Talent Acquisition 2.0: Rethinking strategies to attract the future of digital

By Candice Solomons, Business Executive at iOCO Digital Talent

Johannesburg, 03 May 2024
Candice Solomons, Business Executive at iOCO Digital Talent.
Candice Solomons, Business Executive at iOCO Digital Talent.

Driven by disruption and innovation, the digital landscape is evolving at breakneck speed. As exhilarating as this era of transformation can be, the uncertainty of the future is equally nerve-wracking. More businesses are waking up to the realisation that achieving their digital ambitions does not depend solely on cutting-edge solutions, but rather on a future-fit workforce that can push the boundaries of possibilities with technology. Companies need people with the ability, agility and adaptability to learn and upskill to match the speed at which technologies are advancing. Without such people, there is a very real possibility of failure. Although tech itself is essential, the right digital talent is the true catalyst for transformation.

Reliant on rigid requirements and credential-based hiring, traditional recruitment methods often fail to attract the skilled and adaptable individuals needed to thrive in this dynamic environment. This is where Talent Acquisition 2.0 emerges, bringing agility, adaptability and a focus on capabilities over qualifications to the forefront.

In our previous press release, we discussed the need for businesses to create entirely ew talent models by turning their biggest challenges into opportunities. Building out these talent models requires the right skills, which in turn requires a mindset shift in how we approach talent, by seeking potential in unexpected places.

Breaking stereotypes: Shifting from credential to skills-based hiring

While credentials such as degrees and certifications are important, focusing solely on these is likely to fail to capture the true potential of a candidate. Digital Talent Acquisition 2.0 champions a skills-based approach, focusing on demonstrated abilities and real-world experience. This opens the door to diverse talent pools, including those who may have taken non-traditional paths into the tech industry. By making this shift, it significantly contributed to iOCO Digital Talent’s ability to bring in more than 300 new joiners in 2023 with diverse skillsets and experiences that enrich the company’s capabilities, while allowing our customers to tap into the same on-demand skillsets.

We believe skills-based hiring can be effectively implemented by:

  • Focusing on job-specific skills: Job descriptions that clearly outline the essential skills and competencies required, rather than focusing solely on educational qualifications.
  • Developing skills assessments: Rigorous yet fair assessments that gauge proficiency in relevant skills, regardless of academic background.
  • Embracing alternative credentials: Validating skills through online courses, certifications and portfolio demonstrations.
  • Prioritising cultural fit: Assessing alignment with company values and team dynamics alongside technical skills.

From traditional recruitment towards collaborative talent acquisition

While statistics showcasing our successful placements are no doubt impressive, I feel it would be more effective to unpack the 'how' behind our success. The truth is, the traditional model of recruiters simply receiving specifications, shortlisting candidates and presenting them to hiring managers is far from optimal. Instead, we must advocate for a collaborative approach to talent attraction and acquisition, where recruiters function as strategic partners within our hiring process.

Specialised recruitment squads, each dedicated to a specific area of our operations, work closely with hiring managers by immersing themselves in project teams to fully appreciate each customer or project’s tech landscape. The result? Curated candidate pools that align perfectly with current and future technical requirements, thanks to adept consultants that specialise in testing, automation, DevOps, software development, infrastructure services, data and analytics, advisory and design, and other critical IT skills, including business development and sales.

This shift further entails:

  • Proactive hiring: Moving away from reactive responses to open positions, building talent pipelines in anticipation of future needs.
  • True partnership: Engaging hiring managers early and throughout the process, ensuring a clear understanding of business goals, skills gaps and desired candidate profiles.
  • Skilled talent acquisition specialists: Investing in recruiters who possess not only sourcing and administrative skills, but also deep industry knowledge, a talent for relationship building and a strategic mindset.

The talent acquisition specialist: More than just a recruiter

Talent acquisition specialists play a fundamental role in the Talent Acquisition 2.0 model. Their responsibilities extend beyond simply sourcing and qualifying candidates. As mentioned, they must become strategic partners, collaborating with hiring managers to:

  • Understand business needs: Building a firm understanding of the target team's dynamics, project requirements and future objectives.
  • Create compelling job descriptions: Craft descriptions that attract the right talent by highlighting company culture, growth opportunities and the impact of the role.
  • Navigate the skills landscape: Stay abreast of emerging technologies and skills trends, identifying and accessing talent pools outside traditional channels.
  • Advocate for flexible and adaptable hiring: Encourage hiring managers to consider upskilling potential and prioritise cultural fit alongside technical skills.

This collaborative approach fosters successful talent acquisition campaigns, ensuring that we can deliver on staffing requirements when it matters most to the success of IT projects.

The modern hiring manager: Embracing a proactive approach

Hiring managers are key players in attracting top digital talent. Here are five tips for them to thrive, by embracing a Talent Acquisition 2.0 mindset:

  1. Invest time in building relationships with talent acquisition specialists: Regular communication ensures clear understanding of needs and expectations.
  2. Challenge unrealistic job specs: Collaborate with specialists to craft attainable descriptions that attract diverse talent pools.
  3. Embrace market-related salaries: Study and understand salary benchmarks and be flexible within budget constraints.
  4. Prioritise the interview process: Allocate time for interviews and provide timely feedback to candidates.
  5. Be open to upskilling potential: Consider candidates with the right base skills and invest in developing their expertise. It’s more rewarding than you can ever imagine!

By partnering with their talent acquisition specialists and adopting a proactive approach, hiring managers will be more effective in attracting and signing the talent they seek, whether internally or externally.

Moving beyond a reactive approach: Proactive pipeline building

Reactive hiring is no longer viable. By the time a position opens up, it’s already too late. Instead, companies must proactively build talent pipelines, which involves:

  • Anticipating future skill needs: Regularly analysing business strategies and technological advancements to identify required skillsets.
  • Building relationships with potential candidates: Engaging with talent pools through university partnerships, industry events and social media communities.
  • Creating employee referral programs: Incentivising existing employees to recommend qualified candidates.
  • Leveraging partner networks: Utilising established partnerships to source talent for remote positions and fill temporary gaps efficiently.

By building talent pipelines, our team ensures that we have a ready pool of qualified candidates when opportunities arise, which minimises delays in finding and hiring the right people to deliver your competitive advantage.

Lessons learned: Key success factors and challenges

Our journey at iOCO towards Talent Acquisition 2.0 has yielded valuable insights worth sharing:

Success factors:

  • Investing in a skilled and collaborative talent acquisition team.
  • Prioritising skills-based hiring and embracing diverse talent pools.
  • Building strong relationships with hiring managers.
  • Understanding the needs of each project and customer.
  • Adopting a proactive approach to pipeline building.
  • Leveraging technology and data to streamline processes and track results.


  • Overcoming biases and traditional hiring mindsets.
  • Competing with other attractive employers for top talent.
  • Managing tight budgets and salary constraints.
  • Balancing speed with thoroughness in the recruitment process.

The talent acquisition revolution has started, don’t get left behind

Forget "one size fits all" recruiting. The future belongs to those who embrace skills-based hiring and collaborative partnerships. At iOCO, we're ready to guide you through this paradigm shift, having already equipped ourselves with the strategies and support needed to secure top talent. Don't wait until the tide turns. Contact us today and let's build your dream team, together. Whether you’re seeking your next tech superstar or aiming to be one, our team has got you covered!

The final press release in our Digital Talent series will focus on the importance of career agility in building a future-proof workforce as an effective strategy in identifying and nurturing resilient, capable talent that delivers competitive edge in every project.