The competition for talent has intensified, while the digital skills gap is widening.

In the UK, the digital sector has created an incredible demand for (and limited supply of) skilled digital candidates.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published a report earlier this year highlighting the ‘digital skills crisis’.

It is estimated that this skills gap costs the UK economy £63bn a year in lost additional GDP. Urgent action is now required to tackle this skills shortage.

So how can organisations respond?

Econsultancy’s Organisational Structures and Resourcing Best Practice Guide illustrates that finding staff with suitable digital skills is considered to be the most significant challenge or barrier to digital progress within organisations.

And recruiting staff with the right mix of digital skills is difficult, particularly for SMEs or companies that aren’t based in large urban centres.

This report also highlights that data/analytics, content marketing and website design and build are some of the most challenging areas for which to recruit. A lot of organisations are finding that they don’t have the analysts to make sense of data.

There is now a trend towards recruiting top-of-the-funnel marketers and towards hiring for behaviour and attitudes rather than qualifications.

Another Econsultancy report, Skills of the Modern Marketer, illustrates the growing importance of softer interpersonal skills in the modern marketing organisation, alongside more vertically-focused expertise.

As a result, recruiters are increasingly looking for candidates who are curious, flexible as well as data-driven.

In terms of what companies are doing to tackle the recruitment challenge, there are a number of initiatives and trends that we are seeing.

1. Creating a company culture to attract talent

In order to become the employer of choice for millennials, companies are introducing initiatives such as:

  • Empowering and incentivising employees through stock-option plans, project leadership responsibilities and training and development opportunities.
  • Building creative and comfortable workspaces that attract digital talent (Facebook and Google are great examples).
  • Flexible and remote work options.
  • Collaboration and knowledge sharing tools e.g. Slack and Yammer, as well as hardware preferences such as bring your own device.

Since millennials align themselves with technology and demonstrate different behaviours and preferences, it makes sense for organisations to introduce initiatives such as these to improve recruitment, staff retention and employee satisfaction.

Google offices in Soho, designed to encourage collaboration and creativity

2. Education outreach

Some companies have begun developing apprenticeships and school leaver programmes to attract young people who are developing technology skills at school or independently.

For example, Lockheed Martin, an American aerospace, defence and advanced technologies company, supports STEM education outreach activities.

Working with universities, colleges and schools to create a workforce with the right digital skills is a smart move towards finding and creating the digital workforce of the future.

3. Mining your own organisation for hidden talent

Many organisations are accepting that workers will come and go, and developing procedures to identify staff to upskill or move laterally within the company into new roles is a means of dealing with the challenge of recruiting and retaining staff.

Regularly assessing employee’s competencies and matching these with in-demand skills can help with this.

There is also a trend towards running employee exchange schemes with other digital organisations and employee rotation schemes, such as those run by P&G, Google and Amazon, help with the sharing and development of new skills.

And when talent has left the organisation, a forward-looking strategy of creating alumni groups can be used to bring back talent and utilise former employee networks.

4. Social recruitment

Social can be used to create a digital referral scheme whereby employee discussions are monitored on social platforms in order to source high-calibre talent.

We’ve previously written about how social can be used as a positive recruitment tool.

And you can read more about brands that are leading the way in terms of attracting the best digital talent in an article by Tiffany St James, a digital transformation strategist and speaker who has written about the social recruitment trend.

5. Online gig economy

Another trend we are seeing is organisations benefitting from the online gig economy or on-demand workforce.

For example, Upwork is an on-demand freelance talent marketplace, which speeds up talent recruitment. Unilever, Panasonic, Pinterest, Microsoft and Amazon have all used its services.

In summary…

The above examples highlight the significance of innovation and the fundamental role that employers can play in preparing the workforce for the future.

The pace of digital transformation is showing no signs of abating.

In order to combat the growing digital skills deficit, it is important now more than ever for organisations to experiment with recruitment strategies and to educate and provide employees with the advanced skills needed to shape the digital economy.

To benchmark your own knowledge, take Econsultancy’s Digital Skills Index.

And to improve your skills, check out our range of digital marketing and ecommerce training courses.