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Companies must overcome the three main challenges of integrating digital talent into the team, according to Linus Dahlander, associate professor of strategy at ESMT Berlin.

Organisations are increasingly successful in attracting, training and retaining new talent but many fail to integrate these people into the core business.

Dahlander, alongside colleague Martin Wallin, Head of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Chalmers University of Technology, studied how 12 industrial firms in Germany and Scandinavia try to increase the digital skills of their workforces. They identified three main challenges.

1 - Integrating an accelerator or separate digital unit with the traditional part of the company.

Dahlander says: “Many companies create accelerators or other separate units for boosting their digital capabilities. In fact, StoraEnso, the pulp and paper company founded in 1288 and widely regarded as the world’s oldest existing corporation, has a digital accelerator program. These are often located away from the companies in city centres and have different cultures, office spaces and management techniques to their parent companies.

“One serious challenge that arises is how to integrate new talent into the core business when these people are working at a distance from the company. For example, they may not see how the code they produce interacts with the company’s core program and strategy. This is because there is often nobody in charge of integrating the accelerator with the parent company, with the task often being left to senior managers who don’t have the time.”

2 – Leveraging new digital skills across the workforce.

Dahlander says: “Companies often rush to train internal staff in new kinds of digital and data science tools. One traditional Swedish steel company we worked with began training its younger generation of rolling mill operators in order to encourage a more digital mindset. This led to improved production efficiency, less variation in quality and faster onboarding of new operators. Yet despite these results, there was no framework in place for their training to ripple out across the broader organisation meaning that this digital initiative was only locally successful – a common error that companies must guard against.”

3 – Seeing bottom-up incentives like suggestion boxes or brainstorming sessions through.

Dahlander says: “Some organisations aim to identify internal digital talent through bottom-up initiatives but in most cases, employees fail to engage. There is often a lack of awareness which can be tackled by managers explaining the importance of becoming digital, how to company plans to achieve this and how it will benefit people in the process. Without this communication, few employees will be motivated to engage.

“Digital transformation is a deeply rooted managerial challenge which involves more than just the adoption of new technology. In order to succeed, companies need to go beyond attracting, training and retaining digital talent and integrate these people into the core business processes.”

For more information or to speak with Linus Dahlander, please contact Natalie Bishop of BlueSky PR on +441582 790709 or at

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