Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

With quality of talent the deciding factor in success, CEOs spend much of their time on strategies for recruiting and retaining the best—and that won’t change.

BY 2023, MORE THAN half of all investment in information and communications technology will be spent on digital transformation, up from 36 percent today, according to the most recent forecast from IDC. That’s a growth rate of 17.5 percent (CAGR), with total investment worldwide reaching $7.4 trillion over the next three years as companies seek to modernize operations, boost efficiency, head off disruption and create the kind of compelling user experiences that will win loyalty. “Organizations with new digital business models at their core are well positioned to successfully compete in the digital platform economy,” says IDC analyst Shawn Fitzgerald.

But as CEOs know well, technology investment is just one factor determining success in the digital age. The key ingredient? “You really need great people,” says Michael Brown, CEO of Wyndham Destinations, the world’s largest publicly traded timeshare provider, headquartered in Orlando and a key member of the region’s entertainment technology industry.

That has always been true in Brown’s industry, but increasingly across industries, the data show quality of talent making the difference between getting by and surging ahead. McKinsey estimates, for example, that top engineering talent can be “anywhere from three to ten times more productive than average engineers” and that “acquiring top talent can yield double-digit investment savings by accelerating the transformation process by even 20 to 30 percent.”

The challenge, of course, has been finding and keeping that top talent—and it will continue to be, even now. Here are two strategies that top companies are utilizing to tap into Orlando’s workforce, which is one of the youngest and fastest growing talent pools in the U.S.

Plug into local education sources

To keep the pipeline full and attract future talent, companies are utilizing increasingly close partnerships with area universities. “Attracting STEM talent is competitive no matter where you are,” says Frank A. St. John, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Rotary and Mission Systems business and incoming Chief Operating Officer for Lockheed Martin Corporation starting June 2020. The division’s Orlando location, which is one of the region’s marquee aerospace & defense operations, allows it to tap a pool of 500,000 college students within a 100-mile radius, and its College Work Experience Program with University of Central Florida gives both undergraduate and graduate students a chance to work in various departments across Lockheed Martin and gets them on the company’s radar screen early on.

Another partnership with Valencia College’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Center allows Lockheed Martin to provide classroom speakers and to be directly involved with curriculum development to build Orlando’s workforce of tomorrow. “The schools we recruit from in Florida have robust and diverse populations in majors that are of interest to us,” says St. John. “We also lead outreach efforts for K-12 students to help inspire them to pursue STEM careers, reaching tens of thousands of students annually.”

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, whose signature product is, in the words of CEO Paul Browning, “basically a jet engine that, instead of flying on a wing of an airplane, is on the ground being used to produce electricity,” also recruits heavily from UCF’s engineering pool. “Even [for] our sales team, we tend to hire engineers or people with an engineering degree just because even the sales process is very, very technical, so one of our highest priorities is having access to great technical talent,” he says. As one of Orlando’s top advanced manufacturing companies, MHPS runs a large internship program that allows students, while still in school, to “work with us and get to know us, and vice versa,” says Browning.

Hire right—and smart.

A recent Gartner study found that companies are successful with new hires just 68 percent of the time. Given that turnover costs range anywhere from 20 percent of annual salary to upwards of 200 percent for senior-level employees, retention is critical. At AdventHealth, a faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare system in Orlando and a major player in the regional life sciences & healthcare sector, turnover for first-year nurses can be as high as 40-50 percent.

To improve its odds of success, the hospital invested in sophisticated AI technology that runs in the background during video interviews, analyzing facial features and responses and calculating the percentage chance of an individual nurse staying with the hospital for two years vs. less, explains Daryl Tol, president and CEO of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division. “Anything you can do to find that person who is different from the rest of the college class, who is ready and who has a level of commitment, whose heart is in the work—it makes all the difference in the world.”

Learn more about Orlando talent initiatives and find out why the Central Florida workforce is among the strongest and most stable in the country.

Originally published in the Sept/ Oct issue of Chief Executive Magazine.