by Ashwin Bharath
Across sectors, the pandemic has accelerated the momentum and importance of digital transformation — a buzzword that, writ large, refers to the integration of technology into all aspects of business. In 2025, global spending on digital transformation is slated to top $2.8 trillion. That’s more than double the figure for 2020.
Such tremendous, continued growth is evidence of the fact that digital transformation is not a one-and-done phenomenon. Instead, it’s an ongoing process — one that depends on having the right tech talent to support it. As such, competition for qualified technology talent has accelerated alongside digital transformation efforts. By 2030, the global tech workforce is expected to have a shortage of 4.3 million workers.
Any company serious about digital transformation must be equally serious about finding tech talent to fill this gap, particularly since today’s talent will turn into tomorrow’s tech leaders. With that in mind, let’s look at four fundamental strategies companies can use to hire the future-ready tech leaders required for successful digital transformation.
1. Align Technology and HR Priorities
According to the iCIMS 2021 Workforce report, it takes companies an average of two months to fill high-demand tech roles. This hiring timeline is far too slow — particularly as digital transformation accelerates. One roadblock to faster hiring is the fact that HR and IT departments tend to have different priorities. HR generally values retention and diversity, while IT decision-makers generally prioritize technical skills and day-one readiness.
Hiring solely based on what an employee can do on day one is short-sighted, particularly since digital transformation is an ongoing process. IBM researchers have estimated the average “half-life” of a technical skill at just 2.5 years, meaning that successful tech staff and leaders must be prepared to innovate constantly and refresh their skills on a regular basis. Instead, IT and HR leaders should think about what a prospective employee could become after a few months of training.
2. Tap Into Non-Traditional Talent Sources
Many companies can’t keep up with growing tech demand in the wake of digital transformation because they are biased toward candidates from elite computer science schools. But U.S. colleges and universities collectively produce around 4 million graduates every year, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 42.5% of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed. By hiring and training non-CS and community college graduates, companies can find the talent they need to keep digital transformation chugging along.
These overlooked talent pools are filled with non-traditional candidates looking to put down roots and build a long-term career with an established employer, meaning they are more likely to stick around and become the tech leaders of tomorrow. Additionally, more than half of students at two-year colleges are students of color or women. Research shows that diversity is an integral aspect of innovation. Innovation related to digital transformation is no exception.
3. Hire for Soft Skills
Digital transformation is about more than just technology. It’s also a cultural change requiring companies to continually experiment and adapt. Companies truly committed to digital transformation must hire individuals with these qualities — often dubbed “soft skills” — as well.
With the advent of bimodal and multimodal IT, workers must be flexible enough to act as sprinters one day (to innovate) and marathon runners the next (to maintain). Additionally, an understanding of customer service is essential since most IT staff is now focused on user interface and user experience. Companies who hire for soft skills like resilience, flexibility and customer service — while being willing to train on specific technical skillsets — are the best-equipped for digital transformation long-term.
4. Upskilling Is Non-Negotiable
Technology moves fast. As mentioned above, the half-life of a technical skill is estimated at just 2.5 years. As a result, upskilling is no longer a nice-to-have feature, but an absolute necessity for businesses that want to boost revenue as well as improve employee retention.
Companies should build an upskilling program mapped to both their current and future-state technology plans. By building a continuous training curriculum that is tailored to their organization, these companies will be better equipped to accelerate productivity and expedite talent mobility — i.e. junior- to mid-level transition. Furthermore, data shows that investment in upskilling can boost employee retention. Employees want to remain relevant, and they want to grow. Showing employees that you’re willing to invest in their careers is one of the best ways to boost retention.
The Bottom Line
These four strategies can help companies hire and train the tech talent they need to drive continued digital transformation. Non-traditional staffing methods are one way to put these strategies into action.
Hire-train-deploy models are a natural fit for digital transformation efforts. Under such a model, a trusted staffing partner hires and trains talent candidates. They’ll screen prospective employees from a wide range of non-traditional sources, with an emphasis on soft skills like resilience. Then, they’ll train the talent to the client company’s liking while keeping the individual on their books. Other non-traditional staffing methods that work well in the age of digital transformation are apprenticeships and in-house bootcamps.
The bottom line is that digital transformation is an ongoing process. The tech world is moving fast, which is why talent must be hired with a longer time horizon in mind and a willingness to train. Only then will companies find and foster the future-ready tech leaders they need to succeed.
Ashwin Bharath is co-Founder and CEO of Revature, the largest employer of emerging technology talent in the U.S. Since its founding, Revature has trained over 10,000 software engineers, recruited talent from 700 universities and deployed them to blue chip companies throughout the country.