Technology is fantastic, making advances with earth-shattering speed that help us achieve more, connect with each other and do things that a mere decade ago we wouldn’t have believed possible.
Even previously technophobic businesses are beginning to warm to the idea of digital transformation as cutting-edge developments become more accessible, widespread and — crucially — essential for those who want to remain competitive.
Technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum, though. To achieve the most out of the tools on offer, businesses need to employ people who know how to use them. But finding and keeping professionals with the high-caliber skills needed to drive their vision is becoming increasingly challenging.
The Global Skills Crisis
Given technology’s well-publicized skills gap, keeping up with the latest developments isn’t as straightforward as implementing a new platform and hiring the developer, administrator or consultant of your dreams. There simply aren’t enough technical professionals to meet the ever-growing demand, and the ones who are in the market can’t always upskill quickly enough to keep pace with the changing landscape.
Traditional education establishments are too unwieldy to overhaul their syllabuses in response to every emerging trend, at least not at the speed that would be necessary to turn out skilled graduates by the time the trend hits the market.
So, how can businesses gain the skill sets they need in the face of a worldwide talent shortage? It could be time for them to shift their focus inward.
Creating a Culture of Lifelong Learning
Even if you’re able to find and attract professionals with the skills you need today, it’s only half the battle. If you want long-term success and viability, you need to be thinking about what you might need tomorrow. And, in an age of rapidly evolving technology, “tomorrow” is closer than ever. In fact, the World Economic Forum estimated last year that 54% of all employees will have to upskill and reskill considerably by 2022.
In an already tight talent market, it’s clear that organizations that want up-to-the-minute technical skills can’t rely exclusively on external recruitment to fill these positions. It’s easy to believe that the hypothetical next hire will solve your organization’s skills gap, but in reality, it takes a business-wide shift in focus to nurture the talent you need.
In an effort to ensure they have the right skills and offset the effects of the sector’s talent crunch, many businesses are stepping up their internal training efforts, concentrating on equipping existing employees with new skills. These organizations are fostering a culture of lifelong learning and benefiting not only from cutting-edge knowledge and skills but also from the boosted productivity that comes with content employees who feel like they have the opportunity to grow.
Your current employees are your secret weapon when it comes to developing technical know-how. They’re obviously talented (you hired them, after all), and they already understand your business. You know what their strengths are and where they’ll excel. You just need to help them do so.
Pay for certifications and certificates. Send employees to events. Invite industry leaders to hold seminars and workshops at your company. A recent survey of the ServiceNow community asked tech professionals whether their employers had contributed toward the cost of their certifications. Roughly two-thirds reported that their employers paid for their certifications. That support is the kind of encouragement you should offer your employees.
Of course, all of this upskilling costs money. But so does hiring new staff — and replacing the ones who leave because they feel like they’re stagnating. Good training comes at a premium, but you can also foster that culture of learning by giving your teams time for self-directed learning, individually or as a group. For example, set aside one afternoon each week for online courses, working in sandboxes, or going off site to take part in local courses.
Setting up spaces where employees can share what they’ve learned with their teams is also a great way to disseminate knowledge and encourage enthusiasm about learning. Mentoring programs are another essential tool for businesses that want to promote lifelong education. It helps employees grow, nurtures soft skills like people management and prevents all the eggs you’ve invested in developing from going into one basket.
Training: The Turnover Killer
The technology sector has the highest turnover rate of any industry, so working toward retaining the technical professionals under your roof is critical. Offering a development path and access to training in house is an incentive for technical employees not only to join your organization but to stay there. The opportunity to learn is among the top reasons candidates accept job offers.
One-job careers may be a thing of the past, but if you give employees space and support to develop the skills that your business needs, you can not only reap the benefits from having home-grown technical experts on your team but slash turnover, too.