In my frequent conversations with financial services clients, one fact consistently shines through: that talent is the bedrock of their success. It follows that the responsibility for attracting, retaining and growing talent does not lie solely with the HR department, but with everyone in the organisation.
A changing skills profile
The accelerating rate of business innovation enabled by the cloud, coupled with the constant release of new cloud native technologies, means organisations are rapidly moving away from traditional waterfall development methods. As a result, they require people with a variety of new skills in areas such as DevOps, containers, platforms, agile development methodologies and service-oriented delivery. Firms also need to change their culture and ways of working – revisiting and reshaping how IT teams work together and with the business, focusing especially on the mindset around agile and DevOps, involving iterative delivery of value, and working in smaller multidisciplinary teams and with ecosystem partners.
Given the pace of change, the pool of readily-skilled people to take on these new roles is limited – and firms face significant challenges in striking the right balance between hiring, training and reskilling their people. While it will be possible to cover some of the skills gap through the various forms of talent acquisition, in most markets there’s a skills deficit in many of these disciplines. So creating a growth mindset and investing in reskilling is important – something that Accenture’s research for the 2018 World Economic Forum at Davos suggests isn’t happening enough.
Creating the IT workforce of the future
At root, achieving all these changes requires organisations to create what we at Accenture call the “IT workforce of the future”. This is something that cannot be achieved overnight. Rather, it’s a long-term commitment, which compels companies to continuously evolve roles and skills, and frequently revisit their talent sourcing strategy as internal and external factors change. It also means moving beyond thinking about full-time employees in fixed jobs and linear careers, to thinking about building an adaptive (internal) workforce and an extended (external) talent pool that can quickly flex around a small set of core roles.
Developing this new IT workforce is not just an option, but an imperative. The reason is that the relationship between IT and business functions is changing, as the lines between the two continue to blur. Organisations can see this happening from day to day, as growing numbers of “new IT” workers with strong technology skills become embedded in corporate functions such as Marketing, where they develop a deep understanding of the business, and start to produce new cloud-enabled solutions that integrate seamlessly with existing systems.
Creativity, collaboration – and multi-tasking
Think for a moment about the skills this new IT worker needs. Here are some that may spring to mind. First, creativity – enabling them, for example, to approach a cloud architecture challenge in a fresh way. Second, collaboration – to achieve the desired outcome with business stakeholders, whether through careful listening or sharing a timely flash of brilliance. Third, multi-tasking – to work across many dimensions simultaneously, while pulling together a holistic solution that works for everyone. Finally, an understanding of cloud native technologies such as containers, platforms and microservices.
Building on two pillars
Which of an organisation’s employees are more likely to have these skills? Experience suggests that these are all areas in which both men and women are equally strong – meaning the IT workforce of the future is likely to be more diverse in terms of gender than was traditionally the case.
However, when building this new IT workforce, achieving the right gender balance can be a challenge. And it is just one among many. Financial services firms’ transition to “the New” – with digitized operations, lower costs and new revenue streams – depends on the twin pillars of technology and talent. Banks are discovering it is every bit as difficult to build and maintain the talent pillar as it is to develop or acquire the necessary technology. To tackle this “people problem” effectively, firms need to develop a new strategic approach to talent and transformation: one that involves determining whether the workforce is a commoditised asset or a competitive differentiator; taking actions aligned with that choice; and acknowledging that both the bank and its people live and work in a larger social context.
Time for a talent-focused reboot
The message is clear. Creating the right workforce to support and optimise a bank’s journey to the cloud is a complex task. To tackle it effectively, it’s time to reboot your cloud strategy, with a laser focus on IT talent needs. This means creating a pipeline of new talent taught from the ground up, retraining people with existing architecture delivery skills, and hiring to fill the gaps. Also, partnering with appropriate suppliers and continuously investing in new cloud technologies will improve a bank’s ability to attract and retain of talent, by enabling it to develop a reputation as an organisation that provides a strong, fulfilling career path for cloud specialists. It’s time to go beyond the tactical level to think more holistically about all the interrelated elements of a bank’s transition to cloud – especially what skills it’ll need and why.
At first sight, your progression to the New may look like a technology journey. But remember that it’s your people who’ll get you there.
To find out more about preparing the future workforce, or to join us at the Change Directors Forum and People Innovation Forum in London, please contact me here.