It is time to rethink the talent sourcing process


If I had a Euro for every time I heard a hiring or line manager say “there just aren’t any women” I could probably retire. This is particularly true of in demand tech profiles. In Europe less than 20% of students in STEM functions are women. So if organisations rely on universities to source female candidates with technical qualifications, their results are clearly going to be poor. It’s just about the maths. With every company in Europe counting on the same funnel to strengthen their female talent pipelines, competition is going to be ferocious. It should be clear to everyone that now is the time to plan ahead, to re-think the talent sourcing process and involve talent development and L & D in hiring decisions.

Hard skills outdate fast

According to McKinsey, 62% of executives “believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce by 2023.” The pace of technological change is so fast today that educational establishments at every level are struggling to keep up, so that candidates can hit the ground running even at entry-level.  The gap between what businesses need and what educational systems produce seems to be growing. It is said that the first year of an engineering degree will be out of date by end of a four or five-year degree course. Factor in the World Economic Forum also suggesting that the key skills for the next decade will be soft skills.

This begs the question why do we keep hiring for hard skills? 

Role of talent development

The role of talent development or L & D functions is to make sure that businesses have the skilled workforce they need stay competitive and increase profitability. So why not extend this one step further and rethink the talent sourcing process and make upskilling/ reskilling and training part of talent acquisition thinking.

Research from McKinsey also suggests that by 2030, automation could displace between 400 million and 800 million workers globally. Workforce re-skilling is going to be a top priority at every level.

talent sourcing process

Ownership of skills

One of critical elements of the debate is who should be responsible for skill acquisition. The US approach tends to be more individualistic where each individual is responsible for their own career development and skill acquisition. In other geographies it shifts between organisations and state run education systems. It’s very obvious that whichever route you favour, it’s not currently working. This means we have rethink the talent sourcing process at an organisational level, if we want to hire more women. We have to stop expecting to find candidates ready to go at entry-level and look at why women leave and how to increase retention and internal mobility. Companies that fail to include talent development programmes as part of the hiring process are going to suffer acute talent shortages further down the line especially if they are also failing to retain female talent.

What are the options?

One thing that a health and economic crisis is giving us is an opportunity to re-evaluate our systems and even our mindsets with the basic traffic light assessment.

  • RED: Let go of the things that don’t work
  • YELLOW: Tweak the bits that are flawed
  • GREEN: Do more of what serves us well.

Some suggestions

1. Working with government authorities to create shorter further education courses, focusing on developing key soft skills

2. Stronger and longer corporate entry-level training programmes to develop the key hard skills each organisation needs which will vary from one enterprise to the next. Back in the day entry-level meant doing a two year training programme. I did one for HR in the steel industry. I knew nothing about HR or heavy industry. At the same time I completed a CIPD qualification.

3. Changes in sourcing processes to “fish where there are fish” and to stop expecting to find women on tech courses in universities. They are not there.

4. Hire for potential by going into non-tech functions and offering training opportunities. The desire to learn and grow is one of the strongest characteristics of Generation Z career expectations. They are looking for positions that offer the opportunity to learn multiple skills, not just of their own job, but other roles and functions as well.

5. Gen Y are now becoming second generation in the workplace. Gallop found that 87% of millennial’s value professional development and career growth opportunities in their jobs. They recognise the benefits of effective continuous learning, which makes training the way to attract and retain talent in this demographic. As the older Millennials are now in their mid 30s and starting families, it’s time to look at “returnships” and reskilling women into other functions as part of that process.

6. Integrate competence testing into selection process.  COVID19 has impacted women harder than men. Organisations should seize the moment to cast their sourcing net wider and look at and test candidates they may not have considered before.

Change now

With many university courses disrupted by COVID19 now is a good time to change the mindset from the traditional hiring approach, of recruitment based on hard skills, manifested by a university degree. Let’s involve talent development, hire for potential and strengthen the female talent pipeline.


Change the way you source, attract and hire women. 3Plus can help you with Executive Search and Diversity Recruitment.



Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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