Recruiting talent to lead a digitising world

People who know how to extract value from IT systems are primary assets for IT service and solution providers

People who know how to extract value from IT systems are primary assets for IT service and solution providers

As digitisation remasters existing business, instigates new markets, and creates ever escalating expectations about products and services among consumers, so the nature of recruitment for the IT sector has also to change.

So says Britehouse Services and Solutions for the SAP System resource manager, Ockert Pretorius.

"Any organisation offering comprehensive solutions and services across the full spectrum of customer transactional landscapes differentiates itself on its ability to help its customers extract continuously greater value from their systems.

"Inherently, that means that your technology specialists have both business and technology skills. More to the point, they need powerful relationship building skills because they sit at the customer's premises and have to be able to relate to end users as well as the executive team.

"They must solve both technology and business problems in a human context that shifts daily under the influence of new digital technology. They have to be visionaries but also be anchors. They have to be able to see the future of technology and then lead organisations safely, affordably, and beneficially to that future.

"That's not a job description you will see advertised, anywhere. It's not the usual kind of job and you can't recruit for it in the usual way."

Because people rather than technology have become the primary asset for organisations selling technology solutions and services, human capital management (HCM) within those organisations has moved into a different league. It has become a strategic enabler, both for the organisation and its customers.

"Our consultants help our customers achieve their strategic objectives," Pretorius says. "In turn, that achieves our strategic objective of being an enabling partner and guide to our customers. Such an ability comes at a premium. Our customers know and appreciate this. They want the best and are prepared to pay for it.

"What that does, however, is make HCM the pivot on which strategic success turns for us and for our clients. It means doing HCM differently."

The talent pool through which an organisation can become a strategic enabler is very small, globally and locally. People who are both formally trained and experienced in integrating technology and business to achieve commercially sustainable outcomes are innovators by instinct and preference. They seek out challenging work and constant stimulation. They also know their own worth.

Attracting them calls for a finely honed approach. Retaining them takes continuous attention and, according to Pretorius, listening.

"Just as much as we expect our consultants to listen carefully to what our customers need in order to most appropriately meet those needs, we need to understand what our most prized assets want for their own lives. This means building relationships with them, even before they have decided to join us. It means knowing who is good at which areas of technology and why and then working out how to fit them into one of our teams in ways that will suit them as well as us.

"Yes, of course, they want incentives. For those who prefer to be employed rather than contracted, the usual requirements for medical aid, leave, and pensions or provident funds apply. Many choose to remain specialists but some do look for career paths within the organisation. So, some of your HCM activity will be business as usual.

"But you can't assume, with individualists such as the people who are our best assets, that they want the same things as one another or as the rest of your workforce. You have to craft a work offer for each one and then ensure that you stay abreast of their evolving ambitions. Certainly, you must offer them exposure to the latest trends in technology, SAP in our case. Your organisation needs to be cutting edge to attract cutting edge talent.

"You might even need to create an entirely new job in order to capture the interest and commitment of someone who might not be looking for employment at all.

"In other words, to create a company that can truly lead its customers into a world of business driven by technology of the future, HR needs to get out of rote mode and think on its feet. Rather than being a service to the business, it needs to function at the operational core of it."