Digital sector: we must focus on potential

Wired Sussex TalentFest 2019 – what we learned


Sarah from the always possible team went along to the Wired Sussex TalentFest skills summit on 20th June.

We’ve been working at the heart of digital skills conversations across the South East for over four years, and we’ve noticed some significant changes in the way the sector has broadened out its approach to recruitment and retention.

At this event, there was a sense of recognition that it is hard to build a team in this sector when there is often such a small pool to draw from but it’s even harder if you’re choosing to bypass ‘potential’ and go straight for the finished article. New approaches are needed to attract talent from a broader area and fresh thinking is needed around retaining highly skilled staff by recognising that they are motivated by more than work.


The morning’s keynote speakers had some clear themes to draw upon.


Anne Morrison (BAFTA/BBC)

  • a diverse workforce that actually works for everyone isn’t tokenistic – and a culture is present really does allow people to thrive. Important to bring in different perspectives to a business to spark creativity.


  • ‘challenge isn’t cosy but supportive challenge can be the most valuable thing in the world’


  • businesses need to create stronger (or new) links with FE and HE to create opportunity for work experience, shadowing, paid internships etc.


  • unconscious bias dogs recruitment – perhaps we need to think about this as small team in terms of how we reach out to and attract new clients?


  • more girls from single sex education choose, succeed and progress in STEM subjects than their peers from mixed  – no real surprise but demonstrates early impact of (un)conscious bias and stereotypical thinking.


  • how empowered a person feels is linked to how easily they can speak with someone that can affect change – where might some people sit in hierarchy and should there be formal structures?


Gavin Mallory & Jodie Murgatroyd (Cogapp)

  • recently changed their approach to recruitment to try and find new talent and increase the diversity of their team – they were getting a ‘reputation’ for their high requirements of applicants that were very focused on academic results, where a degree was from and whether it was a first.


  • now actively seek ‘self-taught’ programmers and developers from a wide variety of backgrounds considering the transferable skills from previous roles e.g. running a pub for several years means an understanding of customer service, dealing with people, challenging situations, long hours etc. retail, fast-paced, target driven


  • ‘focus on potential’


  • mentoring is a way to encourage diversity in the work place


Adam Hyland & Emma Turner (Diversity and Ability)

  • ‘diversity already exists in us all, it’s inclusion we need to get right’


  • it is important to normalise ‘difference’ or things that are considered ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people to do their work.


  • future-proofing and building a culture where staff wouldn’t have to feel the need to ask for special arrangements is the goal – how can we adopt principles of making work easier even if ‘not required’


Yes, it’s always possible

Are you thinking about the future of diversity, recruitment and development around skills in your organisation – particularly in readiness for the next phase of the digital age?


always possible is working on a number of projects focused on the future of digital skills and recruitment for the technology sector, in Essex, London, East Sussex, Brighton & Hove and West Sussex. If you would like to join one of our taskgroups, or co-design an event or project, then we can quickly help you to put your ideas in front of decision-makers.

Get in touch for more information.


Credit: Wired Sussex




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