Winning the Talent War in the Digital Age
By Julia Davis, CIO, Aflac
Promoting diversity is not only the right thing to do; it also makes good business sense for many reasons. In today’s digital age, a diverse workforce can certainly help companies compete for top talent in a global job market. Within IT organizations, multiple talents and perspectives are as important to daily operations as they are to supporting future growth, and they can spur innovation in the process. So, how can companies ensure they find and keep the right talent?
Drivers for Talented Teams
To successfully build talented teams, leaders must consider each individual’s skillset, education, experience level, and function within the business as well as what other qualities they will contribute to a given project(s). At Aflac, we are undergoing a major transformation and investing heavily in technology to accomplish departmental and business-wide goals. We need talented individuals who understand how technology is evolving and who offer versatility in their experience and mindset for approaching and successfully accomplishing objectives.
Within larger companies, IT teams support initiatives and people across many business functions and different departments. To succeed in the enterprise, IT organizations need advocates who understand technology from a business perspective and who can serve as ambassadors to other internal groups.
When it comes to attracting and retaining employees, it may seem that Aflac is at a disadvantage due to being 90 minutes from Atlanta in Southwest Georgia. Companies in a similar position certainly have to recognize that some people don’t want to come to a smaller city. However, we remain committed to focusing on local talent who grew up in the South or are perhaps looking to make a return to their family and Southern roots.
Alternatively, to appeal to those more accustomed to the big city, we opened an office in Atlanta to more effectively recruit IT talent from the growing tech talent center in the Southern U.S. This decision recognized the need to update traditional HR approaches to appeal to talented people who want to be IT architects and who can get jobs in any major city.
Businesses that invest in their newest employees and cultivate a generationally diverse workforce will be better prepared for future challenges
Diversity Matters More Than Ever
At Aflac, we have expanded our college recruitment initiative which includes historically black colleges and universities. This approach underscores the importance of implementing more well-rounded hiring approaches that seek opportunities to expand racial diversity to better reflect our population as a whole and attract the right talent. HR and hiring managers must look at alternative places and overcome traditional mindsets with a freedom to operate differently. It is much easier to attract talented people during the interview process when they see and hear diversity—from race and gender to innovative ideas and work culture—from potential colleagues.
Building “Reversible” Bench Strength
To appeal to millennials—the largest segment of today’s workforce, you must target them early. Aflac’s accelerated, 10-week IT internship program provides current college students with a complete hands-on experience. Our interns collaborate with each other and our IT leadership on real IT projects, while receiving valuable career guidance. We then offer a two-year IT Apprenticeship or “reverse mentoring” program for select internship graduates and other workers in which they rotate through various IT positions every few months. This program provides unique opportunities for those who grew up on smartphones, social media, and mobile apps to learn about agile methodology and business protocol from more experienced employees. At the same time, people who have been in the business for an established period of time could also benefit from the fresh ideas promoted by their new colleagues.
The reverse mentoring helps educate IT leaders to be more open and break down the hierarchical structure for an agile, team-based approach. Ultimately, this program helps to fill areas with a skill set gap, balance the right mix of experts to lead their own fields, and identify the best blend of personalities for team collaboration and communication.
It’s critical for companies and IT leaders to offer programs that enable future leaders to ask questions, feel free from any barriers with executives, and have opportunities to contribute in ways they may not expect. However, the talent investment doesn’t end there. Instead, ongoing training can help maximize your team’s potential and prepare them for challenges down the road. In turn, just as employees seek out employers that invest in them through benefits, continuous employee development can help businesses hold on to top performers.
Good Benefits Provide Business Benefits
Strong health care benefits are critical to millennials’ satisfaction, engagement, and willingness to remain in a job: 40 percent say improving their benefits package is one thing their employers could do to keep them in place according to the 2017 Aflac WorkForces Report. Businesses that invest in their newest employees and cultivate a generationally diverse workforce will be better prepared for future challenges, and they will likely see a more engaged team as a result. Better engagement leads to better customer service and a feeling of purpose and business value. In my experience, this leads to happy employees who enjoy coming to work. It also can lead to tremendous productivity increases that easily showcase the return on investment of ongoing IT talent initiatives.