It’s no simple task hiring talent — tech talent even more so. According to a Gartner survey, it’s one of the main reasons why so many companies struggle to adopt emerging technologies and maintain a competitive edge; they simply can’t find quality talent.
This labor shortage is at least partly due to the talent market, which has gotten tighter in recent years. But the barrier to finding talent also has something to do with technology itself.
Getting Ahead of the Curve
The rapid pace of digital change means that what an employee learns today may be outdated tomorrow, or the tech may be updated to a new version or language, making teachability a skill to prize above all.
Take a student who is currently studying code. That individual may be learning a version of a language that will be outdated by the time they graduate from the course. Education teams should be updating course content strategically; knowing that new versions of languages have bugs that have not yet been discovered, they should work to ensure that the version is applicable to learning the latest iteration.
Even then, however, it can still be challenging to find talent. New digital options emerge almost daily. The onus is often on employees to find creative and strategic ways to apply technologies that enable companies to continue doing what they do well.
Working in a State of Constant Learning
While companies will obviously want to hire based on whatever skills are necessary for the role, soft skills in tech are just as important. To continue to thrive in the technology field, candidates must demonstrate an ability to think critically.
They must exhibit the ability and desire to seek solutions to problems they can’t yet anticipate and search for opportunities in which they can continually sharpen their skills. In other words, teachability is a critical skill for new tech hires.
The Ability to Be Taught
Teachability is essentially a quick learning ability that allows talent to remain agile and flexible in an ever-changing business landscape. Teachability helps talent stay ahead of the curve and continually innovate, which naturally gives their employers a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
It also contributes to a new hire’s ability to apply constructive criticism, acknowledge their own mistakes, ask clarifying questions, and seek guidance when necessary. Without soft skills in tech, stagnation will set in quickly — even for an otherwise promising new hire, making the interview process all that more crucial.
Identifying Teachability in Candidates
Deciding how to assess soft skills in an interview is often easier said than done, as soft skills in tech — or any other industry, for that matter — aren’t usually as measurable or quantifiable as other skills.
Consider teachability, problem-solving, or quick learning ability; they don’t usually provide the same direct cause-and-effect outcomes as coding, programming, or regression analysis. As a result, companies must rely on a combination of tactics to determine the ideal recruit for a given role.
Making Sure to Assess Properly
Pre-employment assessments can definitely help by offering companies insights into whether candidates have the soft skills, temperament, and personality traits needed to succeed and contribute to the team.
Assessments also have a way of eliminating some of the trial and error –– as well as inherent biases –– that can occur during the interview process. With a bit of exploration, you can learn more about the potential hire and determine whether they have the desire to learn and grow as a professional.
Uncovering Evidence of Quick Learning Ability
As with almost anything in the screening and interview process, pre-employment assessments can tell you a lot about talent, but not everything. It’s also essential to ask for anecdotal evidence of how the candidate has used a soft skill like teachability in a previous position.
Companies are looking for specifics, so it’s vital to be specific with interview questions about learning new skills. The goal here is to leave little room for waffling.
Gauging a Canditdate’s True Interest
Beyond work examples, companies can also inquire about what news candidates keep up with or what soft skills they’ve recently added to their arsenal. These, too, can greatly assist in gauging talent’s desire to learn.
If a candidate isn’t interested in what’s going on in the field, then that person may not be as teachable as what their resume or answers to other interview questions may suggest.
Supporting Teachability in Technology
Offering professional development opportunities is the most obvious and effective way to cultivate teachability, but not all companies meet the standards that today’s fast-moving world requires.
A Talent Transformation Global Impact Report revealed only 45% of employees are “completely or very satisfied” with the available L&D programs in their field — meanwhile, 80% of companies believe their programs to be at least moderately successful. The solution is to allocate more time and money and encourage talent to take advantage of learning and development.
Incentivizing Those Who Excel
Additionally, leadership should take a critical view of the company’s promotion and development process to reward and recognize employees who go above and beyond when growing their skills.
After all, growing competence within a professional field should be acknowledged and recognized appropriately to retain quality talent, especially when that same report found that 44% of companies say employee turnover has hindered their ability to achieve goals.
Making the Right Choice in Talent and Talent Development
When hiring new talent in the tech field, you need recruits with a growth mindset. They also need a teachable attitude to continue learning along with quickly advancing technology. Finding teachable talent is only the first part of the greater hiring equation.
The rest often requires companies to think differently about where they source talent and commit to professional development for talent on-the-job, which is beneficial for employee and company growth. Hiring for teachability and cultivating it can bring your company into the modern age, support the adoption of new tech, and (most importantly) help sharpen your competitive edge.