It sometimes feels like the tech industry is performing a tightrope walk: Businesses need technology to keep their operations running effectively but, with an increasing lack of talent to operate them, are in danger of falling into a void where they simply can’t find the skilled workers they need.
If we were on a real tightrope, we’d be looking for ways to survive, whether through making the rope as sturdy as possible or adding something to the rope to create a better balance. As the skills gap lurches ever closer toward a crisis, it seems that little is happening to prevent us from falling.
How Diversity Can Help
This skills gap is particularly galling when we consider the state of diversity across much of the tech industry. When it comes to finding skilled employees, too many people fall into the trap of fishing from the same pond. Rather than looking to new talent pools, the sector stays rather homogenous.
Whether it’s frontline or management roles, the number of digital positions filled by women is still short of acceptable, which is especially worrying when the industry is so lacking in the talent to cope with demand. Around 25% of computing positions and only 5% of leadership roles in the tech industry are held by women.
While there are a number of ways companies can address the imbalance during the recruitment process, there are other ways you can improve business by improving diversity.
Why Upskilling Works
In fact, the solution to the skills gap often lies within your current workforce. Perhaps you have employees who possess those hard-to-find soft skills but don’t have technical competence in a new technology your company is investing in. You can train your current staff in this skill without having to go through the time-consuming and costly process of hiring. If you’re prepared to spend money on bringing a new person into the business, why not invest in training and certifications for an existing employee? It’s more cost-effective (especially in the short term) and less risky.
Upskilling not only helps address the skills gap in technology, but it also presents an opportunity for the industry to make real inroads when it comes to improving diversity and inclusion. For example, as women are more likely to take a career break due to caregiving responsibilities, upskilling can be a way to attract women into digital teams. Even if they’ve been out of the workforce for a while and have not kept up with the latest technology, you can upskill them into successful technical employees.
You can also cross-train and upskill interested women who are already part of your organization into a lucrative career in tech. When your culture embraces learning and development (L&D), you have access to a massive pool of talent that other businesses are missing out on in the scramble for technical professionals.
Of course, it’s not a quick fix. You won’t have a seasoned professional on your team in a matter of weeks. You’re making the equivalent of a junior hire, and it will take time to bring them up to speed. But you’re also investing in someone that you’re likely already familiar with and have faith in. Even more importantly, employees who know that you value their development are far more likely to stick around over the long term.
Start by conducting a skills gap analysis with your tech teams, making sure that the people who work directly with the technologies participate. After all, what you think they might need and what they actually need may be very different. Then, consider your company’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) policy and how your upskilling initiatives can support its goals. It’s no use cultivating a diverse range of talent into your tech teams if you don’t have a visible support network for them.
Upskilling isn’t just a way to solve the skills gap in technology. It’s also an important step the entire industry can take toward being more inclusive.