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Championing Technology Careers With Talent Advocacy

What the technology industry looks like depends on where you’re looking. For top talent, the industry offers great opportunities and seemingly limitless potential for growth and promotion but also chaos and confusion. Career shifts are often marked by extremes. Obsolescence is a very real threat to technology careers. And things aren’t that different on the other end. While hiring technology talent, recruiters face similar uncertainty. Even with the automation of many recruitment tasks, the probability of missing out on a good candidate remains real.

Talent Volume Vs. Talent Value To say that every business leader is keen to build a strong talent pipeline is an understatement. The problem isn’t talent volume but talent value. In 2017, the World Economic Forum published the Global Human Capital Report, showing that the world has, on average, only developed 62% of human capital. In other words, there is room for the global skills gap between highly skilled and unskilled professionals to grow. Another study of almost 40,000 businesses stated that 45% of the study’s respondents struggled to fulfill their talent requirements. I am a managing partner at a company that works at the intersection of the technology talent spectrum. We help businesses meet human capital needs, but we also help potential job seekers. Much of our work is directed at finding, nurturing and promoting technology professionals who’ve proven themselves to be ambitious, highly skilled and exceptionally driven. In doing so, we’ve uncovered some gaps between technology talent and the businesses that seek them.

Common Technology Career Mistakes A mistake could be anything from the wrong industry to an unsuitable career level, incompatible technology stack or terms that are not on the hiring manager’s negotiation table. Often, run-of-the-mill staffing companies are unlikely to help. Working on quantitative targets, their business model typically depends on: • Closing positions on time. • Focusing on high-net-margin roles. If multiple clients have the same technology requirement, there's a risk that the shortlisted resume will go to the one paying the staffing agency more, whether that role suits the candidate or not. • Focusing on positions that can be closed easily, which can mean bypassing niche talent and working on rigid job descriptions.

The good news is we now exist in the age of strategic human resource management (SHRM), and any company can build this approach. At its core is the belief that people are the biggest, most invaluable asset of any business. This approach places a premium on human skills, encourages learning and helps create the conditions in which the best talent can be aligned with the best opportunity. SHRM-driven teams meet quantitative targets, of course, but they do this without neglecting qualitative aspects of the process. They work on a broader scope, going beyond satisfying client businesses. They work equally closely with job candidates.

Enter The Talent Advocate You might ask how such teams balance two seemingly conflicting responsibilities. In two words? Talent advocacy. In addition to the hard numbers, talent advocacy creates value in the "softer" elements of talent management. In technology talent, this means: Identifying bottlenecks in a candidate’s marketability. This could be anything from a poorly assembled resume to a stagnating technology stack. A talent advocate’s job is to nurture the potential hidden below the bottlenecks. Coaching candidates on interview skills, prepping them for new roles and resolving initial onboarding challenges – a talent advocate does it all. Aligning supply with demand. Top talent deserves top opportunity, not necessarily the first available position that comes up. This is fair to the client and the candidate. The advocate is also responsible for ensuring a candidate is available for an upcoming opportunity. Managing talent relationships. In a staffing arrangement, a recruiter’s relationship with a candidate is limited to the position at hand. If the position closed, move on. In technology, advancement often depends on a series of short- and long-term projects. A talent advocate will be with the candidate all the way, helping them find the right next opportunity. Talent advocacy is an ongoing cycle. Recruitment is one step in the cycle. Going from hard sell to negotiation. Instead of playing the "take it or leave it" game, talent advocates understand requirements from both ends and establish the fairest middle ground for all stakeholders.

Building Your Talent Advocacy Team Increasingly, the industry reflects a greater need for domain-specific talent acquisition. Talent advocates with a deeply entrenched understanding of technology streams, industry shifts and client behavior will be in greater demand in the future. Before investing in a healthy talent pipeline, I recommend you start your search for good talent advocates with this in mind. Given this, I also recommend a strong balance between qualitative and quantitative analytical skills. Business leaders need talent acquisition specialists who can make recruitment decisions that walk the fine line between a candidate’s technical "hard" skills, interpersonal "soft" skills and position on the talent spectrum as a function of the talent stack in question. Effective talent acquisition is the marriage between good recruitment skills and an understanding of the industry. And finally, when assembling your talent acquisition team, it’s important to seek professionals with proven creative problem-solving skills.

What Makes A Good Talent Advocate: Dispelling Myths When adding a talent advocate to your team or seeking services from outside your company, keep in mind what a good talent advocate should do. Talent Arbitration: Talent advocates make a case to match the best skills with the best projects. Talent advocacy isn’t window-dressing. It’s making sure good skills are represented as accurately as possible and to the right audience. Neutrality is key. Candidates Only: Technology talent has evolved so rapidly that the "top jobs" of the past decade are obsolete today. Similarly, back-burner functions have taken mainstream technology by storm. Talent advocates are responsible for reaching the equilibrium point in the talent economy. As such, their work demands that they study client requirements as closely as they do candidate profiles. Generic Skill Sets: Talent advocacy demands more than basic interviewing skills. Early Career Professionals: Talent advocacy helps technology professionals at all levels of the career ladder, not just early career professionals. In fact, experienced, certified technology leaders can often benefit more from talent advocacy in an uncertain market. Talent advocacy offers a proactive, structured process to translate the future of work to reality.



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