When we ask how a change in the business environment affects the tech sector, we ought to keep in mind that Silicon Valley companies aren’t the only participants in the digital talent market. This type of talent now powers so much of our economy that it tops the list of critical talent needs organizations are worried about—and not just the Apples and Alphabets of the world. We have had numerous conversations with chief HR officers who have been surprised at how much they compete with Silicon Valley for digital talent, even though they are in completely different industries.
Fully 57 percent of heads of HR say that attracting and retaining digital talent is either a high priority or essential for them in 2017. To further underscore its importance, one third of HR executives report that this talent segment presents the greatest risk to organizational performance if it is not addressed successfully. No pressure, right?
As organizations’ digital strategies evolve, we’re seeing CIOs and CHROs begin talking more about their digital strategies to ensure the company has the right kind of talent in place moving forward. While heads of HR say the CFO is still their most important C-suite relationship, the CIO comes in second. This partnership will likely only become more important as top-level strategy conversations center increasingly around digital talent, and as new executive positions are even developed to lead them. Last week at the Harvard Business Review, Andrew Ng argued that in some industries, organizations will soon need chief AI officers:
AI is still immature and evolving quickly, so it is unreasonable to expect everyone in the C-suite to understand it completely. But if your industry generates a large amount of data, there is a good chance that AI can be used to transform that data into value. To the majority of companies that have data but lack deep AI knowledge, I recommend hiring a chief AI officer or a VP of AI. (Some chief data officers and forward-thinking CIOs are effectively taking on this role.)
The benefit of a chief AI officer is having someone who can make sure AI gets applied across silos. Most companies have naturally developed siloed functions in order to specialize and become more efficient. For the sake of argument, let’s say your company has a gift card division. There is a reasonable chance that AI could make the selling and processing of gift cards much better. If the team has the expertise to attract and deploy AI talent, by all means let them do so! However, in most cases, that’s unrealistic. Because AI talent is extremely scarce right now, it is unlikely that they will attract top talent to work on gift cards at the division level.