Information technology (IT) departments have been hit hard by the events of the past several years. Even in cases where businesses have been able to thrive in the new normal, turning digital disruption to their advantage, this has come at the cost of a steeply increased workload for IT workers.

IT departments had their hands full prior to the pandemic, but they found themselves dealing with a plethora of new issues arising from organization-wide digital transformations. Departments that seldom relied on IT support in the past suddenly required solutions to help them move their operations to the cloud or to enhance existing business processes using new tools and technology.

“Every portion of a business has figured out that they need a digital transformation,” says Apratim Purakayastha, chief technology officer of Skillsoft. “Digital transformation in marketing, for example, is putting a strain on IT departments that wasn’t there before.”

Adding to the increased workload is the expectation that IT workers are now pulling data from various platforms and tools, in order to aid with big-picture analytics, explains Amir Hofman, chief product officer at CloudShare. Major collaboration platforms offer a variety of ways to understand and improve employee efficiency — but it can be challenging for people without a background in IT to understand and utilize these features.

New Needs, New Roles

With the expectations on IT departments growing at a seemingly exponential rate, it’s no surprise that companies are hiring to fill more gaps in their IT coverage. For instance, specialty areas like cybersecurity have grown in importance as more business is being conducted online, leading to an increase in security risks.

When hiring to fill IT gaps, leaders must be mindful of how they choose to fill open job roles. It can be tempting to hire for specific skills, but with the shelf-life of skills shrinking, those skills may soon be outdated. “You can’t replace people fast enough to keep up with trends in technology,” says Purakayastha. “It makes far more sense to retrain an existing employee.” Reskilling or upskilling current workers has the added benefit of preserving company culture — something that takes much longer, and is much more difficult to instill into a new hire than specific technical skills. “Retraining, growing with the job … has to be seen as part of the job.”

Upskilling IT Professionals

Technology has driven advancements in training delivery modalities, enabling organizations to provide employees with a more robust learning experience. For instance, blended learning is a popular method for IT training, which uses a variety of training methods to meet the needs of employees.

“In a blended model, we see classroom learning and as-needed, in-the-flow-of-work models existing as complements to one another, rather than one mode dominating,” Purakayastha says. “I wouldn’t pit them against each other; I would put them in a continuum of needs.”

Training Industry research has shown that using multiple modalities of training is the most effective way to reach a diverse spectrum of learners. By offering a variety of modalities, you can increase the likelihood that one of your approaches will engage each learner. Since engagement is an essential step in successful learning, accounting for learner preferences can make or break your training’s impact.

Additionally, incorporating hands-on mentoring as part of a blended learning experience can help to engage (and retain) new hires as they adjust to their new IT role. Having new employees assist with solving real-time company problems and challenges is a great way to get IT professionals onboarded or upskilled more quickly, explains Richard Mosley, global client director at Universum. This allows new hires to see how their work directly impacts business results and provides the organization with a fresh perspective on an existing business challenge.

Mosley also recommends paying attention to what new employees are looking for in an employer and consider how their goals can align with those of the organization. “Opportunities to contribute their ideas and get involved in new initiatives, community initiatives and other socially responsible programs,” are areas that he’s seen young IT professionals take an interest in.

Keeping Pace With Change

One thing remains certain: The changes that we’ve been seeing are not likely to slow down anytime soon. For organizations to effectively support their IT workers, they will need to re-examine the ways in which IT training is delivered.

Stepping away from work for formal training is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s workplace. IT professionals need accessible training resources available in the flow of work to keep up with the pace of digital change and transformation. Organizations that prioritize upskilling will help to future-proof their workforce by building the skills employees need now and into the future — which can lead to a positive impact on the bottom line.