Embracing skills-based hiring in South Africa’s tech sector

*This content is brought to you by Resourgenix

Anne Rutledge – Executive Director Resourgenix Talent Solutions*

In the fast-paced world of technology, staying ahead means embracing change, especially when it comes to finding and retaining top talent within the technology field. 

South Africa’s tech industry faces a challenge where there is a shortage of IT skills combined with a high unemployment rate among those with limited access to higher education. In response, business leaders are rethinking traditional hiring practices and turning to skill-based recruitment strategies.

The Shift Towards Skills Over Qualifications

Globally, there is a growing trend towards hiring based on skills rather than formal qualifications. This approach is gaining traction in South Africa, where it is crucial to tap into a broader talent pool, particularly given the high rates of unemployment. When promoting internally in a company, skills and performance are factors considered in the promotion whereas qualifications are not always considered therefore, we should approach new recruits with the same thinking and prioritise practical abilities over theoretical knowledge.

Benefits of Skills-Based Hiring

Focusing on skills rather than degrees opens doors for a more diverse pool of applicants, including those who may not have completed university education but possess valuable experience through their workplace on the job learning and development. This approach not only addresses unemployment by making certain roles more accessible, but also ensures that companies can access the specific talents needed to thrive in a rapidly evolving tech landscape. This is especially true in tech-based roles such as software development. 

Overcoming Resistance

Despite the benefits, some companies remain hesitant to adopt skills-based hiring. Many still rely on academic qualifications as a primary screening tool. Over the past 12 months we have noted that 35% of the vacancies our clients rely on us to fill as a staffing agency have a mandated requirement of a tertiary qualification. However, the reality is that traditional educational institutions struggle to keep up with technological advancements, rendering some technical qualifications outdated upon completion and therefore irrelevant in the job. 

We look to assist our companies in understanding the benefits of skills-based hiring and how best to evaluate possible applicants to find that Top Talent regardless of qualifications but rather experience.  

Implementing Skills-Based Hiring

To successfully transition to skills-based hiring, companies can follow these key steps:

  1. Update Role Requirements: Break down job roles into specific tasks and identify the skills needed to perform them effectively.
  2. Build Skills Intelligence: Collect and analyse data on employees’ skills to match roles with internal talent. Invest in technology to streamline this process or develop methodologies within HR teams to gather skills data.
  3. Promote Learning & Mobility: Foster a culture of continuous learning and provide opportunities for professional development and upskilling, especially in tech roles.
  4. View Employees Holistically: Shift from a job-centric view to a skills-centric approach, recognising employees for their unique skill sets and aligning them with suitable work.

By eliminating the need for degrees in technical positions, companies can shift their focus to the array of technical, hard, soft, and transferable skills necessary for success. This can be achieved by adhering to the following guidelines:

  • Validating Technical Expertise: Various technical assessments exist to evaluate specific technical skills and knowledge, ensuring candidates possess proficiency in technologies relevant to the role.
  • Assessing Problem-Solving Abilities: Strong analytical and critical thinking skills are crucial in technical roles and can be evaluated through a range of assessments.
  • Identifying a Willingness to Learn Continuously: Given the rapid evolution of technology, candidates should be assessed on their ability to adapt and learn new tools and technologies effectively.
  • Evaluating Soft Skills: Communication and teamwork capabilities are essential for success in technical projects. It is important to assess a potential candidate’s ability to collaborate within diverse teams, as this impacts the outcome of any project.

The Bottom Line

Skills-based hiring offers an objective and quantifiable measure of capability, enabling companies to remain competitive and adaptable in today’s economy. By trusting employees to deliver based on their skills and potential, rather than solely on qualifications, companies can foster growth and innovation while benefiting both their workforce and their bottom line.

Moving Forward

Whether you are a startup or an established enterprise, embracing skills-based hiring is a strategic move towards building a resilient and agile workforce. By prioritising skills over qualifications, South Africa’s tech sector can unlock untapped potential and drive innovation in an ever-evolving industry.

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