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Three Strategies TMT Companies Can Apply Now to Reduce People Problems and Other Top Risks

Fran Maxwell, Managing Director People Advisory and Organizational Change Global Leader
Christine Livingston, Managing Director Emerging Technologies

Technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) companies exist on the forefront of change, constantly pushing the envelope on digital innovation and transformation. But there are signs that leaders in this industry are growing increasingly concerned about their organizations’ ability to maintain that position and pace — not only this year, but over the next decade.

A root cause for their worry? The industry’s persistent and expanding “people problem.” Research from Protiviti’s latest Top Risks survey shows that succession challenges and concerns about the ability to attract and retain top talent is the number one risk issue dominating discussions in the boardrooms and executive suites of TMT companies around the globe this year. Looking ahead to 2032, this issue still ranks on the leaderboard of key risks, although it only holds the fifth spot.

No doubt, many leaders in the TMT industry are hopeful that the people problem will ease over the next decade as advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation help them bridge critical talent gaps and increase business process efficiency. However, the reality is that TMT companies need people with the right skills and experience to help them develop those solutions first — and those people are already increasingly hard to find and retain.

That’s likely why TMT leaders cited the inability to keep pace with the rapid speed of disruptive innovations enabled by advanced technologies like AI, automation, quantum computing and more as the top risk for their organizations in 2032. Obviously, the challenge of hiring and retaining skilled talent that TMT companies are grappling with today will have a direct impact on their ability to compete tomorrow.

But there’s a lot these businesses can do to ease the people problem and stave off the impacts of that top risk anticipated for 2032. Some of those strategies were explored in the recent Protiviti webinar, 2023 Top Risks for TMT: With Challenge Comes Great Opportunity. Here’s a look at three key takeaways for TMT leaders from this discussion.

Seize the Opportunity to Upskill and Reskill Workers Sooner Than Later

Another top risk cited by TMT leaders for 2023, one that ranks fourth on the list, is the concern that digital technologies adopted in the marketplace and in their organizations may require new skills that are in short supply or significant efforts to upskill and reskill existing employees.

Growing talent from within is clearly the route many businesses will need to take if they want to maximize their technology investments — and stay on the leading edge of technology. The good news is that learning options abound for helping workers gain future-forward skills, from AI boot camps to coding courses to training and certification paths offered by leading platform providers.

Providing professional development opportunities like upskilling, especially to top performers, creates other benefits for the business beyond preparing for the rapidly approaching future of work. These investments can increase worker engagement and boost retention and recruitment.

In fact, organizations should be thinking about their talent strategies and business objectives in parallel. That process includes assessing the talent currently within or available to the organization and mapping skills and abilities to business objectives to identify gaps. Organizations may want to consider engaging contingent resources to help cover those gaps and keep projects moving forward while the business upskills workers or searches the marketplace for available talent for hire.

Invest in a Differentiated Employee Experience to Attract and Retain Talent at All Levels

The people problem in the TMT sector also impacts the highest levels of the organization. One reason that succession planning stands as a top concern for TMT executives is because talented, experienced professionals with vast institutional knowledge have been leaving the workforce in droves in recent years. Many are entering early retirement or exploring new career paths because they’re worn out from pandemic disruption, rethinking priorities or both.

Meanwhile, many TMT companies, particularly in the tech sector, are exacerbating succession planning challenges by letting go of talented people so the business can focus on profitability amid economic uncertainty and headwinds. Not all of these workers are future leaders, but it’s a good bet many could be. And when these businesses are ready to expand again, they may struggle to rehire these workers and recruit new talent, especially if they didn’t manage the layoffs well.

TMT organizations need to provide a good reason for people to work for them, beyond a paycheck. Companies that will have an edge in attracting and retaining talent at all levels over the next decade, and likely beyond, are those prepared to offer a differentiated employee experience. These businesses focus time, energy and effort on treating their talent like their best customers by listening to and responding to their needs. For example, we see these businesses:

  • Evaluating their total rewards package, and making sure they’re offering competitive pay and compelling benefits and perks, like wellness programs
  • Providing flexible work arrangements, including remote and hybrid options
  • Fostering a positive, engaging company culture
  • Prioritizing and promoting workforce diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging
  • Communicating authentically and transparently
  • Offering meaningful work and career pathing
  • Equipping workers with the tools and training they need to be successful

Providing a standout employee experience takes work and time — and for many companies, it requires transformation in the human resources function. It is vital for TMT businesses to start this journey to help ensure that they have the right talent in place throughout the business to succeed in the future.

Create and Manage an “Innovation Portfolio” and a Shared Vision

The Top Risks survey also shows that TMT leaders are worried about their organizations falling behind the rapid speed of innovation expected to unfold over the next decade. Meeting that risk head-on requires these leaders to set a big-picture vision by asking themselves: “Where do we want the company to be in 10 years?” and “What small steps can we start taking now to help us move faster and achieve that big vision?”

This type of thinking can help TMT companies create an “innovation portfolio.” This portfolio, similar to one for personal finance, includes a mix of investments with varying risks and time horizons for maturity. The innovation portfolio can help an organization identify which emerging technologies it should invest in longer-term, by balancing both their time and financial investments as one would balance a personal financial portfolio, and determine how and when to do it effectively, such as through pilots or proofs of concept. Over time, as the technologies mature, the organization will have vetted and experimented with the technology, identified practical use cases, and prepared for it to reach a steady state, eventually becoming part of the traditional IT stack.

Creating an innovation portfolio requires establishing a shared vision of why the business is experimenting with certain technologies, like AI, what it hopes to learn from these efforts and how the work will translate into future business value. Is the business, for example, trying to improve the employee experience, enhance the customer experience, generate revenue or reduce costs? Setting that vision will, in turn, help the business align the right partnerships and ecosystem to advance its innovation agenda — and prioritize and focus its hiring, upskilling and reskilling efforts more effectively.

For more insights and analysis on the top risks that TMT companies around the globe are facing, including data privacy and compliance concerns, read Protiviti’s industry-focused commentary on the latest Top Risks survey findings here.

Gordon Tucker, a Managing Director and Global Leader in Protiviti’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications practice, contributed to this content.

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