Recruiting digital talent: The strategic role of recruitment in organisations’ digital transformation

Phyllis Messalina Gilch*, Jost Sieweke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Recruitment plays a central role during digital transformation because companies in many industries need to hire employees who possess IT-related knowledge, skills and abilities to digitalise their products, services and processes. However, extant research so far mainly has focussed on the use of digital technology in recruiting processes and its outcomes, whereas strategic aspects have received little attention. Based on 26 interviews with recruiters in 22 organisations, this study examines the interplay between recruitment and digital transformation beyond the use of digital technology in recruitment, focussing on more strategic aspects. The study examines recruitment’s role in organisations’ digital transformation. We found that the recruitment of digital talent as a new target group triggers change within the company, and does so in three ways: First, recruiters have realised the necessity to adapt their measures and processes to the new target group. Second, recruiters have developed a new self-understanding. Third, recruiters have recognised the need to support the organisation’s digital transformation by taking on a bridging function. Our study makes two contributions: First, we identified two new roles for recruitment during digital transformation: It acts as a ‘sensory organ’ that enhances the organisation’s absorptive capacity; and it takes on the role of a ‘mediator’ between external and internal groups. Second, this study builds on the human resources (HR) literature by analysing the strategic implications that digital transformation imposes on recruitment, highlighting recruitment’s part in renewing an organisation’s human resource base, which is crucial for its digital transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-82
Number of pages30
JournalGerman Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number1
Early online date9 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


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