How to find digital talent where there "isn't any"

4th March 2020

In 2019 Jersey’s Government launched plans to modernise a range of services. From turning an entire tax system digital to harnessing social media for public health messaging, their new digital strategy was big and bold.   

Pulling it off would require an injection of executive level hires with talent and experience.

The Government of Jersey asked Vector to help define the new roles, and to find the talent to fill them. There was just one problem. According to a large swathe of Jersey’s digital community, that sort of talent “doesn’t exist”.

The 'small market' challenge

This is a challenge we’ve encountered throughout the UK. Businesses based outside the major cities often struggle to attract top level digital talent, and Jersey is no different.

A lot of the island’s homegrown talent remains in the UK after graduating from university. Those who do return are snapped up and rewarded handsomely in the private sector.

They are often looked after so well that they are reluctant to even test public sector waters with a contract position, let alone take the permanent plunge.

Gary Bowles, Group Director of Modernisation and Digital at the Government of Jersey, acknowledged the challenge:

"We know the talent is here in Jersey but the Government has not, until recently, been the employer of choice for such talent.”

Employers have to get serious

To find the right people in a passive market, employers need to show they're serious.

The Government of Jersey fully committed. They invested in market-leading technology, implemented a long term digital strategy and restructured to create rewarding roles.

This level of commitment to digital growth is rare in small markets, but it gives recruitment agencies and HR departments the ammunition they need to find the best candidates. 

Leave no stone unturned

Initially we cast our net wide, establishing a large pool of 500 potential hires for the four roles. The raw talent was out there; whittling it down to the people who could really deliver for our client was our next challenge.

Our four consultants conducted a thorough vetting process, contacting candidates, evaluating their suitability, and promoting the roles to them.

Sell the roles with a fresh approach

As many of the candidates were comfortably settled in the private sector, our consultants emphasised the unique opportunities, including:

  • The scale & challenge of the project
  • A 'once in a lifetime’ chance to make a difference
  • The opportunity to positively contribute to a whole community
  • The Government of Jersey’s desire to invest in new, inventive technology
  • The chance to leave their fingerprints on a large-scale change project

By focussing on a broader array of benefits than salary alone, our consultants were able to connect with candidates who were genuinely passionate about the positive impact they have through their work.

Presenting candidates prepared for success

After a thorough vetting process, in which our Jersey team met all applicants, we presented 21 candidates who were ready to leave the private sector for a chance to change government for good.

By the end of 2019, the Government of Jersey had appointed a new Head of Change and Head of Architecture, with the new Head of Information Governance following in early 2020.

Tenacity and capability

When we asked Gary Bowles why he thought we were successful in our hunt for talent that “simply doesn’t exist”, he said:

“Vector made a lot of effort to understand our needs in detail, then showed tenacity in finding the people we wanted and a willingness to ‘put some skin in the game’ to prove their capability.”

We relish bringing our skills, insight and knowledge to a challenge! 

Need help finding the right talent?

If you’re struggling to find the right level of digital talent, we’d love to talk. Tell us a little bit about the people you’re looking for using our ‘Create a Brief’ form, call our Jersey office on +44 1534 877144 or give our Sales Director, Wayne Starritt, a call on +44 1892 771447.

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