Talent [R]evolution

Why hard skills are critical to digital business

The contemporary job market is more tech-driven than ever – and subsequently, more competitive. Currently, the demand for hard skills in the digital space is outstripping supply. According to a recent study conducted by McKinsey, 70% of European executives believe they’ll have to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce within five years. However, many are struggling to source individuals with relevant this type of skills. A study by SHRM found that 46% of HR professionals reported that most unfilled roles require technical skills like data analysis, engineering or coding.

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As such, those with relevant digital skills are in a powerful position. Certainly, the importance of soft skills is a subject of great debate; increasingly, HR experts are emphasising the importance of communication and collaboration. This is particularly in light of the rising dominance of agile principles, where teams need to work together effectively to streamline decision making. Although these qualities are certainly important, the significance of hard skills can’t be downplayed. Today, sharp technical and analytical skills are crucial to meeting business objectives. In this article, we list the essential skills for digital business and where organisations can source this highly sought-after talent.

Defining hard skills

First, we will nail down the definition of this type of skills, particularly as they pertain to the digital space. Hard skills are technical skills acquired through formal training, education, certification and experience. Examples include:

  • Computer programming languages, such as Python, Javascript or C/C++.
  • Experience with databases, data structures and analysis.
  • Financial modelling, like the Three Statement Model or the Merger Model.
  • Mobile development frameworks such as Ionic.
  • Knowledge of network security techniques. 
  • Digital marketing skills, including Google Analytics and SEO
  • Being bilingual or multilingual.

Hard skills are so-called because they are possible to quantify. For instance, with programming or app development, candidates can demonstrate their experience with previous projects or qualifications.

Hard skills as the foundation of digital transformation

IBM estimates that 2.72 million jobs requiring data science skills will be advertised in the next year. This demand is fuelled by the necessity of digital transformation; to stay relevant, companies need to adopt a business model that’s as agile as the market. Businesses need to rapidly assess, analyse and prototype, using approaches such as Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to road test and tweak new approaches. That way, the can incrementally optimize their offering in a turbulent market, substantially streamlining the resources required for product or service development.

However, these principles are fundamentally underpinned by hard skills. Take business process analysis as an example: to adopt the agile principles described above, companies need to identify bottlenecks in operations. Certainly, soft skills play a part; a business process analyst will conduct workshops and presentations with stakeholders to identify roadblocks. However, the real fine tuning will happen in the number crunching, where an analyst will use their skills to develop in-depth process mapping and reengineering plans – a critical aspect of digital transformation.

Sourcing digital talent

However, the question of the skills gap remains; where can companies source the talent they need, in a way that resonates with digital transformation objectives? This is where industry-specific online platforms such as Outvise come in. Today, much of the most highly skilled talent is looking for more stimulating, flexible working environments, and thus, turning to the freelance market. This model has benefits for companies as much as freelancers. According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, online talent platforms streamlined recruitment costs by as much as 7%.

That said, some HR professionals are still reluctant to look online for highly skilled talent. In some cases, this caution is reasonable – many freelancer sites lack complex vetting processes, creating situations where HR have to sift through numerous inappropriate applications. However, industry-specific platforms like Outvise carefully curate the selection of professionals and use custom sequencing processes to match professionals and projects. This allows recruiters to hire professionals with the right skills accurately and efficiently from a pool of on-demand liquid talent. 

Hard skills and liquid talent

It’s clear that hard skills are essential to any digital business. In the current market, the demand for individuals with highly developed technical skills is intense. Subsequently, many organisations are finding it difficult to source the talent they need, particularly when it comes to facilitating digital transformation projects. To plug this gap, HR professionals should look for hard skills in the liquid talent pool. By reaching out to skilled freelancers, companies can adopt recruitment policies that are as agile as their objectives, and access the talent they need to meet their goals.

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