Solving the digital skill crisis: An insight into capability hiring

Solving the digital skill crisis:  An insight into capability hiring

3 million new technology jobs in the next 5 years, 100,000 open cyber vacancies by the end of 2021, UK ‘heading towards digital skills shortage disaster’, 16% Ethnic Minority representation in Tech and 19% female across all ethnicities – This is just some of the data that suggests we need to be thinking differently about how we face the insourcing of skills to the tech industry.

If you look at the person you feel is doing the ‘best’ job (and that is personal perspective of course) and analyse WHY you think they are doing the best job it will define the capabilities that you feel are most important in that role. Those capabilities could be absolutely anything and are inherently different in each circumstance.

So how does this fit in regards to hiring? I have spent 16 years in an environment where we have endeavoured to place as many square pegs in square holes as we can. More recently, however, we operate in a much more strategic/advisory way, and as such our expertise in multiple resourcing types drives this sort of conversation. 

The CV doesn't tell the whole story

Can you get the best hire through skill alone?
Can you get the best hire from skill alone?


A recent Mercer report was really interesting in a couple of ways; it found that when a hiring manager receives CVs against a job spec, or a description defining a leaver’s workload, they only found the right person in 29% of instances. This is unbelievably inefficient in terms of everyone’s time, and where do these other 71% end up?? They end up yesterday's news! What is also quite interesting is the fact (and I hadn’t thought about this before in too much depth) that people write job specs to mirror an exiting member of staff's workload. How many square pegs are there out there…? Not enough...

Doing things differently is the key. Capability hiring does not pigeonhole applicants or define specific specs, it hires people who demonstrate the right core drivers and skills and then trains and develops the rest. You can’t train someone to want to work for you, but you can train someone in Java (with all due respect). Capability hiring also provides access to all potential applicants- that's all sectors of society and it’s driven by who they are as a person, not by what their CV or bio says. You cannot be more diverse in your hiring then hiring on who someone is rather than what

This brings us to another aspect of how to bridge the diversity gap within our market. Again, this gap will not be (and is not being) filled by stats or targets or incentives. I mentioned this last year in a webinar that I ran on the topic: The essence is to transform diversity hiring from a “can I?” to an “I can” attitude in candidates. From a candidate's perspective, the person doing the hiring bases their  judgement on the candidate’s capabilities and empowers that person to be confident in their ability and its relevance to the opportunity (the “I can”). By talking about degrees, specific qualifications, or ‘years experience’, you immediately give people reason not to apply (the “can I?”). 

If you make your opportunities accessible then your diversity agenda will look after itself, and if you don't increase your workforce diversity you simply won’t fill all the jobs you need to.

What are the next steps?

How do you change your approach to hiring?
How do you change your approach to hiring?


Now the final element is bearing in mind that a lot of resistance to hiring on capability is based on the fear that the person can’t do a specific job, the ‘pain point’ and the reason to hire in the first place. In this instance think of two things:

1. Can you train the person to do the job? This will involve time and investment but imagine the return on investment!

2. Can you restructure your current delivery capability to provide an opportunity that is right for this person with or without training? Imagine there may be people in your team who would be relieved to drop a certain responsibility, or even pick one up.

The final and most important element of all of this is do you have the guts to do it? I have made a point of speaking with clients who have and are doing this, and in every aspect it has been a complete success. They are the organisations that are working to meet their skills and diversity gaps, and they are taking work from those who continue to “play it safe” and do what they have always done (google ‘Einstein definition of madness’).

I am very happy to speak with anyone who is interested so please do feel free to get in touch.

If you want to find out more, please feel free to contact James via LinkedIn.