Tech check: the next verification for every hiring employer

Police checks, academic checks and working with children checks are standard for many businesses when hiring new people, but what are we doing to make sure new employees are digitally skilled?

In the space of 20 years, we have gone from only three per cent of small business having internet access to 99 per cent. In a single generation, we have gone from competing at a suburban level to now competing globally. This is not a change that can be dealt with by the IT guy in the corner or someone’s friend who knows computers.

So, how can business owners build digital skills into their business? The answer is in hiring the right people. But digital literacy is not the same as digital skills – knowing how to drive the car is not the same as knowing how the vehicle works and what is possible to do with it. So, when it comes to hiring new people and giving them access to your systems and data, how do you know they’re not still on their digital L plates?

The same as a police check, the tech check should be integrated into your hiring process, and here are the three steps of a tech check that every employer should incorporate into their hiring process.

1. Start requiring candidates to have the certificates or training you want for your digital systems. This helps raise the bar and shows that you are serious about increasing your digital maturity. Past experience doesn’t automatically imply competence. Ask to see their online learning history or even check what type of sites they have learnt from. Micro courses and training from providers like Linkedin Learning, Coursera, Udemy and other online short course providers show the right intent. If you don’t see any of that it is likely they a standard user of the tool hoping the time using it will get them across the line.

2. Test and evaluate the core digital skills you are looking for. If a person is applying for a role in your finance team get them to undertake a Microsoft Excel test and then see if they can generate a Microsoft Power BI report. If they are working in marketing, see if they have any training in client relationship management (CRM) software and get them to conduct a test email out campaign. Too often recruitment ads request advanced digital knowledge and get the employee to self-assess. This is as risky as getting you to award yourself your own driver’s license.

3. If your business is behind the eight ball when it comes to digital skills, look for the candidate’s input. Explain a manual or time-consuming process or way of doing things in the business and see how they would solve it. Don’t be afraid to learn something from them during this stage. In software development, there is a concept called the 10x developer. It is the person who can solve your problem in 1/10th of the time with 1/10th of the number of lines of code. Maybe they don’t have all the industry knowledge or background you would want but they will certainly make up for it in digital output.

Remember that on the other side of the hunt for people with digital skills are prospective employees looking to be part of forward-thinking companies. Make sure that’s your business and not your competitors.

Zaun Bhana, technology strategist