Today’s economic landscape has proved challenging for tech workers. As the tech industry has faced unprecedented challenges, organizations are still scrambling to ensure that their tech teams have the skills they need to drive innovation.

As a result, according to PluralSight’s 2023 report, 97% of human resources (HR) leaders are prioritizing internal talent over hiring for open positions. With the vast majority of HR and learning and development (L&D) leaders looking to leverage internal talent to solve technology challenges, this begs the question: How can learning leaders ensure that their organization’s people has the tech skills needed to thrive in today’s ever-changing tech landscape?

With new innovations, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) changing the tech ecosystem daily, it’s more important than ever to equip your technologists with the tools they need to thrive. In this article, we’ll review some key ways you can upskill internal tech talent for today’s business world and beyond.

Analyze Existing Skills Gaps

Research has proven that technical skills become outdated every 2.5 years on average. Tech teams are constantly battling against shifting goal posts of tech innovations, forcing teams to be agile and attuned to the latest technologies in their space.

In today’s workplace, there’re a myriad of tech skills gaps that are affecting the industry. According to PluralSight’s report, the top three technical skills to prioritize to drive business value are: cybersecurity, data science and cloud skills. Additionally, AI-related skills are quickly becoming an area of concern for technologists and technology leaders. Today, these skills are considered business-critical skills, so identifying and closing these skills gaps within your organization is particularly important.

Tools like skills assessments are key to identifying and closing tech skills gaps. Skills assessments are tools used by employers and individuals to gauge competency in key subject matter areas. Skills assessments can be powerful tools for pointing out skills gaps, allowing businesses to make data-driven decisions on how best to close those gaps. Research suggests that 87% of companies are aware that they already have a skills gap, or will have one within a few years. It’s likely that many of these gaps fall within technical skills, given the rapid advancement of technologies and tools.

Resources like skills assessments can also help ensure that technologists are getting the development opportunities that they truly need. Identifying skills gaps in your organization is a crucial step towards upskilling internal tech talent.

Provide the Time and Resources Needed for Upskilling

One of the key ways that you can support technologists in their upskilling journeys is to actually make upskilling a priority within your organization. This means providing upskilling resources such as on-demand training, hands-on learning labs and instructor-led training when appropriate. But it also means creating a safe, low-stakes learning environment during work hours to encourage tech workers to hone their skills on the job.

According to the report, nearly one-half of tech managers worry that learning on paid company time can have a negative impact on team productivity. With this mindset, managers may discourage their teams from using paid time to learn without realizing it. If your organization gives tech workers upskilling opportunities during the work week, make sure they also have a safe space in which they feel empowered to practice these skills.

It’s difficult to make time for upskilling when teams still have deadlines to meet. There’s a notion that upskilling during work hours can hinder productivity in the short-term, however, it’s important to remember that long-term success is more important than short-term productivity.

To hold onto your top talent during an economic downturn, you must continue to invest in upskilling by encouraging and enabling your employees to learn new skills and brush up on existing ones. Organizations can do this by cultivating a culture of learning at all levels. Empower tech workers to learn and gain new capabilities to accelerate success in their careers.

Upskilling to Future-Proof your Workforce

Investing in your tech workers’ skills does more than protect your strategic investments in the here and now — it can be the difference between your organization being a tech leader or a tech laggard in the future.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, technological change has accelerated. Because of this, tech skills that were relevant and fresh just two years ago may be completely obsolete today. In today’s technological climate, the very skill you must teach your tech teams is how to learn continuously.

A McKinsey article states that, “Learning itself is a skill, and developing it is a critical driver of long-term career success.” Instead of focusing only on short-term skills and development needs, such as enabling your developers with generative AI, the more important focus should be on how you can future-proof your tech teams by giving them the tools they need to learn emerging technologies in real time.

This involves a combination of the tactics we’ve already discussed — identifying and working to close skills gaps, dedicating time and resources for your technologists to upskill themselves during work hours and sharing a vision of what a technology-enabled future looks like for your organization. During times of economic uncertainty, developing your existing technologists is incredibly important. Now more than ever, business leaders need to cultivate the tech talent they need to power their future from within.