May 19th, 2021 Revature

Confessions of a Tech Talent Risk Mitigator

By Bill Cummings

Risk is the thing that keeps leaders awake at night, and there is risk in everything we do in business and in life. Established companies are organized in ways to iron as much risk out of every facet of their business as a matter of survival. Leaders and managers establish processes and procedures that must be followed or else that exposure to risk could rear its ugly head.

There is no place where this manifests itself more clearly than in talent acquisition. A company cannot grow unless it continues to bring in new talent. Hiring new talent with the right skills and attitude is essential to growing a business and to keep innovating. Constant innovation and reinvention are keys to survival. On the contrary, poor hiring can create elevated risk and cause your business to struggle.

This is especially true in technology. Companies are having to scour the market for people with the right tech skills as digital transformation continues its onward trajectory of complete disruption. The velocity of hiring for people with the right tech skills is unprecedented. Digital Transformation is enabled by technology but make no mistake the heart of a successful or failed endeavor is still the people.

This is where I start my confession. Several years ago, I was part of a team that created a new business offering at a large and well-established Consulting firm. We needed to hire the best engineering talent as fast as possible. At the same time, we were also in the middle of an enterprise transformation, so we absolutely could not comprise on our perception of quality. We had to establish and uphold the highest standards possible for new joiners to our business. The perceived risk to our new business development effort was the highest I have ever experienced.

That position is defendable, however the method for eliminating the risk of making a bad hire was greatly flawed. We created a large talent pipeline of candidates and developed a coding assessment that every potential hire absolutely needed to pass. It was a gateway of sorts into our beloved business, and we thought of it as a “silver bullet” solution to eliminate risk.

Looking back I can see how flawed that was. Did we only want to bring people into our business that knew how to write code to solve for what was listed on our assessment? Could that quantify how well a person could help us drive a positive culture? Or be a leader no matter what their title was? Or bring new ideas to light? Or shine in front of Clients? And how many people that had some tech skills plus the ability to learn and grow did we filter out in error?

After the experience of building that business, I’ve spent my time leading teams in the Talent Transformation space because – again – everything for a successful Digital Transformation starts and ends with people. Now I see clearly that there is a much better way to bring the people with the right skills into your business, and still solve for the elimination of risk.

The ability for a company to move “up the funnel” and curate the Talent that they need has never been greater, and really all it takes to do so is a shift in mindset from Talent Acquisition to Talent Curation. Once that shift is made then it’s a matter of spending your time and resources in the right place.

For instance, work with a Talent Transformation firm like Revature to get to know the tech talent while they are embarking on their skills acquisition. Invest your time convincing them that the opportunity to work at a bank or insurance company or healthcare company is just as rewarding as being an engineer Google or Facebook—because it can be. Give the people in those programs real world problems to solve from your business. Spend time with the top 5-10 people at your company who you would clone if you could and develop a rubric for the engineering persona you are looking to add to the team. Weight things like grit, empathy, curiosity, and self-awareness higher than tech skills and don’t lean on a coding assessment as a crutch. Hire for attitude and train for skills. Invest in a robust on-boarding program and bring in a coach.

These are all things that require greater intention, cultivation, and investment than simply rolling out a coding assessment as part of an interview process, but the payout is huge. Not only will this more thoughtful approach eliminate the risk more effectively, but in the end, you will transform into a destination company for the best talent in the world.