Barely 20 years ago the recruitment consultant's tech kit consisted of little more than a landline phone, a business directory, a rolodex and a fax machine. All they really needed to add to that was a quick and retentive mind, curiosity, a knack of asking the right questions, bags of self confidence and the ability to talk to anyone about anything, whether they already knew them or not.
There are probably still some recruiters getting by with those, but the vast majority will have a smartphone, laptop and tablet, and will have the skills to navigate complex online searches, use social platforms to communicate, never be more than 5 minutes away from checking emails, have access to spellcheck, an IT guru to help solve hardware malfunctions and a good working knowledge of Powerpoint, Excel, MS Office and Adobe. And Broadbean - or else how will they be able to get quick access to a wide range of relevant candidates!
Now it may be that many of those operating 20 years ago have acquired these skills along the way, and most of the new recruits in recent years already have them, but what about career changers? Particularly those who have not come from office environments? Many successful consultants in sectors such as driving, industrial, sales and engineering had worked in those sectors before - could they make that change now, even with the right personal skills?
This doesn't just apply to recruiters. Anyone who has been working in a role that has little need for day to day technology skills may find a potential career change difficult.
Most conversations around technology in the hiring process focus on connectivity, transparency and flexibility and the positive impact that they have but rarely do we look at whether our reliance on technology is preventing us from getting the skills, hands-on knowledge and attitudes that we need.
Here are five things that we need to think about potential digital exclusion...
I've already alluded to this. My own working career has taken in accountancy, recruitment and digital marketing...all of which have needed some understanding of developing technologies. Yet I have known drivers become recruiters, plumbers become estate agents and small shop proprietors become financial advisors - all successfully. How will someone in a trade that does not require any understanding of business technology be able to make these moves now?
Employees Working Longer
One thing we do know about our changing workplace is that many people will be working longer - we're not far away from the 4 generation workforce. With older employees comes much knowledge and business intelligence that we can tap in to…but are we going to be able to harness this without a depth of understanding of developing technology? Some will have this, but some may not. Could reverse mentoring be the answer to potentially missing out on in-depth knowledge?
Getting the Right Skills Balance
The attributes and attitudes that make you successful for a range of business sectors and disciplines may not necessarily be compatible with a more structured, technical mindset. At what point does technological proficiency rank alongside creativity and vision even if the role isn't particularly tech oriented? With many administrative roles becoming redundant there may be a lack of people to supply the necessary structure and support. Will recruiters begin to filter out candidates with the right creative profile but lacking technology skills?
With more and more job searches starting on mobile and continuing through digital sources there is an increasing possibility that those without the right phone and internet access could feel excluded from applying. How many companies offer assistance to potential job applicants who do not have the technology to effectively apply digitally?
The digital savvy will have digital and social footprints that they take care to manage and keep fresh. Anyone who wants to check them out will get a good indication of what they know and what their reach and personal network is like. But what about the less digital savvy? Social and digital platforms offer transparency and data to recruiters, but may not be giving them the full picture in terms of available talent. What chance does someone with the right skills but without an identifiable LinkedIn presence have?
Spend some time with a group of people who do not know how to master the internet, still feel uncomfortable about sharing, shopping and engaging online, and to whom email is a nuisance, and you begin to realise that the digital world can seem a bit exclusive. To most readers the thought of shopping, banking, dating or job searching online is second nature but to many it isn't.
One answer could be to make people responsible for their own technology skills, effectively making digital adaptability part of self improvement - yet where is the appetite for the time and money investment from someone whose working life doesn't currently need it? To facilitate the successful career changers I referenced earlier should it be up to the hiring company to get someone with the right personal skills and capabilities up to speed digitally?
So is technology becoming both an enabler and a barrier to sourcing the right talent? Let me know what you think…