How to Find Workers with Disruptive Skills

“Disruptive skills” sounds like a bad thing, right? Actually, it means just the opposite.

When engaged in consistently, “disruptive” actions—questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting—triggered associational thinking to deliver new businesses, products, services, and/or processes. The ability to look at problems in a non-standard way might be the most sought-after competency of the future.

Most employers who need the hottest disruptive skills in tech are missing out on a big opportunity: developing the workers they already have, according to new research from Emsi Burning Glass.

Based on the report, “Building a Disruptive Workforce”, employers are definitely on a buying spree to find the top 10 disruptive IT skills that are reshaping the tech industry.

  • These are high-stakes choices: the top 10 skills are called for in 1.7 million job postings and are projected to grow 17% to 135% over the next five years.

  • Yet only 31% of workers with these disruptive skills were hired internally.

Any employer, faced with technological change, has to make a choice whether to find talent outside or train up their existing staff. People in the world of talent acquisition refer to this as the “build or buy” decision. How they choose to execute that people strategy makes an enormous difference in how companies succeed (or not).

Right now, the data says employers are choosing to “buy” talent in skills like cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and fintech. But while this can help bring in new talent, it can be costly and leaves employers fighting over a relatively small pool of workers. The report suggests that employers may be missing an opportunity to build the disruptive skills they need by upskilling existing workers.

The report examined the career profiles of hundreds of millions of workers to identify the patterns behind these shifting skills. Key findings of the report include:

  • Disruptive workers can come from anywhere, so companies need to look everywhere. In fact, employers are traveling far afield to find these skills.

  • About two-thirds of existing disruptive tech workers moved into their current role from a different occupation.

  • More than half of existing practitioners—those who do the actual tech work–were sourced from a different industry.

  • Only 16% of disruptive tech workers were hired as entry-level workers.

  • Only 5% of disruptive tech workers have less than a bachelor’s degree.

These latest two findings means it may be difficult to grow the talent pool for these skills. Getting a bachelor’s degree takes time, and if workers don’t have entry-level opportunities, there will continue to be a shortage of higher-level workers down the road. In addition, this may hinder diversity goals if employers are not seeking out workers from new fields or backgrounds.

So, part of the solution may be more employers investing in building entry-level, diverse opportunities to expand their pipeline of disruptive tech workers.

“Building” talent doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose it. Retention of practitioners —tech workers rather than managers– is roughly equivalent regardless of whether the workers were developed internally or hired externally. This suggests that one fear employers have about internal training —that giving workers new skills will encourage them to find jobs elsewhere— is overblown.

The 10 “Skills of Mass Disruption”

  • AI and Machine Learning

  • Cloud Technologies

  • Connected Technologies

  • Fintech

  • IT Automation

  • Natural Language Processing

  • Parallel Computing

  • Proactive Security

  • Quantum Computing

  • Software Development Methodologies

Source: Burning Glass