Skip to main content
Article | Beyond Data

The secret that helps digitally mature companies win digital talent

Talent|Future of Work

By Shai Ganu and Winnie Wang | April 5, 2019

Why are digital professionals in Asia Pacific drawn to organisations with a strong digital strategy?

For many organisations in Asia Pacific, attracting and retaining digital talent is an increasingly frustrating task. This specialized group are often perceived as scarce, elusive and restless. Our Artificial Intelligence and Digital Talent Survey reveals a much clearer reason for these challenges — lack of a well-defined digital strategy.

More than half of Asia Pacific employers have digitalised primarily to augment human performance and productivity.1 However, digitally mature organisations understand that digitalisation is actually a wide-scale and long-term transition that affects every facet of their organisation – tools, process, people – and is an integral part of the overall business strategy. Beyond simply transforming how humans work, technology has also helped to create new customer needs, new skills and new jobs. Breakthrough approaches are needed from HR and leadership in response to radical, inevitable organisational changes.2

Today, only 14% of Asia Pacific organisations are ‘digitally mature’1. Remarkably, a majority report that having an overall digital strategy has helped them to successfully secure digital talent. On the other hand, for most organisations struggling with digital transformation – the lack of a well-defined strategy is a major obstacle in effective talent acquisition.1

So why are these ‘scarce, elusive and restless’ digital professionals drawn to organisations with a strong digital strategy?

The secret to securing digital talent

The secret to securing digital talent

Willis Towers Watson research suggests that there are four key ingredients in the ’secret sauce’ for these companies:

  1. Interesting and challenging work

    In Asia Pacific, cash remains the most effective tool for attraction of digital talent. But the top driver of retention is work that constantly challenges them.1

    Digital talent have an intense desire to make an impact. Instead of 'scarce', 'elusive' or 'restless', a more progressive word to describe digital talent is 'disruptive'. Many of these individuals are willing to take bold and brave actions and challenge conventional ways of doing things. They actively seek organisations that promote innovation.

    Employers that recognise this also know that innovation is organic and unconventional. More importantly, it is a friend of failure – which also means that workplaces conducive to innovation are never boring. In fact, 100% of digitally mature organisations say that having an abundance of varied or challenging work assignments greatly helps in attracting digital talent.1

  2. Differentiated rewards and pay premiums

    Digital talent, especially those with specialised skills, can have a significant impact on an organisation’s transformation journey. Differentiated reward offerings signal to digital talent that the employer recognises their potential and does not subscribe to a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy.

    Seventy-one percent of digitally mature companies in the Asia Pacific region have integrated advanced technology into the business. A quarter of these organisations have adjusted pay premiums in order to better retain in-demand technical skills such as AI, blockchain and big data analytics. While skills premiums average 15%1, many countries will offer up to 25%. This practice is particularly prevalent in China where premiums can go as high as 50%.

    For instance, according to our 2018 Artificial Intelligence and Digital Talent Compensation Survey, the median pay for all-digital-professionals in Singapore is 41% above that in China. However, the pay level for data science/analytics and business intelligence specialists based in China, is actually slightly higher than in Singapore, thanks to China’s aggressive pay premiums for these highly sought-after skills. Around half of digitally mature organisations plan to increase premiums over the next 18 months for critical skills, including cybersecurity and digital marketing.1

  3. Career growth and job security

    Digital talent are highly aware of the rapid changes in the future of work, and this motivates them to constantly improve their skills, employability and market value. This may help to explain the growing practice among digital talent to form a ‘social contract’ with employers around greater learning and development (L&D) opportunities. We are seeing an increasing number of digital professionals willing to trade certain perquisites in lieu of full or partial financial support in specialised training programmes, advanced degrees or skills certifications.

    L&D has become an important platform not just for talent attraction and retention, but also for ensuring a continued competitiveness and relevance of every worker in the new economy. Within the next three years, almost a quarter of jobs are expected to be automated.2

    Organisations that invest in the reskilling of employees demonstrate leadership and commitment to future global prosperity. Digital talent have higher confidence and trust in such employers, as a learning-oriented mind-set also reflects empathy towards the job security worries of many employees today.

  4. Digital acceptance

    Over 40% of Asia Pacific organisations say that not being recognised as a digital brand is hampering their talent attraction efforts. Meanwhile, this is hardly an issue for many digitally mature companies. The reason for this might be linked to the actions they took early on in their digital transformation journeys. Some of these include reshaping their organisational model into a more agile and flattened structure, and promoting inclusion and diversity in their workforce.1

    Think of the term ‘digital brand’ and Silicon Valley brands will come to mind as digital role models. They are highly coveted employers among digital talent, largely due to the image that they constantly assert on the global stage. It’s not the free lunches and foosball tables that make these companies desirable; it is their policies, structure, and ways of working – that have evolved based on a thoughtful understanding of digital talent. And clearly, these strategic moves have led to significant success in creating and growing a digital workforce.

Digital transformation is in full throttle across Asia Pacific. Attracting and retaining top digital talent is critical in gaining a competitive business advantage. To support this need, our 2019 Artificial Intelligence and Digital Talent Survey provides compensation data, skill premiums, and market practices to help organisations make effective pay decisions for digital workers. Contact us to find out more.


1 2018 Artificial Intelligence and Digital Talent Survey, Digital Transformation Practices Report – Asia Pacific
2 2017/2018 Future of Work Survey – Asia Pacific

Contact Us