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Innovative talent: The secret sauce of digitisation

The secret sauce of digitisation

Empowering employees shows that new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) is not about slashing jobs. If anything, they should make it easier for staff to take on more fulfilling roles.

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Partner and Head of FS Consulting and Risk Consulting

KPMG in the UK

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Since January I’ve been blogging about the pillars of a successful digital transformation. So far I’ve discussed data governance and partnerships, but firms are unlikely to get full value from these unless they can do something else: Nurture their innovative talent.

Talk about ‘agile talent’ was once confined to Silicon Valley – or the sports field. But digitisation has made this a mainstream topic. I see this with my banking clients. Faced with investor demands for higher returns and customer demands for better experiences, banks are rethinking themselves as technology companies.

As a result, banks are increasingly aware that they need an innovative workforce to get the most out of robotics, AI and other digital tools. That integration between digital and human labour is the focus of KMPG’s recent publications Rise of The Humans 1 & 2.

So much for the theory. But how to put it into practice?

In my view, the organisations that want all their staff to be agents of change are on the right track. I’m sceptical how much core groups of agile staff can achieve if the bulk of employees do not share the same sort of flexibility. 

This sort of firm-wide approach involves encouraging employees to identify opportunities for innovation, empowering them to propose new approaches, and giving them the support and resources to help implement change. 

That’s a pretty tall order. For a typical business, it’s likely to require investing in agile process training; organising hackathons or change sprints to engage staff; setting up infrastructures such as innovation hubs or collaboration platforms; and providing clear leadership that emphasises the need for a change of culture.

Nor is this approach without risks. That’s especially true for heavily regulated industries like financial services, where innovation and agility need to be balanced with a touch of good old-fashioned prudence.

Even so, I think the arguments for nurturing in-house innovation are just too strong to ignore:

  •  It makes practical sense to harness internal expertise. Employees are ideally placed to analyse existing practices and identify bottom-up improvements in efficiency or capability.
  • Getting staff involved in the innovation process encourages buy-in and internal support.
  • Empowering employees shows that new technologies such as artifical intelligence (AI) is not about slashing jobs. If anything, they should make it easier for staff to take on more fulfilling roles.

In the longer term, technological innovation should improve working experiences. Organisations that can nurture the creativity of their staff in this way will also be putting themselves in a position to attract the best future talent. 

The benefits of this will be threefold. First, it will give businesses greater pace in delivering the innovations they need to reach their future state. Second, it will position companies for continuous change with a ‘fit for the future’ workforce. And third, it will allow firms to develop a more forward-looking view of employer-employee relationships. Workers who feel they’re initiating change – rather than having it forced on them – could hold the key to unlocking the value of digitisation.

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