For the past six months, the once-reliable tech industry has been plagued by layoffs, with the BBC reporting that jobs are being cut at the second-fastest rate ever. But at the same time, the government has put new plans in place to position the U.K. as a science and technology superpower by 2030, in part by funding a wide range of cutting-edge technology projects.
New technologies demand new skill sets. Yet, according to recent O’Reilly research, the U.K.’s shortage of skilled workers is not abating as the demand for technical knowledge grows. While more flexible working arrangements have eased some of the geographical and work-life restrictions on the labor pool, U.K. tech companies still lag behind in crucial fields like cybersecurity, software architecture and data analysis.
When there are fewer open positions, employees tend to stay in their current jobs. But even in this turbulent market and with the looming threat of a recession, demand is still high. So it’s no time to get complacent or reduce investment in your staff. In fact, doing so may have negative consequences. According to the most recent CIPD research, U.K. workers are increasingly seeking employment with companies that offer clear opportunities for professional advancement. If you don’t offer such opportunities, you’re likely to lose people to competitors that do. Are you willing to take that risk?
Despite short-term economic volatility, technical talent retention and retraining are unquestionably essential for long-term success. More-educated workers boost productivity within the organization, which plays an integral part in helping the U.K. maintain its leadership in the global and local tech markets. But given that it’s difficult to find employees with the most sought-after skills, British tech companies must rethink how they fill such gaps.
Educating the Workforce to Stay Ahead
The days of hiring talent with the exact skills you need are numbered. Considering the speed at which tech evolves, even the most recent of graduates may not have a firm grasp on the latest and most important tools and technologies. To ensure they have the talent they need to stay ahead, tech companies will need to accelerate their training efforts.
This requires organizations to reevaluate their skills requirements, recruitment and on-the-job education policies. For example, if fewer university graduates enter the workforce, employers will have to relax degree requirements. And these new employees won’t just need training in tech. Businesses will have to facilitate learning in collaboration, writing and critical thinking, too.
Concentrate on Engaging Staff to Keep Them on Board
Career pathing and development help tech companies retain their key people and sustain momentum when adopting new innovations. But to do so effectively, organizations must first have a clear understanding of their corporate objectives. Only then can they identify skills gaps within teams that may cause roadblocks in achieving these goals.
With a clear understanding of a team’s strengths and weaknesses, companies can create a customized training plan that targets their specific development needs. While many companies plan to increase spending on skills such as cybersecurity, software architecture and data analysis, they should also help teams to develop soft skills like communication, teamwork, leadership and problem-solving. These skills are often just as important as technical expertise and can help team members become more effective in their roles.
Lifelong Learning to Move the Business Forward
Tech companies also need to instill a culture of lifelong learning across the entire organization. Motivate staff members to take on new challenges, look for opportunities for professional development and impart their knowledge to others. The result? Increased employee engagement, improved teamwork and a more expansive sense of community.
Keep in mind that learning doesn’t have to mean reading a stack of books or attending a weeklong tech conference. “Learning in the flow of work” describes a paradigm in which users learn something and put it to use, all without having to stop working. This is different from traditional learning approaches like reading a book or going to a seminar to increase your knowledge of a particular subject. Those have their place, but the “learning in the flow” approach to learning and development (L&D) equips staff with the resources they need to quickly find answers at their point of need. For example, consider a software engineer who’s at an impasse but is able to easily find a line of code to get unstuck so they can move on.
During the workday, people simply don’t have the time to read an entire book cover-to-cover to learn a new technology. In fact, the majority of learning interactions with members of the technical community (engineers, analysts and other technical professionals) involve “in the moment of need” technical support — it accounts for about 50% of all learning interactions on the O’Reilly learning platform. These staff members aren’t necessarily searching for a deep dive; instead, they’re trying to narrow down information, identify technical solutions, look over code fragments or find quick fixes to the problems they’re currently facing. That lets them focus on high-value, business-critical projects instead of getting bogged down by tedious daily tasks or technological challenges.
With the right learning partner, organizations can encourage innovation to move their business forward. Think about providing training opportunities in the flow of work for your teams through a reputable L&D partner who can customize materials to their specific learning preferences and goals. Employees will be able to overcome obstacles faster, learn and develop fresh skills, generate new business opportunities — and perhaps most importantly, stay to keep doing it again and again.
Without a doubt, the coming years will bring new difficulties for tech leaders to overcome. As technological change quickens, so do the demands on businesses to cut expenses, boost output and maintain their competitiveness in the face of a widening technical skills gap. For teams to succeed in the face of ongoing disruption (and close critical skills gaps), there needs to be a greater investment in training and learning solutions. Tech leaders should open up opportunities for training in the flow of work, supported by a more extensive organizational culture of continuous learning.
In the meantime, it’s equally crucial for businesses to take into account alternative educational pathways, such as hiring and then training individuals without university degrees and upskilling their current labor pools. In the end, businesses can retain their best talent and set themselves up for long-term success in the face of economic volatility and technological disruption by investing in the skills and development of their current employees.