Covid 19 has exacerbated the digital skills gap. Digital transformation projects are happening at a rate we’ve never experienced before; the industry has estimated that in the next 2 years, we’ll see 10 years of change.

The jobs market is already the tightest it’s ever been, with the demand for tech professionals far exceeding the supply.  The reality is that the UK just doesn’t have the volume of people with the skills available and ready to go in and do these jobs.

Organisations need to adopt a more progressive attitude to their hiring patterns, becoming more open and willing to candidates who may not be the finished article. One option is to reskill their existing people by offering training and mentorships to assist their development. Another is to be more open-minded about who they hire. They must become more willing to look at candidates who haven’t come through the traditional routes.

Inclusivity and social mobility.

Tech organisations have work to do around diversity. Women in tech and in particular, the gender pay gap is one area where tech businesses could improve.  Another area where tech has work to do is through the lens of social mobility.

Commonly, the route into tech jobs is formal, coming into tech with a degree in a technical discipline. Traditionally, there hasn’t been the same level of opportunity for people who may have left education earlier and haven’t completed a degree.

Social mobility and diversity.

Diverse businesses enjoy a range of different lived experiences which help them to view the world through the eyes of many rather than the few.

This means that you can see problems or opportunities from all angles, not just through the eyes of the people you already have.  Products, solutions, or services are then only created for a minority of the population.

And this includes a lack of representation of people from different socio-economic backgrounds.

How do you fix social under-representation?

There have been significant improvements in terms of access to tech accreditation. There are now many online and free resources available to aspiring and existing tech professionals who want to learn new technology skills.  For example, Salesforce provides access to their learning programmes at no cost and then employ candidates who come through these routes.

Addressing the issue isn’t just the job of the tech industry.  The government and the education sector both have roles to play. In the UK, we do have an apprenticeship route available, thanks to the apprenticeship levy. However, this is no quick route in. An investment of time is required to develop talent in this way.

Charities are also working towards meaningful change. Social mobility charities such as Leadership Through Sport & Business (LTSB) prepare and support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds helping them to take on meaningful roles with major firms.  As well as providing support, they also regulate fairness in terms of pay and ensure training with prospects to the young people they work with.

LTSB’s digital and technology programmes have given young people access to a range of apprenticeships, from entry-level through to degree apprenticeships, across England and Scotland.

How employers can do better.

Improving diversity across any demographic begins with the hiring and selection process.  Organisations must consider the skills needed to do the job in question.  Are the requirements listed restricting who may apply?  Another thing to consider is where you advertise.  Is your advert visible to a wide talent pool.

When writing the job description, it’s important to consider the language used. For example, research has shown that statements such as “expert” and  “world-class” are off putting for some minority groups. Women, for example, respond less to adverts that use this sort of language.

Our recent blog Make your Business better. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion might be of interest.

Look for potential.

It’s recommended that instead of being short-sighted, employers should hire for potential. Many employers limit their options by being too prescriptive around qualifications and skills. Only looking at the here and now reduces the talent pool, and doesn’t acknowledge the potential for candidates to develop and grow into a role.

Create an inclusive and welcoming culture.

Once you have made a new hire, it’s important to ensure the culture is welcoming and inclusive. Open and clear channels of communication will allow people to be their true selves at work and share their diverse range of views and experiences. Without this, you risk losing the hire and miss out on the value they can add to your organisation.

Are you looking for some out-the-box thinking recruitment strategies? Read our recent blog on creative recruitment strategies here.

The advantages of hiring for potential.

Companies that hire for potential and upskill their team will reap the rewards in the future.

It’s likely that an organisation’s people KPIs will improve. Retention will improve thanks to employee loyalty while turnover will decrease in line with the business efforts to improve progression opportunities.

The good news.

The good news is that many tech employers are already making a move toward skills-based hiring. Skills-based hiring is an emerging wave of recruitment practice. It prioritises a candidate’s aptitudes, abilities, and accomplishments over their “experience” and educational background.

Skills-based hiring means that grades, certificates, and academic credentials are less important. Instead, candidates need to demonstrate that they have the required skills to get the job done.

This model enables candidates that haven’t taken a traditional route via universities to be seen and offered opportunities.

In sum.

Companies requiring digital talent will have to look further afield to fill the gaps in their workforce.  People with the skills needed to progress businesses into digitally proficient organisations are few and far between. Scarcity has created a war for talent, the likes of which we have never seen.

In this climate, underrepresented groups are being offered opportunities in an arena where they have previously been overlooked. Companies must use be open-minded and creative in their hiring practices to fill the void left by economic, political, and unprecedented global events.

About the author: As Client Relationship Director, I am responsible for helping grow the new and existing client base of Ignite Digital. I work as a “trusted connection” with my clients and candidates aiming to deliver the best service I can to connect talent to opportunity.

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