The world’s workforce is facing a technology skills crisis. As companies from all industries deal with the fact that digital-first strategies and emergent technologies are key to an organization’s longevity, it’s become an indisputable fact that all companies must now become tech companies. However, recent research shows that up to 76% of the workforce does not yet feel skilled in the technologies that their organizations are adopting.
Pluralsight’s 2021 State of Upskilling Report showed that the COVID-19 pandemic, The Great Resignation and the rise of remote work widened technology skills gaps. Among these deficiencies in skills, gaps in emergent technologies such as cloud, cybersecurity and data storage were the highest. It is now imperative for leaders in all industries to address the skills gaps within their organizations in order to survive.
The good news for leaders looking to upskill their teams is that the majority of technologists are also eager for learning and development (L&D). In fact, according to the same report, job satisfaction is directly correlated to an organization’s prioritization of upskilling.
For the majority of organizations, the best way to weather the current tech skills shortage is to invest in developing your existing workforce. Here are some ways that you can upskill your organization to build winning technology teams.
Make Skills Development Programmatic
The first step in developing your technology workforce is to build a programmatic approach to upskilling. In order for real change to be made in an organization, business leaders must create concrete processes for implementing that change. According to Forbes, organizational change necessitates securing executive buy-in for new initiatives, making data-driven decisions to improve business outcomes and pushing for cultural change.
In the context of tech skills development, creating a culture of learning within your organization is key. At Pluralsight, the skills team is constantly looking for ways to make programmatic and cultural changes that encourage continuous learning within tech teams. Specifically, we set aside two hours every other week as protected learning time. No meetings are allowed to be scheduled over that time period. The goal with this block of time is to create a safe environment to enable individuals to spend time investing in themselves and deepening their tech skills. We don’t force anyone to take skills assessments or participate in training, it’s simply to allow our team members time to address their skills gaps and to signal that upskilling is a priority for us.
Additionally, business leaders need to view having an operationalized upskilling program as a strategic imperative rather than a “nice to have.” The key here is committing time, effort and resources to ensuring that your tech teams have what they need to close their skills gaps. According to McKinsey, the companies that invest in closing their tech talent gaps will be the most successful in the era of digital transformation. The investment that you put into upskilling your technology teams will pay dividends in the future, strengthening your organization’s ability to react to emergent technologies and deliver value to your customers.
Focus on Building Future-proof Teams
Today, a key focus for many leaders is building agile technology teams. The agile methodology responds to a growing problem – the need for tech teams to deliver products and updates quickly in an accelerating digital environment. According to research from the Harvard Business Review, agile rollouts are tricky, with nearly 90% of business leaders surveyed saying they have had some difficulty in becoming agile on an organizational scale. In order for organizations to be truly agile, they must promote a culture of continuous learning and upskilling.
Technology is advancing at the fastest rate it has in human history. Because of this, tech skills that were relevant and fresh just two years ago may be completely obsolete today. In today’s work climate, it is not enough to only focus on building specific tech skills that serve your business in the here and now. Instead, you must embed learning in the flow of work for your tech teams.
As quoted in a McKinsey article: “Learning itself is a skill, and developing it is a critical driver of long-term career success.” What does this mean for business leaders? It means that rather than thinking only about your short-term skills development needs, such as getting your engineers up to speed on the cloud, 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 is not deemphasizing the importance of coordinated learning efforts for specific skills gaps. Instead, it highlights that tech teams who adopt a daily learning mindset may never have to play “catch up” to learn new technologies but instead, will naturally keep pace with new innovations.
Create Talent, Don’t Just Consume It
The Great Resignation has shed light on the importance of human-centric leadership that focuses on the growth and development of individual contributors. As droves of tech workers quit their jobs in search of more fulfilling work in the past two years, it has become clear that organizations need to do more to decrease burnout and to show that they are invested in the well-being of their employees. At Pluralsight, we have become fond of the idea that organizations should aspire to be creators, rather than consumers, of talent.
What does it mean to be a creator of talent? It means that as tech talent becomes harder to hire, business leaders must look internally for the tech talent that they desperately seek. By investing in upskilling and workforce development, organizations can create tech talent pipelines from within their organization. One example of a company that has taken the initiative to create tech talent from within is the vision care provider 1-800 Contacts. Through their CTAC University training program, 1-800 Contacts has upskilled workers within the company that began in non-tech roles, filling their open tech positions from the inside.
Being a creator rather than a consumer of talent doesn’t end with using your internal talent to bolster your tech teams, though. The idea encompasses a broader ethic of investing in your employees so that they have the space to learn and grow, strengthening their own career trajectories. Tech skills gaps can be a daunting challenge for any organization, but by prioritizing the holistic learning journeys of your employees, business leaders can begin closing the gaps — one day at a time.