From small architecture firms to large accounting companies, it’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges businesses currently face is finding – and keeping – talent. Whether you sit within HR or not, you’ve probably heard of the phrase ‘war for talent’, the concept that the ability to attract, develop and retain a skilled workforce will make or break a business.
The risk is particularly heightened in the tech sector, where rapid advances are changing the very nature of jobs, and the skills needed to do them. As these new roles emerge and skills requirements change, there simply aren’t enough skilled workers to meet the demand, leading to a massive digital skills gap. According to CityAM, jobs in the digital sector now comprise a fifth of all UK vacancies.
One option for addressing the skills shortage is developing new approaches to hiring outside your traditional talent pools. By hiring people from diverse backgrounds, including young people, minority backgrounds and those without a university education, your business can tap into a huge pool of high-potential and underutilised talent.
Salesforce, a Heart of the City contributor company, is no stranger to these concepts. Its own workforce development programme, Pathfinder, developed jointly with Deloitte (another Heart of the City contributor company), aims to train the next generation of employees from diverse backgrounds with the technical and business skills to fill in-demand positions in the Salesforce ecosystem – an estimated 3.3 million jobs by 2022.
As well as providing practical training support to people from diverse backgrounds via Pathfinder, Salesforce prioritises building relationships with local schools as part of its strategic focus on education and workforce development. Fostering these relationships is deeply ingrained in Salesforce culture by messaging from the founder, chairman and co-CEO, Marc Beinoff. Indeed, every Senior Vice President in Salesforce’s US offices is responsible for a relationship with a local school. They’re encouraged to energise their team to support the school through group volunteering days, skills-based volunteering and hosting workplace visits.
In the UK, Salesforce has developed relationships with a number of schools, including School 21, a pioneering new school in Stratford, east London. School 21’s founders have a shared belief that education must be done differently to prepare young people properly for the world they’re going into. They’ve developed a series of approaches to learning that give students the chance to find their voice, develop deep knowledge and understanding, and create beautiful work that has real value beyond the classroom.
Attracted by School 21’s likeminded and ‘disruptive’ approach, Salesforce’s relationship with School 21 began five years ago with an afternoon coding workshop. After building trust and learning more about each other’s approaches and needs, the partnership has developed more innovative ways to work together. Kathryn Eastwood, Partnership Development Lead at School 21, describes their relationship as “multi-layered and mutually beneficial for both parties” with activities ranging from workshops on innovative technologies and 1:1 reading sessions, to Salesforce employees taking part in projects as an authentic audience providing feedback. Salesforce has also delivered training for non-teaching staff and mentored the School 21 leadership team. A recent highlight for the partnership was when three year ten students from School 21 spoke at Salsforce’s Regional Kick Off event, in front of 2,000 employees, as part of their work placements.
While Salesforce may have a larger budget and workforce than many of you, the main takeaway is to consider ways that your business can work in the local community to help close the opportunity gap for the next generation, while at the same time addressing your company’s future talent challenge. As Salesforce and School 21 demonstrate, building a long-term and shared value partnership with a local school could be a great place to start!