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Finding staff with the right digital skills and experience is becoming a significant problem for most companies

business developmentDigital BusinessDigital CareersDigital SkillsDigital Skills ShortageDigital StaffStaff Skill SetTechnical Recruitment+-

We are all in the throes of a major paradigm shift at the moment where more and more business processes and activities are moving into the digital domain. For our company Affino - digital is everything, and we make the core solution that everything operates on and through.


It’s not so much a case of getting in a whole load of new people, it is also very much about training and re-training existing human resources. But even more than that, it is about attitude, adaptability and speed of uptake. We’ve encountered lots of staffers in a wide variety of companies - who simply don’t want to move with the times, and try to cling to the traditional ways of doing things, or recommend / request that new staff be brought in to service those new fast-growing sectors, when their traditional approaches / existing roles are often under threat and in rapid and dangerous decline.


In terms of finding the right staff-members, as I said above, attitude and a willingness to keep learning is everything. The digital sector moves so fast that it’s always throwing up new challenges. Just when you’ve got used to how something works, the parameters change again and all your old knowledge becomes somewhat worthless as you need to acquire new skills and abilities anew.


The digital world is also very much 24/7 which means an adaptable and flexible approach needs to be adopted by those companies. This is already the case in industries like finance and hospitality, where activities are happening concurrently around the world and around the clock - so tightly project-managed shift-work is essential with a workforce that can cover the necessary extended hours of operation.


Affino is the model of a very modern business, in that we are entirely digital and our workforce is distributed - i.e. almost totally working from home. This means that if you want to extend to 24 hours of coverage, you really need people employed in different time-zones, or those accustomed to night-work. This kind of work is not suited to all people - neither the home-working aspect, nor the potentially odd hours. Yet there now exists a far greater flexibility in how many of those roles can be carried out, as a large number of these won’t require direct face-to-face client communication and can be carried out at any time therefore. There’s a huge question here of in-housing vs contracting and outsourcing. For Affino it takes 6 months or more to bring a new staff member up to speed, so we cannot work with external development agencies - for us to maintain our quality we must have a hands-on-approach, and must be able to ongoingly train up an hold onto the very best people available. We’ve tried different approaches in the past, and they have proven wholly unviable - this is unlikely the case in many industries where significant numbers of staff are in fact outsourced - it’s always a challenge to maintain quality in those scenarios though.


In terms of finding the most suitable types of people for these fast-evolving digital roles, it is also very much a matter of mindset. These people must be sharp-minded and flexible to a large degree, as with the rapid evolution of the industry, job roles themselves have to have a larger degree of flexibility.


I have set out the following checklist for the key characteristics we usually consider in our own recruitment / interview process:

  • Accountability - Having pride in your work and taking responsibility for what you do, and what you are in charge of
  • Adaptability - The ease with which a person moves between roles and takes on new responsibilities
  • Aptitude - How good at and how suitable you really are in your intended role
  • Attitude - Positive mindset, ease of getting on with things - getting on with colleagues and clients, and always looking to improve things
  • Communication - Clarity and completeness of getting absolutely the right meaning across to colleagues, partners and clients
  • Compatibility - How well an individual fits into a particular company and work culture - a way of doing things - process and otherwise
  • Detail - So much now is about attention to detail - quality of code, quality of spelling and grammar, design layout, design accents etc.
  • Discipline - Home-workers must be very highly-disciplined and self-motivated, at times must find and seek out beneficial tasks for themselves
  • Empowerment - The ability to get on with things unaided. At times other colleagues will be unavailable for consultation, must have wherewithal to complete key tasks independently
  • Expertise - We value expertise over qualifications - i.e. what people can actually do versus what a piece of paper says they should be able to do - for Affino it takes 6 months of constant evaluation to establish whether a new member is up to the required grade
  • Flexibility - The ability to move and evolve within a rapidly changing industry - acquire new skills and abilities and new areas of expertise
  • Practicality - We frequently encounter a lot of supposition and exposition, often based on academia and theorising, where for us the key is in the actual reality of execution, practical experience, and working expertise
  • Productivity - High level total and consistent regular output, pretty much all members of Team Affino have the output of 2-3 typical employees for that specific discipline
  • Qualifications - We place much more importance on Expertise and Practical Experience over simple qualification certificates - we have found little correlation between highest levels of university education and job suitability. We employ almost exclusively university graduates, length of education does not necessarily correlate with expertise
  • Quality - This comes down to attention to detail and accuracy, our work is highly complex and highly integrated meaning that careless mistakes in one area can impact several others, so quality-minded individuals are essential
  • Reliability - How well others can depend on you, how quick, and how competent you are at reacting to suddenly arriving and escalating scenarios
  • Teamwork-ability - The vast majority of businesses rely on teamwork, some more than others, and ours very much indeed. New staffers have to be pretty much unanimously accepted by their colleagues and be able to easily work with and get on with the same
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