Why it's time to review how businesses hire top tech talent

(Image credit: Shutterstock / fizkes)

Whether you are a recruiting CTO or CIO, an IT contractor or work for an in-house tech team, the ongoing pandemic is impacting us all in many different ways. The news that IR35 legislation would be postponed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak was welcomed, but does little more than put off the inevitable difficulties this regulation will create for contractors and the organisations that rely on their services.

It’s clear that top IT talent and digital skills will play a key role as we emerge from this current crisis – innovation and transformation of pre-COVID business models and ways of doing things will be crucial to recovery. With this in mind, isn’t it time for a re-think of the huge benefit of contractors to project teams, to look again at how IR35 will negatively impact both businesses and contractors alike, and consider how businesses can access digital skills more effectively?

IR35 - the challenges ahead

It’s widely acknowledged that IR35 will impact recruiting decisions, with many organisations reconsidering and perhaps opting out of taking on contracted workers. It could also be argued that in seeking to generate more tax revenue from IR35, the UK Government will damage the market for highly-skilled tech talent, much of which is fundamental to technical innovation and major transformation projects relying on specialised IT and digital skills.

The gig economy has continued to grow over recent years, benefiting those who prefer this approach to work over permanent, longer-term roles. Organisations have much to gain from access to a diverse pool of highly-skilled workers which can be dipped into as and when needed, especially considering the focus on digital transformation and innovation projects. Indeed, recalling my own career history - responsible for recruiting large teams delivering major IT initiatives, large-scale bespoke product developments and transformation programmes, having access to contracted skills and individuals with the right capabilities and attributes over a particular timeframe was absolutely essential.

So, what next for IR35? While many consultants and contractors may be hoping for a permanent postponement to this unpopular legislation, it does shine a light on the value of short to medium-term tech talent and how organisations go about sourcing the specialist skills they need. As we rebuild businesses and economies across the globe, we need to consider not just whether IR35 is necessary, but how we can be more efficient at getting skills into organisations as quickly as possible.

Sourcing tech stars

IR35 aside, if we recognise that businesses need the best digital skills both now in terms of immediate survival but also as we emerge from COVID-19, we certainly need to move away from traditional hiring methods.

Writing job specs, engaging recruitment agencies or posting to job boards is both costly and time consuming. Employers then have to wait for candidates to send written applications, either directly or through agencies. In a digital world, and with the potential of IR35 placing greater cost pressures on hiring managers, we need to let data do the hard work when it comes to identifying those with the skills and attributes we need.

Accepting that the traditional CV is both outdated and ineffective, we can now collect multiple data points about an individual, their experience and skills, as well as their work preferences and personality. Tools including online psychometric tests save employers time during the interview process and ensures your shortlists are highly relevant.

Data can also be used to overcome things like subconscious bias and to assess behaviours, tendencies and personality traits as part of the sourcing process. For example, there is no reason to make unqualified assumptions about things like formal qualifications or previous job titles when an actual IQ test can form part of the application process. Ironically, although CTOs and IT Directors work with technology and rely on data as a core component to testing the final solutions they implement, they still revert to outdated hiring methods which have no way of showing the person behind the CV, if they’ll be a good cultural fit and how they’ll complement the existing team. These softer skills are as important as previous job titles or qualifications and we should no longer rely on gut feel to tease them out.

Securing those with the skills needed for the future can no longer be about CVs or relying on inexperienced recruitment agencies. Data should be driving your search and decisions as to who would bring the most value to your teams.

What next?

Will COVID-19 put a permanent hold on IR35? Will we all revert to outdated ways of hiring tech talent once we come through the current crisis? Despite all the negativity and inevitably hardships to come out of COVID-19 there will undoubtedly be positives, including the need to innovate, to think creatively about solutions to mission-critical problems and to change the way we all operate and work. Technology will play a key role in the way we hire our teams going forward. It’s time to say goodbye to CVs and focus on data which can offer a complete profile of the talent we need.

John Bentley is CEO at elbo

John Bentley

John Bentley is founder and CEO of HRTech platform elbo. As a former Project and Programme Manager, Delivery Consultant and Software Development Head with many years of experience hiring for major IT and transformation projects, John founded elbo to help organisations overcome the significant pain points of hiring performant teams and talented tech stars. He has a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry, focusing on project and programme management, digital transformation, product management, business strategy, consulting, delivery, data and algorithms.