Academy Xi Blog

Help! I can’t find good digital talent!

By Academy Xi

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Expert tips on finding good digital talent 

We sat with Ainsley Johnstone (Think Talent) and Will Phillips (Academy Xi) to chat about the challenges & weigh up the possible solutions of hiring digital talent. With years of experience in recruitment and talent services, here are some strategies for tackling the talent crisis.

If you missed our webinar or want to watch it again, check out the full recording.

Takeaway 1: Recruitment-wise, 2021 is the opposite of 2020.

Ainsley: The situation year to year has changed dramatically. In 2020, the recruitment industry was significantly impacted by the pandemic. We experienced an immediate 70% drop in revenue and pipeline. The talent market then experienced a glut of candidates into the market. The important point here is that we became accustomed to the idea that the market was ‘job short and candidate rich’. What’s happened in 2021 is that the market has done a complete flip. What’s been challenging has been the speed at which this change occurred. I now have no problem in terms of job pipeline but Ii’m forced to think day and night about where to find good digital and tech talent and how to engage and access that talent in competition to others.

Takeaway 2: When hiring, creativity can lead to competitiveness. 

Ainsley: Beyond simply being competitive in terms of salary, there are optimisations that you can make to your hiring process to make sure that you are ‘in the game’.

  • How do we change the way that we engage around candidate assessment? 
  • Can we reduce those five assessment hurdles down so that the overall process takes a reasonable investment of time?
  • Can we take more risk with certain segment groups by bringing them on much sooner and letting them do the assessment in the workplace? 

Will: I see that startups are winning in the current market as they are more open to bringing on someone that may be a bit less senior. They can create an opportunity for someone to step up. This helps them mitigate the battle for more senior candidates they can’t necessarily afford.

Takeaway 3: Speed is ‘king’ when securing placements 

Ainsley: Lack of speed from organisations kills placement. What we are seeing with our clients is that if they take up too much time over the recruitment process, it has a really significant impact on their hiring outcome. Businesses need to go back to basics. It’s really important that they enter the recruitment process with a really clear understanding of: i) what they can and can’t pay ii) understanding of the talent market iii) what the market rates are iv) whether or not they’re actually going to be in the market v) and if so, what percentile will they occupy in the market. Businesses that do these things know what top talent looks like. They’re not being held up by approvals or going up and down the line trying to establish parameters.

Takeaway 4: The winners are those who are acting now

Will: Businesses need to create some urgency around addressing their hiring challenges and understand that things are probably going to be like this for a while now. The talent is there. The businesses that are setting themselves apart are those who are harnessing the current climate, investing in things like capability uplift programs and graduate programs, and are in turn creating space for employees to provide support to less senior talent that they bring into their businesses

Takeaway 5: Succession planning is more than a ‘nice to have’

Will: I am seeing a lack of foresight in terms of succession planning from organisations. There isn’t the creating or shifting of resources to focus on upscaling new employees from a junior or mid level. It’s a really shared problem across the digital and tech space. I think what we need to see is you know a bit of a mindset shift.

Ainsley: I believe that organisations want to bring in talent that needs to be developed but they are already operating in challenging, complex environments. They also can be  under-resourced so it can be hard for them to prioritise building out that talent in flight.

What did we learn from you?

We asked our audience questions during the webinar. This is what you told us.

In a recent poll we conducted, almost 8 out of 10 participants shared that they’re feeling the pinch of finding good talent. In fact, Gartner reports that it is even harder today than 3-4 years ago to plan for, find and hire the talent we need. 

When asked about the reasons behind this, our participants shared that they’re struggling to find candidates with the right mix of skills (32%), candidates are demanding higher salaries than ever (21%), and that the skills are always rapidly changing (21%).

Software engineering roles are the hardest to fill followed by UX UI Designers. 


Our poll results give us an insight in a compacted labor market where organisations are struggling to find the talent they need in order to drive their businesses forward. We can help you transform your workforce. We have talent programs designed to reskill existing staff, source external candidates or provide access to our own talent pipeline including Australia’s best design, tech, data, business and digital talent. Contact us to learn more.

About our panellists

Ainsley Johnstone. Founder & CEO, Think Talent.

Ainsley Johnstone leads an award-winning recruitment agency (Think Talent) which focuses on how people, customers and digital technology intersect to create powerful outcomes. An entrepreneur at heart, Ainsley enjoys strategically engaging talent and building employment brand equity that will enable growth and vision.

Will Phillips. Head of Talent Services, Academy Xi

Will heads up Academy Xi’s Career Support & Talent Services arm which connects skilled graduates with workplaces in need of exceptional talent. He draws on a working career involving career coaching, recruitment and talent scouting. As the demand for future technology skills grows, Will and his team provide solutions.