Is there really a shortage?

Digital Journal reported that a study conducted by LinkedIn and CapGemini at the beginning of 2018 found that the digital skills gap is impacting 54% of the businesses surveyed. Consequently, companies are unable to continue the pace of digital transformation which –  for most – has a direct effect on their competitive advantage. This digital skills gap is very real, especially in the United States. With the increase in demand driven by corporations – big and small – undertaking digital transformation, coupled with the advancement in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things and Big Data, the skills gap is vast. It seems counterintuitive given that publications such as Forbes and Futurism imply that robots are taking over the world. Even Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX CEO, has made claims about how “artificial intelligence could doom civilization.” That begs the question as to whether there is enough of the needed human talent to develop the AI Musk alludes to!

To understand the reasons behind this gap, one needs only to consider the recent exponential advancements in technology. The speed by which advanced technology is spreading and driving the marketplace far outpaces the speed of training and upgrading skill sets. Additionally, a recent study by Korn Ferry indicates that by 2030, there will be a global human shortage of roughly 85 million people, equal to the population of Germany. The shortage is attributed to baby boomers moving out of the workforce and the low birth rates in Japan and the European nations over the past decades.  The same study projects that such a shortage could result in $8.5 trillion of unrealized revenues.

Those companies whose names are not synonymous with high-tech firms such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook or cool start-up companies, are at an additional disadvantage since their brands may not be perceived by prospective candidates as being exciting enough or unable to offer career-building within the high-tech industry. Candidates fear that they may not be working on “cool projects” or may be stuck maintaining antiquated systems. With the competition for talent as heated as it is, companies need to be very creative in creating a compelling value proposition and ensuring a stellar candidate experience.


Where are the digital talents?

In putting together a search strategy, companies must look beyond traditional sources such as campus hires for more junior candidates and LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job boards for experienced talent. Although these sources continue to be reliable, the problem is that everyone is looking for talent in the same places. Embarking on a more creative approach can yield far greater success in the search for digital talent.

Starting with junior or entry level hires, spice up your campus recruiting effort through gamification. It does not have to be very sophisticated. It can be as simple as a coding contest or a hackathon. Hiring Success Journal recommends four types of hackathon recruitment that includes virtual, interactive, industry and internal recruiting. Each is designed to assess various qualifications such as cultural fit, specific industry knowledge, ability to collaborate with teammates, and, of course, technical skills. Virtual hackathons work well for international recruiting without the business having to spend resources on travel for candidates or hiring managers. Industry hackathons can provide visibility into the candidates’ ability to interact with other team members, while also helping recruiters discern the candidates’ affinity to said industry. Lastly, internal hackathons are more suited for your internal digital talents who can help improve your own hackathons and promote internal referrals, one of the perennial best vehicles for sourcing.

For more experienced hires, gamification and hackathons can also work. Where to look for prospective candidates remains the question. Most recruiters will search in areas or geographies where talents are typically in abundance. It could be at high-tech companies or inside of major cities. Instead, consider hunting in peripheral areas where commuting is an option. As an example, commuter trains from the borders of Indiana and Wisconsin can get to downtown Chicago in a little over an hour – for some a long commute, yet for others, very normal. And there is always telecommuting. Software engineering is probably one of a few professions where physical presence in the home office can be optional. Moreover, instead of poaching at high-tech companies, look at other companies across various industries where recent digital transformations have transpired. Companies are very vocal about digital transformation initiatives either on analyst calls for publicly traded companies or via traditional and digital news outlets. As an added bonus, employees recruited from these companies will have the digital transformation experience and offer lessons learned.


What about outsourcing talent sourcing?

Typically, companies will have limited resources within their talent acquisition organizations and most may not be equipped for finding and screening digital talents. There are many recruiting firms that now offer selective outsourcing of the various segments of the recruiting process. Consider engaging a recruiting firm for sourcing and research to build a pipeline of candidates. For very specialized skills such as Cloud, AI, or Cybersecurity, consider outsourcing the entire process. Firms that specialize in digital and technology recruiting process outsourcing such as TalentRISE offer both experienced technology recruiters and creative search strategies that can yield qualified and interested candidates. If retaining control of the process is a concern, another option is to engage recruiters on a staff augmentation basis from companies that offer recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) services and specialize in digital and technology recruiting. In this scenario, the client company outsources the role of the internal recruiter to an outside consultant which is particularly very effective during hiring spikes. Similarly, it is also beneficial to set up a retainer arrangement with RPO firms to maintain a pipeline of candidates and thereby have the ability to increase recruiting capabilities with very little lead time. There are various financial arrangements that can be established to benefit both the hiring company and the recruiting firm.


What is the role of technology?

Digital transformation is at its height and has expanded into talent acquisition organizations across industries and companies of all sizes. Within talent acquisition, recruiting efforts are being supplemented by technology solutions such as job aggregators, testing tools, artificial intelligence, automation tools, applicant tracking, CRM, video interviewing, chatbot, and texting tools, to name just a few. Depending on needs, implementing a combination of these tools to supplement recruiting efforts is often the best strategy. Unless business needs are met, shy away from all-in-one solutions as they tend to offer limited functionality in all areas. There is no need to sacrifice full functionality for the purpose of full integration. Plus, technology solutions – especially those that fall in the “software as a service” (SaaS) category – offer built-in interfaces or at least make it very simple to integrate them with other systems.

Use cases for some of these tools are vast. Texting, as an example, is very powerful in attracting millennials who rely on it for communications. With the proliferation of smartphones, attracting, recruiting, engaging and collaborating can be accomplished through texting solutions offered by such companies as TextRecruit.  Artificial Intelligence for recruiting is another example. Companies like Ideal save time in sourcing, screening, and evaluating the overall qualifications of candidates. Additionally, it is also an effective tool for eliminating unconscious bias in one’s recruiting process. For video interviewing, recruiters can pre-record screening questions for prospective candidates and the same tool can capture the video responses seamlessly, thereby eliminating time-consuming screening processes and schedule coordination that extends recruiting process timelines. Solutions like Spark Hire offer flexible pricing without the need to lock into long term contracts. Lastly, there are various application tracking, CRM, and HR systems that can also help improve recruiting efforts.


What’s next?

The first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem. Hopefully, the preceding sections helped convince readers that there is a shortage in digital and technology talent. And made it clear that, more often than not, that the inhouse recruiter isn’t the problem.

To get ahead of your competition, consider the recommendations above. Then, establish an employer branding strategy. Remember, companies have to compete with sexy brands such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. To better promote your brand to attract digital talent, partner with the marketing organization. With the use of digital marketing techniques, social media presence, and email campaigns, companies can start to educate prospective candidates on “how cool” their business can be to employees. From cool projects and awesome cultures to other employee perks, even a traditional, established company can compete for talent with its younger, hipper counterparts.

Jose Martinez

About the Author

Jose has over twenty years experience in leadership roles for multinational professional services organizations and corporations including practice management, operations and business development. His Fortune 1000 industry experience spans financial services, insurance, consumer retail, healthcare and real estate.

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