Hiring in an era where everything is digital

My #Soapbox: Finding Talent Today

Invest in talentTechnology has made many things about our lives better. As a geeky, technology evangelizing, digital dude, I would say technology has made MOST things better. We have quicker communication (sometimes I wish this was not the case). Some work processes are more effective (sadly not all). We can keep costs down in businesses. Scale happens faster. Connections with clients are richer. Analytics more powerful in decision making. And technology has touched essentially every industry. Customer demand shifts, competition from just about everywhere, and an increasingly challenging operational and regulatory environment mean that every company, from the most “manual” to the most high tech are all in essence technology companies. Every business is a technology business now

One issue, though: technology doesn’t seem to have made recruiting that much better. And, unfortunately, in many companies talent acquisition does not seem to have caught up with the skills that modern businesses need. CIOs out there: How many of your wish lists from your teams still include lots of “old skills”?

Many companies still hire a lot off of competence metrics. Just peruse a list of openings on LinkedIn and dozens of them still list long bullets that would have been on job descriptions 10 years ago: where you went to school, what you studied, years of experience, how much you know about x or y. Makes perfect sense and may not change anytime soon for a lot of our roles. But competence is becoming overrated as a hiring driving force. We live in a VUCA business environment — volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous — and technology has allowed executives to open up revenue streams they never thought possible. Priorities and objectives can switch on a dime in some companies. We don’t necessarily need the most competent financial guy in history; we need a financial guy who can switch between different approaches as it’s called for.

In short: less bullet points, more real people with curiosity and skills. What skills? I have a short list and welcome your ideas.

Skills for the Digital Era

1. Analytics: All businesses are running on data now, or trying to. Unfortunately, the talent for understanding, analyzing, and presenting data hasn’t kept up with the need for data-driven decision-making in businesses. This is hitting CEOs hard: as CIO Magazine noted, over 60 percent want to do more with data, but don’t have the right people on board. It’s 2017. Every hiring process needs to have a data analysis component somewhere. Hiring the right one can be tough.

2. Accept inevitability of artificial intelligence: It will probably take your job, or a part of your job, someday. But for now we are taking the last major Industrial Revolution and going through another one, but the new one is compressed into the life span of a dog. You can’t hire people right now who have their heads in the sand about this. Maybe they don’t know how to code robots. That is fine. But they need to know this is coming and need to understand what it will mean for business models.

3. Be at least decent presenting: It’s shifting a bit with a more remote workforce, but we still get ideas/pitches across via presentations. Many people are terrible at presentations but techies tend to be even worse than normal. Not every job needs effective presentation skills, but we should be evaluating candidates based on how well they can get across an idea. If you can’t get across a simple idea or advance a concept, what value will you ultimately be to a business? Especially when, again, every business is a tech business.

4. Understand mobile and targeting: You might think this is just for marketing roles. It’s not. The greatest promise of mobile is that you can find specific consumers literally in the palm of their hand. 2017 job candidates should understand the scale/scope of mobile, how mobile works as a targeting device, and what the hiring company’s business model could/should do with mobile. They may not drive the strategy on it, no, but if they don’t understand it, they’re going to enter the role a few steps behind. And this is not limited to consumer businesses.

5. Demonstrate intellectual curiosity: I am amazed at how many people recruiting for roles today are concerned about “job hoppers” and, perhaps related, how many companies do not encourage continuous movement within a company. IBM, despite recent financial challenges, has created a culture that encourages and almost requires regular movement. For those of you who exercise, you know that half the battle is about continuously “surprising” your muscles, switching it up so your body never gets complacent. Your brain is the same and if a company does not commit to providing you opportunities to stretch and grow it, you will get bored. So shouldn’t every interview include questions that probe intellectual curiosity? In an era where 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years, I want people that are fascinated by change, not just accepting of it. I blogged a while ago about Hiring for Character and Values. And one of the main targets was the curious.

Let me know what you think. What do you view as key to hiring in this digital era? How do you build the best teams around different types of team members?

Be well. Lead On.

Adam Stanley - Connections blog - Thinking like a disruptor

Adam L. Stanley Connections Blog

Technology. Leadership. Food. Life.


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One Comment

  • Rob Acton says:

    Helpful insights all. I’m intrigued by the presentation skill — as old as humanity — being on the list with all the “new skills.” For us tech dumbies , please write soon with more insights into AI and how it will impact the future of work. Thanks! Always love reading one of the smartest leaders I know.

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