The phrase “Hire for Natural Talent and Train for Skills and Knowledge”  was coined by Bill Gibson from Knowledge Brokers International, who did some training with the RAW IT team.

In the current South African market, there is a tremendous shortage of IT skills. We have many more positions than we have available candidates.

This situation is further compounded by the following:

  1. Employers want candidates with the EXACT skills they require
  2. Employers are constrained in terms of the remuneration packages they are able to offer
  3. Some employers insist on a tertiary qualification

So, let’s address each of these issues:

1. Employers want candidates with the EXACT skills they require

Nine times out of ten, a candidate will only have the exact skills you require if he/she is already working for you. No two IT environments are exactly the same, so you may be presented with a candidate that has most of the skills you require, but you will need to train him/her on some others. Remember this, IT candidates make career moves in order to learn new skills. If he/she can already do everything you require, your opportunity is not that attractive to them – they’ve been there, done that. If, however, you are prepared to take his/her current skills and upskill him/her on some others, your opportunity suddenly becomes a very attractive option to the candidate. You want your opportunity to be attractive, because you are competing for this candidate. He/she is also meeting with a number of other companies. In other words, hire for natural talent and train for skills and knowledge!

2. Employers are constrained in terms of the remuneration packages they are able to offer.

You have found a candidate you like and you make him/her an offer.  Over and over again, in the current economic climate, employers are offering the same or, wait for it, less than the candidate is currently earning!  I understand that there are budget constraints within a company, but the candidate also has his/her own budget constraints. Would you move for less money?  The only time that offering a candidate the same as what he/she is currently on, is acceptable, is when there is a lot of training and gaining of new skills involved. In such instances, candidates have no hesitation moving for the same money, because they know there will be long term rewards, ie learning new skills. You will not get a champagne candidate on a beer budget. If you only have X to spend on the remuneration package, then hire for natural talent and train for skills and knowledge!

3. Some employers insist on a tertiary qualification

You have seen a CV and the candidate seems perfect for your position. But, then you have a look at his/her education and oh dear, he/she only has matric. No tertiary qualification. Sorry, can’t see him/her. Whaaat? In this skills short market? Some of the most successful people in the world didn’t even finish school, let alone university. Don’t be fixated on the qualifications – look for talent. People with natural talent, can be taught anything. Someone with a degree, but no natural talent, will be much harder to teach.

When I started in recruitment in 1996, there were just not that many IT boffins out there. Most were still pretty new to the industry. I remember that, if someone had read a book on C++ programming, he/she would be hired as a C++ Programmer. That is the honest truth. When SAP became the next big thing, same story – people had to be trained. Employers were prepared to train and invest in their staff and, as a result, staff retention was much higher then. You invest in your staff and they will invest in you. All those people were Hired for Natural Talent and Trained for Skills and Knowledge, to become the IT boffins they are today!

(c) Wilma Gerber 2016