Written by Emma Louden, Senior People Lead at AND Digital

Technological innovation is instrumental in answering many of the challenges facing society today. From helping solve significant societal challenges as diverse as health and climate change to supporting new, more inclusive business models, the need for a digitally-savvy workforce is clear. However, according to The Open University, 69% of employers struggle to recruit staff with adequate digital skills, with a significant skills gap holding organisations back from success.

This well-documented skills gap has also met a period of significant change in the form of post-pandemic working cultures. Many organisations have suffered the effects of the ‘Great Resignation’ and are still clinging to old ways of working. Many have lost vital tech talent and are either struggling to replace them or never had a workforce with the skills they needed in the first place. Companies must now understand that just as we have seen innovation in technology and in new ways of working, we must also embrace change in how we recruit.


Goodbye CV tick-boxes

While the CV and standard set-question interview style of recruitment have dominated for decades, it does not fit the needs of the modern workforce or those seeking talent. CVs may provide information about previous job titles but are often packed with exaggerated jargon – how often do CVs really set candidates apart? Looking for a perfect fit for your organisation is much more than a tick-box exercise that involves a list of ‘relevant work experience’.

Especially when organisations are desperately trying to fill technological skills gaps, a traditional CV will inevitably ignore a candidate’s potential to learn and upskill. In fact, in a world where new skills are in constant demand, it is less about the skills a candidate can list today. Instead, it is about a candidate’s ability and aptitude to learn, develop skills and commit to continuous learning that sets them apart.

Similarly, it is essential that candidates can demonstrate their commitment to the shared values of the organisation. These qualities are extremely difficult to gauge through a CV alone.

Instead, it involves getting to know an applicant and understanding what they can bring to your company as an individual – beyond the list of historic employers. This can mean approaching interviews as informal conversations, focused on whether an individual is a good cultural fit – allowing them to showcase their personal and professional interests outside the tick-box formality, which inevitably does not enable all candidates to show themselves at their best.


Technology relies on super-charged soft skills

As touched on, a candidate’s enthusiasm to continue to learn sets them apart. Technological skills can be learned but only by those hungry to do so. However, when it comes to the tech skills gap, organisations should also emphasise skills such as creativity, perception, logic and reasoning that fuel technological innovation. Although technology often appears to be about lines of code, it is powerful human attributes that enable innovation.

Suppose companies solely seek to replicate the list of ‘skills’ employed by other organisations. In that case, they will only ever produce ‘one size fits all’ solutions – and that will be the end of innovation as we know it. Tick-box employees lead to a lack of diversity of thought, which stifles creativity and closes down opportunities for innovation.

This narrow view of potential could go some way in explaining the current lack of diversity in technology. For example, gender diversity in the industry is 19% compared to 49% for other sectors.

Nurturing diverse talent is a ‘non-negotiable’, not just because it is the right thing to do for society, but it is a smart business decision. Developing meaningful technology that positively impacts the lives of a wider spectrum of people requires a diversity of thought and experience. In a sector that is set to play an increasing role in solving some of the biggest challenges we face, ‘groupthink’ is one of our biggest enemies. Diversity in perspectives is essential for those that want to stay relevant to their customers, at the cutting-edge of innovation and competitive in the talent market.

When it comes to tackling challenges, having multiple ways of seeing the same problem is a huge benefit and will only ever lead to the most effective solutions. We know that curious, talented minds are found everywhere but may not be represented equitably in CV.


Realise tech potential by investing in training

In today’s tough tech talent landscape, it is not just about expanding your vision for potential. It is also essential to set yourself apart from other companies vying for candidates.

One way to this is by investing in a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP). An EVP is about defining the essence of your company – how it is unique and what it stands for. It encompasses the central reasons that people are proud and motivated to work there, such as the inspiring vision or distinctive culture and it’s crucial for any business today to make sure their EVP is unique, relevant, and compelling when looking to attract and retain top talent.

A foundation of a strong EVP is the provision of quality, career-long learning. Over 22 million UK workers do not feel they are equipped with all the skills they will need to unlock new opportunities in the next five years. If employers do not support their employees to learn, they risk creating demotivated, anxious workforces and will continue to miss out on vital potential talent. Where you are struggling to hire people with the requisite skills, consider investing in those with the potential to learn and train them yourself.

However, this can only be realised when we give up the archaic recruitment practices of old and start fresh. Look beyond the CV, and you may find a perfect fit for your organisation. Innovation requires new ways of thinking, from recruitment to retention, and that must begin before anyone signs the dotted line.