The tech labour market has rebounded from Covid-19, and then some, with demand for tech jobs 42 percent higher in June 2021 than at the same time in 2019. But supply is not keeping up; demand for software developers alone outweighs supply by 10 times.
It’s no wonder, then, that businesses are struggling to attract and retain the right talent, particularly if they’re trying to make their tech talent pipeline more diverse. With the pandemic changing the way we work and employees wanting more from their jobs, investment in HR and talent tech is at an all time high as companies search for the best strategies and tools to keep the talent flowing in.
In these conditions, finding new ways to uncover untapped pools is crucial. Our latest webinar highlighted the challenges of sourcing diverse candidates in this tricky talent market and some of the approaches companies and their talent teams can take to widen the talent pipeline and find diverse candidates to fill technology roles.
Source: Beamery, 2020
Hire for potential, train for skills
For a long time, the tech talent market has played a zero sum game– companies poaching top talent from each other, enticing candidates with ever higher salaries. As a result, retention has taken a nosedive (the median tenure, even at the biggest tech companies, can be as little as one year) and this finite talent pool is getting smaller and less diverse, meaning fewer opportunities for candidates to enter the market, and fewer candidates for companies to hire. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
Competitive companies have been solving the tech talent pipeline problem by widening the top of the funnel and creating their own talent pools, rather than competing for the same people with everyone else.
Tech’s focus has traditionally been directed toward a candidate’s years of experience and technical skills, but the best way to widen your talent pipeline is to think in terms of potential. Skills you can train, but it’s harder to change somebody’s attitudes and behaviours. As Ashley Ramrachia, CEO at Academy, puts it: ‘Hire for potential, train for skills’.
So companies looking to grow their own talent pool need to think outside the job advert. The people underrepresented in tech may not be looking at job sites, because they don’t even consider themselves potential candidates. To access this untapped pool of talent, think about expanding your academic criteria, being flexible with your experience requirements, partnering with coding or engineering bootcamps, taking advantage of government programmes to help skilled workers migrate to your location, and starting mentoring and outreach campaigns – connecting groups underrepresented in tech with role models they recognise.
These approaches not only help you to widen the top of the funnel with a more diverse range of candidates, but also tailor it. By creating your own pipeline, you get to shape and define, very early on in the process, the sort of people and skills you’re looking for, making your hiring process more efficient. It also helps improve employee retention. If you actively reach out to and engage with potential candidates, you can support any training they might need and help them to build a network they previously might not have had access to – an opportunity for growth, rather than just another job.
Rethinking tech skills
As well as looking for potential, talent teams also need to broaden their perception of what skills they really need for technical hires.
With 40 percent of employers struggling to fill their job vacancies due to a lack of necessary skills, the skills gap is real. But part of the problem may be that talent teams are looking for the wrong ones.
The increased use of AI and automation means that employees need more than just technical skills. Skills such as communication, creativity, leadership, empathy, decision-making and critical thinking are perhaps more important than ever. These “soft skills” have traditionally been thought of as secondary to technical fluency, but they are just as critical in delivering lasting business value. Indeed, the employees who do best in managerial and leadership positions are often those adept at such skills.
So talent teams need to think in terms of skills, but in a broad sense. By thinking of potential talent in a more holistic way, you get a better insight into an individual’s entire skillset, rather than just a narrow focus on their technical prowess and years of experience – a candidate is a human being, not a job description. To widen and diversify the talent pipeline, modern talent teams need to find ways to better attract, hire and cultivate both technical skills and these social, emotional skills.
Understanding the tech talent pipeline with data
Of course, to make the right decisions about talent, and design and deploy the right strategies, you need the right data.
The problem is that companies often don’t have a clear awareness of what talent and skills they really need to help their business grow.
To hire intelligently, talent teams should set well-defined hiring principles that are visible to the whole business so you can make fair, coherent decisions about candidates, and collect and monitor data throughout the talent lifecycle – from application to appraisals to exit. By mapping the flow of skills in and out of your business, you can make more informed decisions about where your skill gaps are and where you should focus your hiring efforts.
This holistic, data-driven approach also helps you manage non-linear recruitment pathways. Perhaps a candidate signs up for one of your webinars or attends an event. They’re a great fit for your company, but they’re not yet ready to join. How do you keep that connection with them throughout their journey? If you create your own talent pipeline, and keep track of the data as candidates flow through it, it makes it easier to acquire and nurture talent in more flexible ways.
Tapping untapped talent
So the key takeaway is this: if you’re making a conscious effort to make your tech talent pipeline more diverse, then you need a bolder, more competitive strategy.
By proactively creating and nurturing your own talent pool, rethinking which skills are vital for tech and actually bringing lasting value to the business, and using data to keep your acquisition efforts informed and equitable, you naturally create a more diverse, more passionate workforce for both your business and the whole tech community.