Latest figures suggest that 100,000 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates per year are needed to keep the industry fully staffed. So what options do CIOs have to recruit people with the skills they need?

The first thing to establish is what skills you do need:

As IT moves from a business service to a business partnership, soft skills are in greater demand as we want people who can build and manage business relationships. Organisations are looking for people who can complement their technical knowledge with soft skills and business understanding. This was one of the subjects discussed in a recent webinar the BCS hosted on the subject of IT skills where our panellists highlighted that we often forget to actually ask for these skills specifically.

This sounds obvious but when we’re recruiting we often fail to ask for exactly what we want. It’s easy to focus on the wrong skills, use the wrong language and miss the opportunity to appeal to the people with the right skills for the role. In particular, highly technical job descriptions can be  off-putting to women as Sara Hill, Founder and CEO of Capability Jane explained in the discussion; women don’t tend to apply for technical roles unless they can actually fulfil 100% of the job description criteria, whereas men are more likely to.

This means that many organisations are losing out on 50% of the talent pool immediately. This is a real issue that affects many organisations who want to recruit a diverse workforce. It seems that – while there isn’t an issue with the number of applications for a role; the problem is that only a small percentage will be from women applicants. Knowing what you want and using the right language is very important and could help solve this issue. Thinking differently about recruitment could help too.

Traditionally most organisations take a fairly standard and time tested approach to recruitment; you have a vacancy, you identify what you need, advertise, interview and appoint. It’s an approach that has worked relatively successfully until now. Today however, the way we recruit is changing and we have a real opportunity to think differently and take alternative approaches.

Bringing in new talent has advantages; it can be achieved relatively quickly, provides  a fresh approach and different  solutions. However, we should also ask ourselves; do we really need to look outside the business or is there a latent talent pool within our own organisation and networks?

The main advantage you have by retraining and retaining existing employs is that you cannot outsource understanding of the organisation and how it innovates.

During our round table discussion, Sara Hill also highlighted the fact that many people, especially women, are interested in upskilling or retraining, giving us an enormous potential to continue working with people who know the organisation, have loyalty and a passion for what they do.

Equally, there’s a real opportunity to look at the networks with which we have connections in order to seek talent. We’ve all got networks and it may be the case that there is someone in that network who can work with you to help bring in the skills you need. We’re already seeing some companies looking at staffing very differently; they are relying more on blended teams, moving from a fixed to a variable labour paradigm, managing average workload/workforce levels in IT more closely and leveraging external subject matter experts. It is very expensive to have full-time employees if you do not have a full-time need.

This also leads to another suggestion for alternative approaches – this time collaborative working. Our panellists felt that collaborative working is the way forward for many organisations. Today we’re often looking for a multitude of skills and one solution maybe to job share, bringing together two people who combine their business and technical experience to build greater capability.

Philip Black, COO Emergn, who took part in our webinar, suggested that organisations need to foster a collaborative environment rather than trying to put one person into place to plug a gap; then the question becomes; do I have the talent to enable collaboration?
Whatever route to recruitment you take, the key thing to remember is to identify the skills you need to help you deliver your business objectives and to clearly describe those skills in your job description.