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Let’s face it, 2020 was not the year for recruiting for many organisations for obvious reasons. Industries hit hard by lockdowns and lack of footfall had to massively scale down their recruiting, while others prioritised and focusing on upskilling the current workforce. But 2021 is already looking very different. As the ONS revealed, there has been a pick up in hiring in the first quarter of 2021, and with the UK economy rebuilding and sectors slowly reopening in the next few months, no doubt organisations are itching to get back on track and find fresh talent to restore their business for the post-Covid world.

But if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we cannot and should not go back to our traditional ways of working. The world around us has changed and we need to adapt to it, including the recruitment industry. For a long time, and still to some extent, organisations prioritised people’s experience in the industry. If you had 10 years’ experience working in a specific sector or job role, you were seen as more valuable to the business than, say, a graduate fresh out of university. But with many people’s career being put on hold or slowing down through furlough schemes or otherwise, judging a candidate for how long they have been in the game is simply not valid anymore.

Instead, organisations need to look at skills that a candidate can bring to the organisation, and skills that go beyond the technical side. Technologies like AI can help to match candidates’ skills to their role in the business but what’s often missing from this strategy is the link to learning. A candidate may only have 60% of the skills required for the role, but have a keenness for learning and growing – so how can organisations factor that into their recruiting process?

Buying vs building skills
There has been a perception on both the candidate and organisation side that each and every candidate that walks into the organisation for an interview needs to know everything. Candidates don’t want to admit that they haven’t worked in that specific industry or used a specific tool for a fear that they could be penalised or judged against a candidate that does have that experience. Organisations, on the other hand, want to find the perfect candidate. But the reality is, the perfect candidate doesn’t exist. Plus, buying in all the skills that you need rather than focusing on building them will only result in organisations having to start the process again when the organisation goes through a transformation.

Building on individual skills that a candidate brings instead, whether it’s soft skills, like communication and empathy, or technical skills, means that the organisations can build employees however they want to, making them a more valuable asset to the organisation and helping to retain key talent. And this doesn’t need to apply to external recruiting only. Why look for the skills on the outside when your next best candidate could be sitting right next to you? This is where AI and skills taxonomies come into play – by mapping out the skills in an organisation, identifying the skills gaps and required training, organisations can have a better idea of where to buy in the skills, and where to build them.

Recruitment equals learning
So, you’ve matched the candidates to your missing skills through a skills taxonomy or otherwise, but what’s still might be missing is the learning element. Identifying skills gaps and matching candidates is just the first step. How exactly do you go about building those skills? Part of the solution is mindset. Treating candidates like they’re already employees and showing and offering the training opportunities right at the start. Including training and upskilling in the recruitment is both beneficial for the candidate and the organisation. The candidate will have the opportunity to learn a new skill and the organisation will demonstrate how much they value a person’s development, as well as observe a candidate’s aptitude for learning.

Enhancing the quality of skills beyond the organisation
The skills gap remains a threat for almost every industry and while there is a war for talent and skills, companies must look at the bigger picture. Hunting for talent now is only a short-term strategy and only solves the immediate problem. The longer-term strategy – building the missing skills data – is about knowing what skills we can’t get as much as the skills we can get and planning for ways to find and build skills for the future.

With Covid-19, we managed to adapt and change in a radical way in a short amount of time, mainly because we had to in order to survive. And now we must bring our agility and adapt it for the next challenge. By integrating learning into the recruitment process now, hiring teams now has a chance to not only build the skills of organisations, but also build them for society and future generations.

    Michael Baker is the Group VP Sales and Account Management EMEA at Cornerstone. Michael leads the strategy and execution for client acquisition, expansion and retention in EMEA, ensuring clients and prospects are successfully navigating HR digital transformation within their organisations, by providing solutions to attract, onboard, develop, and retain the talent they need to thrive in the skills economy.

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