Disruptive, unpredictable change among customers and competitors is forcing organizations to act more quickly—with intelligence, insight, and confidence. According to Accenture’s recent Intelligent Operations research, the future belongs to organizations with intelligent operations that harness talent, data, and intelligence to transform their business processes and make better decisions, more quickly and confidently. Intelligent operations can make organizations more flexible, agile, and responsive; enable them to generate value faster; and help create significant and sustainable competitive advantage.
Along with four other essentials—rich data, applied intelligence, cloud, and ecosystem partnerships—innovative talent is a foundational element of intelligent operations. In fact, 50 percent of executives participating in our study said having people with a creative, entrepreneurial spirit and curiosity for innovation is their top workforce requirement.
What makes such individuals unique is that they have both deep expertise in a specific area as well as a more expansive world view. Think of their skill set as being “T” shaped, with the vertical portion of the letter representing domain knowledge, such as benefits administration, and the horizontal representing their broader perspectives on and knowledge in related areas, such as expertise with a particular software or a customer service background.
The broad perspectives are critical because the business world continues to change very quickly, particularly in terms of workforces, technology, customer expectations, and competition. Today’s organizations need people who are curious and have interests and skills beyond their main area of expertise, who can more easily adapt to changes and find ways to help the organization respond and capitalize on them.
Consider, for example, how the role of the traditional bank branch teller has changed. When ATMs arrived on the scene, most thought bank branches—and the need for tellers—would disappear. Instead, the opposite happened. Today, there are more branches and bank tellers than there were 20 years ago. But rather than being a local, transaction-oriented service role, the teller has evolved into more of a financial advisor, armed with data and analytics, who focuses on selling continually evolving bank products and handling more complex customer service needs. This requires a different type of knowledge, skill, and ability to do it well.
The figure below illustrates why the need for certain workforce skills is changing so dramatically. Organizations today have two essential types of tasks: transactional tasks and those requiring judgment and thought. Each type of activity is conducted by a workforce with distinctly different skill sets that reflect the nature and complexity of the tasks. But, increasingly, companies are complementing those workforces with different types of automation. Transactional tasks, which are more rules based and process oriented, are benefiting from foundational and robotic process automation (RPA), while many “brain” tasks are now being handled by a combination of analytics and AI.
As organizations move toward intelligent operations and automate more of the manual, rote, and rules-based tasks, people are freed up to focus on higher-value activities—i.e., the “brain” tasks that require expertise, reasoning, and decision-making skills. This is where organizations need those creative, innovative thinkers who understand how to work with and apply advanced technologies to solve business problems, an evolution like the bank tellers mentioned previously.
Yet, organizations often find they don’t have enough creative and innovative talent on staff, so in addition to retraining employees, they’ll also have to acquire this talent from the outside—which many organizations aren’t currently equipped to do. In fact, slightly more than half of executives in our study said HR talent acquisition and development is not keeping pace with the needs of the business, which suggests talent issues may not be getting the attention they deserve.
What’s the answer? One route is to “borrow” the required talent from ecosystem partners who already have those skills as well as other important capabilities that an organization can use to augment its own staff. For many organizations, this is an attractive alternative to “buying” talent. But for those that do want to hire their own, the challenge becomes twofold: 1) how to attract and hire for innovation and creativity; and 2) how to unleash the creative potential of that talent to the benefit of the enterprise. While traditional approaches to recruiting, deploying, developing, and motivating people are still relevant to traditional skills, they aren’t always compatible with the new breed of talent companies need for intelligent operations to take root.
Read more on our future blog posts. We’ll discuss how organizations can address these two challenges by reviewing some key success factors for hiring and benefiting from innovative talent. First up will be a closer look at what leading organizations are doing to identify such talent and create a more compelling and attractive recruitment experience for target candidates.