In our increasingly digital world, demands on technical skills have been high for some time. That demand has now reached crisis level. Our paper, Is the tech Skills Gap now a tech talent crisis? reports that job roles requiring systems design and related areas are expected to increase by 15% by 2031, so the problem is far from going away.
We typically see hiring managers put out requests for candidates that look specifically for key skills, experience and education that will meet all the needs of the job role. This is no longer a viable option, however, one of the solutions offered in our paper is to expand the ‘last mile’ of your talent pool.
So, what do we mean by the last mile when it comes to talent? Metaphorically speaking we are talking about employing a candidate, in many cases a graduate, who fulfils much of your requirements and has the energy and cognitive dexterity to excel in your role but perhaps lacks all of the specific skills that you need.
This might be a developer who hasn’t yet learnt a particular programming language or a marketer who knows the theory but lacks experience with a specific digital tool. In most cases this gap between their starting skills and full job competency can be bridged with a last-mile training programme; a 2–3-month digital training course or a one-year software apprenticeship, for example.
While on the surface it might look like it would take longer for that candidate to reach full competency, this strategy will have a positive impact on how quicky roles are filled and talent acquisition costs are lowered.
In the world’s largest study in team performance and engagement, the Gallup report, Employee engagement and performance analysed data from more than 100,000 teams.
The report shows that engagement partly centres around the growth and development of the individual employee, who is keen to be known for what they're good at. When studying the most successful organisations they report that where there is a culture of high employee development, it results in the most productive environment for the individual and the business. This aligns with their findings that the top reason given for a change in job, is ‘career growth’.
Taking ready-made candidates who fit perfectly into your role might be the utopia but there isn’t then room for that person to develop their skills. The last-mile training option puts personal development at the heart of your talent acquisition and these new employees are likely to become much more engaged which we know to have a knock-on effect on production. Chances are, there will be a lot less churn amongst this cohort too.
Have you also considered looking internally for these candidates?
By giving development opportunities to individuals who have been within your organisation and gained invaluable domain knowledge, can enable candidates to make the jump into roles in more niche areas. For example, do you have 1st/2nd line support workers looking for a foot into development, or network engineers keen to make the move into DevOps or cloud roles? Last-mile upskilling can be a perfect option.
Nurturing a talent pool that focusses on training candidates can allow you to expand your talent search to more diverse groups. This can increase economic mobility in under-utilised communities or drive more women into your technical roles, and your organisation will gain the benefits of having a more diverse workforce.
Without doubt, refocussing your energy from finding job-ready candidates to finding graduate or early-career individuals that are digitally savvy - that have enthusiasm and aptitude will create a flexible and engaged workforce. Opening up your talent pool to last milers will meet your immediate hiring needs while also drive long-term employee engagement and business objectives.