How to Fast Track Digital Leaders

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas–Digital transformation is about much more than technology; often, it’s more of a personnel and leadership issue, according to one person. 

Speaking to an Underground Collision meeting here organized by Mitchell Stankovic & Associates in conjunction with WOCCU’s World CU Conference, Lynn Heckler, EVP with PSCU in St. Petersburg, Fla. pointed to all the factors driving digital transformation and changing the workforce. Heckler oversees human resources at PSCU. 

Boost Digital Leadership

Referring to a presentation made earlier in the meeting at which a speaker asked credit unions if they would prefer their lunches were eaten by competitors, or that they did the eating, Heckler asked, “How do we go on the offense as credit union leaders and make sure our lunch doesn’t get eaten?”

A Different Workforce

Heckler said the answer lies in recognizing how digital transformation is dealt with in human terms, especially in the so-called “war for talent.”

“We are leading a different workforce, and they are leading us. What is the workforce of tomorrow supposed to look like? I don’t know,” said Heckler. “The workforce of today was built for Baby Boomers. All of the rewards were built for Baby Boomers. Newer employees don’t share the same values.”

Heckler told the meeting, which included a number of representatives of the World Young Credit Union Professionals (WYCUP) organization, that it is a “new frontier” when it comes to hiring digital talent. 

“It’s not just developers in Silicon Valley,” stressed Heckler. “Digital talent is throughout your organization The bottom line is leading this digital talent is going to take a very different digital skillset than we have developed in the years you’ve been in the workforce.”

That includes weaving robotic process automation (RPA) into organizations and repurposing employees to different functions, she added. 

What Is It?

So just what is a digital leader? According to Heckler, it’s a combination of skills and behavior. 

“I’m in HR, but I need at least a baseline understanding of what is involved in coding,” she related, adding, “There is a lot of information out there” for learning.

Heckler said digital leadership is about:

  • Using existing digital technologies and adapts to evolving methods and new approaches. “It’s about the people who are constantly curious and can see around corners. It’s understanding the tech stuff of today is not the tech stuff of tomorrow. That is a key differentiator for being a great digital leader.”
  • Growth Mindset. “This is constantly wanting to learn. If you as an organization can create a learning environment where is it just part of the DNA, but also developing new skills to get the tech fluency that’s needed.
    Lynn Heckler

    Lynn Heckler speaking to Underground Collision meeting.

Buy or Build?

The question facing many credit unions and CU organizations is whether to develop digital talent, or buy it. Heckler said the best approach is a combination. 

 “The truth is we can upskill the talent we have today, but we are probably going to have to buy some pretty expensive digital leaders we can use as role models that can help the rest of the organization learn,” she told the meeting. 

What if a credit union can’t afford the digital talent? Heckler said one answer is to turn to the gig economy to fill skill gaps.

Most Important Skills

What are the most important skills for digital leaders? Heckler pointed to a MIT Sloan/DeLoitte study that concluded those skills include:

  • Transformative vision
  • Change orientation
  • Understanding technology
  • Forward looking

“Notice that three of the top four have nothing to do with technology,” said Heckler. “Tech is just the tech; it’s the people who wrap around this tech who will make this work.”

Fast Tracking Digital Leaders

To fast track digital leaders in an organization, Heckler recommended:

  • Rethink your leadership competency model
  • Develop digital leadership immersion programs
  • Provide self-directed learning, attending technology conferences, and/or find digital natives for leaders to learn from
  • Engage in digital tourism. Visit with leaders of successful, tech-driven companies
  • Host digital strategy retreats that focus exclusively on digital threats and opportunities
  • Recruit new leaders who have strong digital experience
  • Foster a digital ecosystem for leaders to thrive
Section: Standard
Word Count: 917
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Copyright Year: 2019
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