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Strategies for Businesses Developing Early Talent Resources

digital Talent - JUMP
Author : Rich Bowers
Strategies for Developing Early Talent

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and, most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele

At Cognixia, we don’t work with soccer players, but Pele’s definition of success perfectly resonates with our own and how we believe early talent should be developed.

According to a study mentioned in the Harvard Business Review a couple of years ago, which surveyed 1,000 business leaders, the fundamental difference between organizations good at filling their digital talent needs and those that could not was that the former went beyond conventional practices of recruiting from top schools and competitors. Rather, they hired those who could develop the skills they needed and incentivized them to do so.

We concur.

Over the years, Cognixia has focused on a variety of strategies and approaches to help new talent grow. During this time, there has been a shift from an emphasis on technical knowledge to the development of a digital mindset targeted at initial and longer-term success. This approach on our Hire-Train-Deploy process led us to shift our strategy away from simply creating developers, analysts or engineers to one focused on holistic development of talent.

Our initial approach essentially focused on looking for diamonds on paper – a good background, a great school, and the right technical skills on a candidate’s CV. What came of this were nice resumes but not hunger, not passion and – we realised months later – not sustained ownership or initiative. Upon realising this, we switched to a more holistic approach.

Since then, we have formulated a screening process spanning the length of our onboarding and focuses on the individual. The attributes outlined by Pele are critical in today’s ever-changing digital world and must be present from the beginning for early-level talent to sustain success.

However, early recruits require some technical knowledge and technical mentorship or training  to hone these skills. Talent development must address both technical and personal dimensions. Such a holistic approach is frequently missing in conversations about the strategies for early resources.

Here are some practices that have helped us screen them successfully.

Strategies for Developing Early Talent

Getting to know the candidate
First, we have a phone call with candidates to learn about them. Based on the conversation, we let them know if Cognixia is the right place for them. Next, candidates write an essay-like assessment in which they describe how they would approach certain situations. This assessment can be taken at their leisure to help them answer honestly. Each assessment is then evaluated by a coaching specialist to confirm correlations to responses that previously resulted in success. Note that candidates have not been trained in their responses. Their essays are usually raw, but we focus on the candidate’s core reasoning. Hence, we have a coaching specialist for this review instead of a traditional recruiter. Further, this also helps with blind screening, which has aided in a consistent diversity level.

Collecting data to coach and develop talent consistently
In the second half of the screening process, we use a short Digital Readiness Application, developed by Cognixia. The application produces a Digital Readiness score, which is then reviewed against other passed scores and utilised for future coaching sessions based on areas needing improvement. The final two steps consist of an interview where questions focus on self-learning and solutions-based responses, followed by a basic coding review to confirm starter knowledge. The focus here is primarily on the individual, but we also look for a technical foundation.

Allowing hires to prove themselves
During the early weeks of employment, Cognixia evaluates the new employee’s engagement levels, self-paced video home assignments, questions they pose during team townhalls and results from one-on-one sessions. We encourage them to share inputs and become comfortable. We also review how they respond when comfortable. Do they still push themselves? Do they start early and leave late if they need extra support? Do they ask questions? Do they complete extra assignments? Are they self-learning to stay ahead? Observing all of this during the initial weeks, we collect data to formulate a profile for each employee. This profile are reviewed biweekly by all members of the team, who interact or will interact with the employee. The technical grades in the first month are secondary. We believe if the candidate shows the potential and has the right mindset, technical knowledge and comprehension will follow.

Being the lifeguard
Pele’s magic ingredients – hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and love for what you do – can be instilled if employees are open to them. Our employee profiles contain many data points. Based on these, we set them up in coaching sessions early on. Here, we consistently and frequently discuss Digital Mindset traits. We ensure these traits evolve with practice. The growth of an employee should have the same level of dedication as a Hall of Fame basketball player who practices hundreds of free throws to become perfect.

Cognixia handholds employees during this process. We focus on agility, adaptability and outcome-oriented skills through a variety of group-based and one-on-one coaching experiences. We provide direct feedback to each participant to let them know their areas of improvement and accelerate mindset application. Being direct has reaped us many rewards, saved time and drawn appreciation.

Caring for your employees
Schools and universities do not always offer Digital Mindset or Corporate Readiness courses to students. Even the technical knowledge of fresh graduates may not meet the standard required for professional success. At Cognixia, we prepare them for corporate navigation, helping them grasp technology better, confidently ask questions and recognize the opportunities ahead of them. It is important to build trust and help them from a mindset perspective as this is a sensitive process. Cognixia’s secret sauce is to truly care about individuals and how they grow. When this is clearly shown, through support, guidance, actively listening and following up with them, employees will be committed to success and understand what it takes to get there.

Our process helps early talent to understand what is expected and almost guarantees that those who complete the first 90 days will be able to grow into top-level talent technically as well as personally. A popular article on Forbes last year stated, “Most skills can be taught, but personalities and instincts cannot.” We’d like to revise this statement – most skills can be taught, and personalities and instincts can be cultivated.

– Rich Bowers

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