Why the Talent Skills Problem Needs a New Approach

Why the Talent Skills Problem Needs a New Approach


“There is a skills shortage. But I think we are not looking enough”. Discover the world of talent management and how these senior technology leaders are navigating the talent skills problem in their roles.


From addressing the nuanced talent crunch to navigating the challenges of upskilling in a rapidly evolving landscape, the talent skills problem has many C-suite leaders in a chokehold. The focus extends beyond traditional approaches, emphasising the need for a multifaceted strategy that encompasses both hard and soft skills. 


As organisations grapple with the complexities of talent management, this roundtable debate delves into the diverse perspectives of a variety of technology leaders in the HotTopics community, providing key takeaways for a transformative approach to the talent dilemma.


Banding together their strategic insights into the talent challenge, these technology leaders advocate for a holistic approach that combines hard and soft skills, adapts to the diverse needs of organisations and empowers individuals to navigate the dynamic landscape of the future workforce.


With the roundtable debate moderated by BBC News Presenter Bridgid Nzekwu, the roundtable panellists included:


  • Amitabh Apte, Global CIO, Mars Pet Nutrition
  • Sara Mubasshir, Head of Business Analysis & Change, London Business School
  • Kieran Higgins, Head of Digital Workplace Transformation, Cisco


Watch the roundtable highlights for Why the Talent Skills Problem Needs a New Approach


Ready to discover more? If you liked these highlights, click the button below to watch the full roundtable debate on YouTube



The talent skills problem: an overview

  1. The talent crunch and skills shortage
  2. retention and retraining
  3. Investing in future skills


The talent crunch and skills shortage

“There is a skills shortage. But I don’t think we are not looking enough,” said Sara Mubasshir, Head of Business Analysis & Change at London Business School. 


Sara delved into the idea that, if you dig a little deeper, there are unseen barriers for those applying to apprenticeship schemes–this includes the requirements for talent to have studied English and Maths in the UK to begin the application process. 


In her view, people who “don’t fit into the mould that the organisation really wants to see”. This includes people who are neurodiverse or even working mothers who cannot stick with the usual nine-to-five routine. 


Head of Digital Workplace Transformation at Cisco, Kieran Higgins, agreed with Sara, “we're not probably as creative as we could be on trying to fix it.” He said that technology leaders continue to use their traditional approaches of talent management and acquisition. 


He drew attention to the fact that there are new jobs sprouting up every year with no way to train or prepare for them; Kieran argued that the skills employers should be looking for are intellect, agility, versatility and resilience in order to attract the kind of talent that can adapt and mould themselves to the increasing changes in the industry.


Retention and retraining

Bridgid Nzekwu asked the panellists how they are retaining talent with the right skills and retraining talent to fill in skills gaps. 


Kieran described the old methods of talent retention process as a hyper-race. “If you didn't have the skills, you flipped it over, went out and bought it,” he said. Now, the most essential aspects of talent retention and retraining include knowing the culture and fit in the company. 


For those “willing to make that jump”, the retraining and refocusing of talent within the organisation is of utmost importance. This involves having programmes structured in a way that allows people to transition from one skillset to another with ease and actively investing in systems so that they can develop and fill the requirements that Cisco might have in future.


Kieran and Sara both agreed on the idea of steering their organisations away from their usual talent acquisition methods, opting instead to revamp their approach to talent management and allow external partners, agencies and freelancers to pivot and retrain.


Amitabh Apte shared with the panellists that the approach Mars Pet Nutrition takes is one of an ecosystem. “Our companies don’t live in a bubble,” he said. He explained that from a technology perspective, Mars is always working with tier one and tier two partners such as customers, retailers and online directors. 


Bringing in his point about culture, Amitabh argued that nothing beats the culture maintained by the existing talent pool–these are the people who know the company’s processes and understand how business is done. “If we empower them with new tools, then they [can] go places”.


Investing in future skills

Bridgid Nzweku set the scene, asking the speakers that given the current economic and technological landscape, what key skills they are going to be investing in for the future for their teams, as well as any new talent coming into the organisation.


Kieran Higgins said that security will always be one of the top priorities on his list when it comes to investing in the future of Cisco. “I think software development will be less so because I think artificial intelligence will help us a lot with it”. 


As the discussion unfolded, the panellists agreed on the need for a balanced approach. While cutting-edge skills like AI and cybersecurity are the most obvious answers, and crucial, Amitabh Apte stressed the significance of soft skills such as user-centricity and agility, stating that the need to align training with organisational culture and individual career aspirations has become his main focus. 

This roundtable on the talent skills problem was created in partnership with Cisco.


Mask group-2


We love getting input from our communities, please feel free to share your thoughts on this article. Simply leave a comment below and one of our moderators will review
Mask group

Join the community

To join the HotTopics Community and gain access to our exclusive content, events and networking opportunities simply fill in the form below.

Mask group