LinkedIn Learning’s 2019 “Workplace Learning Report” discusses the demand for soft skills and hard skills that are in critically short supply. The report understandably priotizies soft skills; after all, the need for communication skills and critical thinking isn’t new, and it isn’t unique to enterprises. Soft skills are essential to every kind of business, whether it’s an e-commerce giant or the neighborhood burger joint. However, in the digital age, it’s the hard skills that have become the make-or-break factor in an organization’s ability to compete or even to stay in business. Of those desperately needed hard skills, the ones at the very top of LinkedIn’s list are related to cloud computing.

Why Are Cloud Skills in Such Short Supply?

The answer lies in the technology itself. The cloud has been widely available for barely a decade. In that short time period, it has gone from being the engine of quirky start-ups to being the must-have enabler of innovation in every credible enterprise. In fact, according to Forrester research, nearly 60% of North American companies run on public cloud platforms today, an increase of 500% in just the past six years.

According to a report from Gartner, the cloud services industry will grow at three times the pace of overall IT services between now and 2022. The report forecasts a growth in cloud spending of 17.5% this year, for a total market worth more than $214 billion. It also anticipates that more than 30% of technology providers’ new software investments will shift from cloud-first to cloud-only, meaning that SaaS and subscription-based cloud consumption models will continue to eat into the market for license-based software.

The exponential growth of the cloud relates to more than just sales. There’s also been nonstop innovation in its technology. Before the cloud, you could hire with the confidence that your new employee’s skills would be relevant for several years. You also had some confidence in your ability to retain the person throughout those years of peak productivity. That certainty no longer exists.

Consider the cloud trends of just the past five years. The early insistence on a total migration to the cloud has been replaced by a more realistic understanding that many organizations still want some apps hosted in their own data centers. As a result, there’s now a need for expertise in running hybrid cloud solutions, such as Outposts from AWS. And there’s more: The hunger for rapid innovation means that your DevOps people need to be skilled in handling products like Kubernetes and Istio. Plus, with last fall’s announcement of Firecracker by AWS, we’re seeing a heightened interest in serverless computing. With predictions that the world’s inventory of internet-connected devices will grow to 20 billion by 2020, you can look forward to an even greater focus on edge computing and other technologies linked to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Yes, the cloud has enabled unprecedented innovation, but it’s also created a problem: Harnessing the cloud’s innovation requires skilled personnel, and they are becoming increasingly difficult to find. In fact, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2022, the talent pool for emerging technologies will fall short of global demand by at least 30%. In the pre-digital age, a shortage of skilled personnel was frustrating and costly. In the world of cloud-driven enterprise, it will be catastrophic.

All of these trends lead to a crucial question: How will you ensure that your organization has the right skills to make full use of the cloud? You can hire for those skills, certainly, but it won’t be a sustainable strategy. You’ll be in constant bidding wars for the right people, and their skills might be outdated a year from now. And, of course, the people who join you in this year’s bidding war might leave you during the next one. Clearly, the better strategy in the era of the cloud is to cultivate your needed skills among the loyal people you already have on board. This approach requires a commitment not only to training but to ongoing training.

In the pre-digital age, training was an occasional event, and it was seldom mission-critical. Today, the survival and success of the digital enterprise depends on a philosophy of lifelong learning. A commitment to continual training ensures that your people’s skills will always be fresh and relevant for your organization’s challenges. And it will help with the retention of those people and their skills, because it will demonstrate the high value you assign to your personnel and their contributions.

There’s no question that continual training is a major investment, but it’s far less expensive than the costs that don’t appear as line items — such as people who can’t fulfill their potential, missed opportunities or sales that go to a competitor. Today’s best professional training providers structure their offerings to fit this new emphasis on lifelong learning. They understand the importance of streamlining the logistics of skill-building so that it delivers maximum benefit and cost-effectiveness with minimal disruption to your business.

It’s undeniable: Cloud automation has become the lifeblood of the future-ready enterprise. The only question that remains is how prepared your business will be to share in the cloud’s true potential.

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