David Westfall, senior director of Decision [Support and Innovation] at Aon Hewitt, emphasized how invaluable the human side of the equation is, and how it can be underestimated.

“Business models become more complex and we think technology is always the answer. At the end of the day, it is about the human being. The most precious resource is the attention span of a human being,” he said. “If you are not engaging the human being–it really doesn’t matter. The technology, innovation, growth, has to attract the attention of human beings or group of human beings that you are trying to engage with.”

According to Westfall, there are some core considerations for businesses looking to advance innovation.

“Many tend to focus on the technology aspect without keeping the human being in mind. We are in a digital transformation of business, and this changes the face of business in many ways; but at the core, the human must still be the central figure.”

So what are important factors if you want to win the war on talent? What is most effective at recruiting employees who will stay and add the most value?

“There is only one defensible investment that companies can make that other companies cannot duplicate,” he explained. “We can mimic technology, relocate similar demographics, build similar factories, but I cannot hire the exact same people you have- or create the environment in which they are engaged and performing.”

When managing talent, what sort of contradictions does technology pose?

“It is not necessarily a contradiction, but rather a focus issue.  Technology has centralized the system, when in fact it should be used to decentralize–it should be used to engage on a direct and personal level with the individuals closest to the information flow.

What business model trends arise when companies try to reshape themselves in the digital age?

“In the past we talked about information flow, as well as the agility required to capture the value from that.  Additionally, both mindset and skillset play a role in interpreting this information to best optimize a business. Putting this into practice requires an extremely nimble business model that revamps information flow, no matter how disruptive, and secondly maximizing opportunity around that information.”

Drew Papadeas, Director of Business Development at Dom&Tom, explained his take on the process his company uses for professional development and utilizing communication tools to invest in, since these tools matter for employee engagement in the digital age.

“We are transparent–even down to the most junior developer–about everything that’s happening in the company. This transparent culture encourages openness and autonomy, which makes for a strong, cohesive workplace. To get to that point, it’s essential to make the proper investments in the company’s infrastructure and organizational chart. We also spend time developing optimal processes to run complex projects.”