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Credentials Vs Competencies: What It Takes to Build a Future-Ready Tech Team

Fresh after acquiring the right set of credentials, each one sets sail on a unique journey. It's usually smooth sailing until rough weather hits. All of a sudden, choppy waters threaten to rock the boat and may even capsize it. And then it is time to bring out one's A-game – the relevant skill sets and competencies required to stay afloat and go on to conquer adversity and thrive.

Taking inspiration from the famed Sailboat Metaphor (Fig.1.), the need to constantly upskill and not rest on past laurels is truly the name of the game in today's fickle circumstances. The situation becomes somewhat amplified in case of tech talent, given the pace at which newer skills and knowledge is in demand.

Consider these questions:

  • While it's great to be armed with the best of educational and job pedigrees, what is it that can help find a collusion of individual and organizational goals?
  • What are ways in which people practices transform in keeping with changing times, so as to ensure flexible, scalable, innovation at work?
  • What role do futuristic technologies like AI play in hiring right and upskilling talent?

These themes were delved into as part of the discussion where Rajesh Rai, CHRO, Global Logic, Satish Rajarathnam, SVP HR, Mphasis, and Ankith Appaiah, VP-India Sales, HackerEarth shared their thoughts at #SHRMIAC22.

Hiring for Skills, Beyond Sound Knowledge

A recent SHRM research report suggests, 79 percent of employers say skills assessments are just as or more important than other hiring criteria, and 36 percent say a job candidate who scores high on an assessment but doesn't meet the minimum years of experience is very likely to make it onto the list of final candidates. "Gone are the days when candidates displayed their degrees. Now it is all about applying knowledge and capability," said Rai. Appaiah added, "As problems become more and more complex, measuring skill at problem-solving is a clear differentiator while hiring." Rajarathnam went on to say, "While hiring, knowledge, domain expertise, and attitude are important, no doubt. Credentialing to be future fit is also important. Having said that, the ability to showcase and forecast skills is an added advantage."

Full Stack HR to Keep Talent Enthused and Upskilled

Being self-reliant – to be able to keep skills taxonomies in perspective and take on varied nuances of all-round development of employees is a superpower to possess, especially for HR professionals. The objective for most people leaders needs to be this, as per Rai – "Upskill, reskill and make people relevant for the future, today. While working out short to mid-term future strategy, talent needs are to be borne in mind as a guide. It is also critical to keep up with client-side changes and evolution, as the need for contextualization can be maximized best this way."

Appaiah spoke about the need for leaders in the talent management space to take on the role of evangelists. "Only when awareness of the latest in technology, and information about certifications are available, and its future potential and scope are made known, will there be takers, who would then go on to become specialists."

Rajarathnam was of the opinion that the best way to identify top skills in demand is to study the intersection of three crucial aspects of business to stay agile – the organization's need, the client's requirement, and the employees' aspirations. "Hyper-skilling while keeping the talent strategy in focus, being aware of the direction in which businesses are headed, can be a game changer. Demand shaping, with relevant inputs from clients, can help achieve better business outcomes and clearly, is the way forward."

Role of Futuristic Technology in Tech Hiring

The role of AI in tech hiring has been a topic of hot debate in recent times. Not about whether or not it is helpful, but on the ethics of it. "In order to win with AI, ethics have to be kept in close proximity and in perspective at all times," said Appaiah.

Considering humans who create and control the programming, it has been alleged that human bias does creep in despite the recruiter's best efforts. Rai firmly said, "Tech is an enabler, and humans are far more powerful than technology. All we need to do is to continuously check for biases creeping into a hiring algorithm and do whatever's necessary to counter it."

On the topic of everyone joining the AI bandwagon (or any new technology which receives a lot of eyeballs and hype), Appaiah said, "None of this is ever forcefully required. Each situation needs to be reviewed and implementation of AI technology needs to be responsibly done."

AI in Tech Hiring to Help Strengthen Focus on Efficiency

Appaiah added, "Where there is a need to remove or reduce human intervention for a positive outcome, to help eliminate inefficiencies or biases of humans – these are best uses of AI technology in the world of work."

The According to SHRM research, 85 percent of employers using automation or AI say it helps save time and / or increases efficiency. The research also found that 64 percent of HR professionals say their organization's automation or AI tools automatically filter out unqualified applicants, and 68 percent say the quantity of applications they need to review manually is somewhat better (44 percent) or much better (24 percent) due to their use of automation or AI.

Rajarathnam said that especially with new technology constantly coming into the marketplace, credentialing is a key requirement. "By using AI for screening profiles, it also helps enhance recruiter efficiency and improves process simplification as well as enables efficiency transformation in the employee lifecycle management."

"By decoding career paths – at scale and effectively, while also monitoring closely for the right results, futuristic technology can be put to good use," Rajesh concluded.

New Goals, Newer Paths: Shift from Career Ladder to Skill Portfolio

'What brought you thus far will not necessarily take you further' – lies at the crux of this theme. Gone are the days when employees' credentials were sufficient to see them through workplace challenges. Now, it's more about how well you are able to draw up an ongoing skill map, and keep up with the needs of the workplace in terms of the ever-changing business scenario and stay relevant to the skill sets that are much sought after. The skill economy is thriving, where capabilities overshadow credentials. Coupled with honest career conversations, hiring right and retaining critical talent is closer to reality.

Back to the Sailboat Metaphor, to conclude… "Life is like sailing. You can use any wind to go in any direction". Robert Brault


Fig.1. Image Reference: Alberts, H.J.E.M. (2016). The Sailboat. Positive Psychology Program.


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