One of the factors that allowed me to grow successfully during that risky period was the decision to become the “team coach”, and by that, I mean dedicating more time to communicating and delegating responsibilities, rather than micro-managing. Another important factor was the composition of my team: 100% juniors with limited career experience and career shifters.
Juniors are flexible, hungry to learn, and happy to work hands-on and perform new tasks. Career shifters are similar, but they also bring relevant skills and organizational experience that make their training shorter. As a result, they become a layer of quality on top of the juniors' work, which allowed me to focus on growing the business.
While my personal experience in hiring juniors was positive, upon becoming Head of Career Development in an ed-tech company, I noticed how difficult it was for juniors to find their first job. According to a recent survey we conducted, juniors and career shifters face numerous challenges: 62% of them feel hampered by their lack of practical experience and portfolio, 39% of them don’t know the market well enough, 36% lack a clear plan for a career shift and job search, 26% of them lack technical skills and knowledge, 22% lack self-esteem and awareness regarding their abilities, while 9% feel they lack soft skills.
With this data in mind, I also asked employers why it is so hard for them to employ juniors and career shifters. They had concerns about juniors moving to a different company shortly after the end of their training, difficulties convincing team leads that juniors and career shifters can be qualified, and the relatively long period (about 6-7 months) after training juniors until companies see their return on investment.
While such apprehension is understandable, it is also concerning: When new talents have no place to grow, companies are stuck with the same amount of working hands. Lack of qualified talents in tech directly translates into a market slowdown and poor business results.
What can we start doing today?
If you want to get top tech talent that you can shape, you might want to learn how the NBA does it:
- Locate and scout for niche talent pools such as student and alumni organizations at boot camps, universities, nonprofits, and online and offline professional communities. Every career center and community manager will be happy to recommend their brightest individuals.
- Adapt alternative ways to assess potential talent. There is much discussion about replacing the CV and ATS methods for assessing candidates, as well as startups offering alternate ways to assess candidates. Consider skills-based assessments, projects in a portfolio, recommendations, and interviews with team members. Any combination of the above may offer better insights into a candidate's eligibility for a particular job.
- Launch programs like hackathons, competitions, industry projects, and apprenticeships for evaluating new candidates in a real work environment. Think of it as the NBA draft combine for techies. Such initiatives provide an authentic opportunity to evaluate candidates based on the actual challenges faced by your own team members.
- Train leads to perfection. Make clear, updated, and high-standard training materials and processes. Big company? Let your learning and development team deal with it, and lean on your in-house experts such as engineering and design teams as content contributors. Don’t have the capacity? Outsource training needs. It is just too important to neglect. A new candidate will be onboarded only once, and poor training results in low retention.
- Candidates are finally in? Invest in the further development of your talent in addition to your tech stack. People leave workplaces because they have better alternatives. A culture that cherishes learning makes employees feel more appreciated and challenged (by testing their new skills), and encourages them to innovate and remain in their positions longer.
In Israel, the high-tech industry employs about 10% of the total workforce and is accountable for 54% of our exports. Taking such actions to fill the talent pool with fresh people will allow the high-tech industry to do what it does best – innovate.
Bottom line: Investing in employees provides a positive return on investment. More qualified people in tech equals a larger pie for all. Invest in Israeli human capital because let’s face it, we’ve got the talent.
Written by Ilan Shenkar, Head of Career and Partnerships at Practicum Israel