions. The tech companies becoming unicorns and the employee, at the end of the day, is having a bad experience. For me, the most important thing is everything has to come down to the employee experience.

Mervin Dinnen (34m 59s):
How are we making things better for our people? How are we supporting them? How are we enabling them? How are we making their lives easier so they can do a better job and make our lives easier because our returns are better? Our figures are better. All the stuff we measure say, in HR, by the engagements and stuff like that and longevity, how do we improve that? I think the most important thing is to understand how we can use this to give a better experience for our people. Certainly in the book, we go into great depth about how to create a great candidate experience, employee experience, what do employees look for, what the role of leadership in creating a culture of recognition, and creating an environment in which people want to work and enjoy.

Mervin Dinnen (35m 43s):
I think that the most important thing is to understand what you need your people to do. What is your business? What are they doing? Understand how their roles are changing, understand how the technology you invest in can support them. The best companies are putting the employees front and center of what they do. It’s not just traditional employees. It’s all the people who helped to produce the output. Whether that’s people who are freelance, people who come in, contracted workers, gig workers, it’s how you support and enable all those people to achieve their best work to give you the results you need.

Mervin Dinnen (36m 26s):
It’s very easy to keep taking our eye off the ball and assuming things are okay. I think what we have seen the best employers do is to put the employee front and center.

Matt Alder (36m 38s):
Yes, absolutely. I obviously completely agree with everything Mervin’s just said, because that’s what we’ve written in the book. I want to add a couple of broader thoughts to that. I think to frame that, I think what we also have to realize is Digital Talent, bringing Digital Talent into a business, it’s a finite talent pool. There isn’t enough digital talent in the world to fill the roles that the people have and people will have in the future. Because of that, I think that the companies who are doing this really well are the companies that are genuinely thinking differently about talent. A couple of examples of how that’s manifesting itself.

Matt Alder (37m 20s):
First of all, there’s a very, very big systemic issue when it comes to having talent issues globally in terms of education systems and governments and education systems actually supporting people, learning the right skills, and making people fit for a career fit in the world that we live in. That’s obviously very difficult to keep up with, but most governments and the education systems aren’t doing a particularly good job of it. One of the organizations that we talk about in the book, the big Indian organization has actually taken that into their own hands. They’re actually working with education systems around the world to really help provide that work context and help talk about the skills that businesses need and get young people engaged and engaged with the kinds of skills that will be great for them to learn, but give them that vital context in terms of why am I learning this?

Matt Alder (38m 17s):
How is this useful in terms of making the world a better place and having a great career? I think there are some interesting things in terms of tackling that long-term systemic issue. I think the other thing is we talk about total talent thinking in the book as well, which is this future state that companies could move to where they effectively are just in time internal and external talent market. They understand the skills within their business. They’re investing in their employees to keep their skills up to date and help them nurture the new digital skills that they need, but also, they’re looking outside the organization to find people that they can bring in, but they’re also looking outside the organization to find people they could bring in on a specific project basis.

Matt Alder (39m 5s):
Just basically using that, thinking very holistically about that rather than managing in silos like a lot of companies do now. This sense of total talent thinking and giving all of those people a brilliant experience as Mervin was saying is really the key to all of this.

Trish McFarlane (39m 24s):
Yes, that’s a great point, actually, two great points, especially around the education system and how that’s going to ultimately help address that systemic issue. Then, in terms of just being open, I know you go much further in the book into it, but having good relationships with your alumni, because they might be the ones that you’re calling back to work on those special projects in a year or two, right? It really is looking at that Total talent picture, that community that you create. I think, again, we were probably starting to do this back in the late nineties, early two-thousands, and we just didn’t have the technology to help enable that type of interaction. If I could be so bold as to go back to your first book, the relationship that you need to create when you’re thinking about your entire talent pool that you’re in communication with.

Trish McFarlane (40m 12s):
I tell you what, it’s been fascinating to think about these things. It’s been fascinating to see how your research and your insight have developed over the last few years, and just really looking forward to what you all come up with in the next couple of years of how this is all playing out and how organizations are starting to really implement some of these suggestions.

Matt Alder (40m 40s):
Thank you, Trish. I’ve just remembered that this is my podcast. Thank you very much, Trish. That was some amazing questions there. Thank you, Mervin, as ever for your incredible insights into all of this. Thanks very much for being on the show. Our thanks to Trish. Digital Talent is available now wherever you get your books. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice.

Matt Alder (41m 32s):
Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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