It’s not news to any of us that we have a serious workforce gap in the tech world. Experts predict the global talent shortage to surpass 85 million by 2030, which translates to $8.5 trillion annually in lost revenue.[i] The most serious gaps in ICT exist where the channel builds its business. This shortage has the potential to hold back emerging tech at a crucial time in our history. As Alan Guarino, vice chairman at Korn Ferry, puts it, “Technology is the thread that runs across every aspect of business.”[ii]

So, there’s a lot of change afoot. Layoffs and restructures will subside, but rapid technological change is only escalating. Which means that re-skilling our workforce to stay relevant is here to stay.

These changes affect us all: vendors, partners, customers and individual workers alike. The big question for most partners I talk to is, “how do we attract and retain people—the right people—without breaking the bank?” For individuals in tech, it’s “how do I stay relevant, how do I find a new job—how can I still flourish in this industry? The question for us all is: “how do we build a strong, diverse global workforce that can help us best serve our customers, build our business, and create a future that realizes our collective vision?”

I believe we start by bringing the channel’s hiring framework into the modern era. It’s time to start thinking differently about talent. The traditional framework for identifying and developing talent is falling short of addressing our new digital and customer realities. We need a new, better roadmap to help us close the workforce gap—for today and for the future.

Three forces have collided to create this need for a new way of hiring:

  1. Tech continues to be enormously important, no matter the state of the economy. Most future jobs will have tech in their title or touch the technology stack and most partners will be expected to provide that talent.
  2. Remote work and the digitization of work have reshaped where, when, and how we work— not to mention how we service our customers. Hiring has become more challenging and more complicated; being service-oriented, as much of the channel is now, requires a more inclusive approach.
  3. We are moving towards the singularity that Ray Kurzweil has predicted for almost 20 years. As AI drives workflow a, the nature and role of human work will transform. This creates a stress point for partners, who struggle to align their talent with their customers’ needs in this new era.

The human element

There’s much to be excited about here. What’s really going to differentiate us as we march toward singularity is the human element. In other words, the advance of technology is giving us more space to be more human.

So how do we get there? What does a new hiring framework look like? I call it the Five Cs for Channel Talent. We’re all in this together, so whether you’re a partner looking to hire or retain talent, searching for ways to grow your business, or an individual seeking out new job opportunities, the Five Cs roadmap will help you get there.

A note before we get started: we don’t have to start from scratch. The Five Cs correspond to terms we’ve used in the past, but they’re retooled for the tech world of today and tomorrow.


When you look at a candidate, this is about the skills they have, the knowledge they’ve acquired, the things they can do. This is not a new concept—skills and knowledge made up pretty much our entire previous framework. But now it’s just one of five areas to consider.

The new version of competencies doesn’t see a person as an automaton, a box to check. Instead of focusing on degrees and general skills, we need adaptable baseline competencies that map to the role we’re hiring or interviewing for. If we hire for people with generic skills these days, those skills may be outdated or even unnecessary before we know it. If we hire or retain for specific tech skills, the same applies. We need talent maps for how competencies will evolve over time for our individuals and our teams, so we can hire the right people for those maps.

As competencies become less about general, up-front skills, they’re also becoming more about “soft skills.” Can a person write? Put an argument together? Create a good customer proposal together? As Warren Buffett says, “The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are … is to hone your communication skills.”

With scaled-down competencies used in the new hiring process, where do people acquire the rest of the skills they need on that job? The most successful companies will have the best in-house certifications, the best trainings to get people up and running with their technology. Cisco certifications have long been an industry benchmark in demonstrating competencies for partners. We continually evolve how we provide the skills our partners need: skills they can consume and apply to their business.


Partners now hire for aptitude. They look for people who want to learn, who can keep up with the new pace of technological change. It’s no longer “do you know these software programs?” but “can you quickly learn new software programs?” Not “do you know Webex?” but “can you show clients how to use Webex to improve their collaboration?”

When you’re a knowledge worker, it’s all about what you can learn, unlearn and re-learn. If you stay relevant and stay curious, there’s always a job for you.


Here I’m talking about the characteristics, the attributes of a person rather than their moral standing.The notion of character you’re looking for now for is no longer universal. The point is to match a person’s character to the job you’re hiring for, and to the clients your partner firm may serve. Can they talk to a technical person or a non-technical person? Are they collaborative or a great individual contributor? We talk about collaboration being a key attribute these days, but there are plenty of jobs that don’t require it in data analytics and data science. What are the characteristics you need for this job?


This is my favorite of the Five Cs. It’s the ability to ask questions, to find out why things don’t work and how they could work. It’s a matter of mindset. Some people will say, “I can’t do this because of X.” A curious person will wonder, “what if I did Y—maybe I could overcome X?”

Curiosity means keeping up with the times, especially as change accelerates. Continuously learning, continuously bettering yourself and your teams. For a partner firm to evolve and stay relevant, it needs people who can do the same. A curious workforce translates into business expansion and customer impact.


Most channel firms have a unique culture. And it’s more and more important these days, especially to workers. The culture question used to be just from the employer’s perspective: “Will you fit with my team? Can we work with this person?” Which opens the door for unconscious bias to influence the hiring decision. But culture is reciprocal now. Today’s workers are asking, “will the company accept me? Do I want to work with them?”

Culture goes beyond fitting in. A company’s culture is shaped by its purpose, and people want to work for a partner firm whose purpose they believe in. Especially early in their careers, they’re wanting to know, “what work does this company do in the community? Do I really want to work for a company that has questionable labor practices in a developing country? That lacks a sustainability agenda?”

At Cisco, we attract candidates because of our sense of purpose, our determination to power an inclusive future for all.

Hiring for the future

Change happens at lightning speed in the tech channel these days. We’re all on one fabulous journey into the future. When you hire based on these Five Cs, you’re hiring for that future. These competencies help us join forces with the people who can take the journey with us. Who can do the things that machines can’t. Who are creative, curious, empathetic. Who share our purpose. Who help us all be more human. And that’s the magic equation.

Want more? Then listen in on my conversation with Janet Schijns, host of the Channel Smart Podcast. Together we explore this topic in more depth! Check it out!


Listen to our Podcast here!


If you’re looking for a simplified talent sourcing platform connecting you to diverse global talent, where you can apply these 5 Cs, use the Talent Bridge program.


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[i] https://www.kornferry.com/insights/this-week-in-leadership/talent-crunch-future-of-work

[ii] https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/fandd/issues/2019/03/global-competition-for-technology-workers-costa



Alexandra Zagury

Vice President, Partner Managed Services and aaS Sales

Global Partner Organization