Published 21. Oct. 2020
Mind The Talent Gap: Bridging The IT Shortage
Tech skills shortage is a concern that spans the industries, and companies everywhere are feeling the effects. What strategies can C-suites take to fill the gap, and why must C-level executives upskill their IT knowledge?
IT talent shortage is a top barrier for many industries as the business world advances steadily into the digital era.
In fact, Gartner’s survey discovered that global talent shortage is now the top emerging risk for organizations while 75% of enterprises are anticipating skills gaps in key IT roles post-outbreak.
What’s even more concerning is Korn Ferry Institute’s finding, which estimated a worldwide deficit of 4.3 million tech-skilled workers by 2030.
THE SHORTAGE PROBLEM
Although companies are aware of the importance of tech talents in the ever-changing digital landscape, recruiting much-needed IT professionals to close the talent gap is not an easy task.
Major reasons behind the digital skills shortage include:
Lack Of ICT Graduates
Representatives of the tech and education sectors believed there is a disconnect between tech employers and universities on the digital talent wanted by the industry, leading to ‘skills mismatch and unemployable graduates’.
One of the dilemmas is the speed of technology. The world is either churning out new inventions or updating existing technologies to the point that institutes are unable to keep up. Even when the universities are aligned with industry needs, 95% of the curriculums take roughly two years to change.
Shallow Pool Of Talent
With the demand for different skillsets, employers of today are not just wrestling with one digital talent gap but “hundreds of discrete shortages and surpluses”.
However, tech giants, such as Apple, Microsoft and Google, attract more than the fair share of available talent worldwide, and companies without the resources of the economic powerhouses are left at a disadvantage.
Outdated Workforce (& C-Level) Skills
Although the rapid progress of technology enables improved business efficiency, it also means that employee skillsets become obsolete quicker.
4 out of 10 workers fear they’ll lose their job within 5 years due to outdated skills while the World Economic Forum conveyed that “54% of all employees will require significant reskilling by 2022”. However, many don’t realize that the digital gap extends to the C-suites as well.
The MIT Sloan Management Review reported that upper-level executives are out of touch with the digital savviness required for these highly technological times, highlighting that less than 15% of surveyed executives believed their leaders have the right mindset and skills to lead in the digital economy.
BUILDING THE BRIDGE
The challenges of finding talents and upskilling workers while keeping pace with the speed of innovation seem like a herculean task. Thus, functions, from HR to the C-levels, must work closely with one another to discern and acquire the digital skills vital for a successful digitalized company.
Talent Management Strategies
Hiring is the top action companies across the regions take to solve IT shortage, followed by retraining and building skills, but many firms are ‘flying data blind’ in regards to the talents they require for their digital transformation.
SKILL GAP ANALYSIS
Conducting an IT skill gap analysis, such as the steps recommended by The Predictive Index or the template by Capterra, helps to pinpoint missing digital talents and crucial technical knowledge among employees in the company.
Once a clear plan on the necessary skills has been established, hiring managers will fully understand what talents to find and the required proficiency levels. But just that is not enough as organizations should continuously invest in talent acquisition capabilities, and nurture the talent pipeline to enable quicker business transformation.
DEPLOYING & UPSKILLING
Effective talent deployment is another method for minimizing the tech talent shortage. Companies should optimize their existing workforce by taking inventory of available digital talent, and deploying those with tech skills to essential key roles while training them to further advance their competencies.
On upskilling, organizations can organize peer mentoring or coaching sessions, where team members with digital tech skills are able to help hone the desired talents in other employees. It should be noted that mentoring may take considerable time before the skills are adequately learnt and applied, but is one of the least costly ways to upskill the workforce.
LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT (L&D)
Research found that 83% of workers global-wide want their leaders to provide opportunities to learn new skills whereas more than two-thirds wish their companies would increase the budget for digital skills development. These findings indicate that workers feel their employers are not doing enough to drive the talent growth of the staff.
Enterprises should ensure that their internal training anticipates upcoming shifts in technology, and be aware of the skills needed to meet digital transformation across the board. For instance, Adobe conducts its own skills-growth training for employees, offering intense machine learning training programs to both technical and non-technical staff.
New Sources Of Talents
As mentioned earlier, it’s a global race to attract the best tech talents. In an increasingly shallow pool of talent with industry sharks swiping top IT professionals, firms must seek other sources of talents to progress their digital transformation.
MINORITY TALENT GROUPS
Salesforce’s President, Miguel Milano, wrote that businesses should tap into underutilized seas of talents, such as minority groups and those without college education. Howard Elias, President of Services and Digital at Dell Technologies, corroborated with Milano’s statement, stating that Dell seeks to hire those who are traditionally underrepresented in tech, which include women, people with autism, and other groups largely excluded from the industry.
“Diversifying teams does more than solve a shortage of workers, it also makes good business sense,” Elias mentioned, citing McKinsey’s recent study that discovered companies with higher gender and ethnic diversities are more likely to record better financial returns.
VARYING EXPERIENCE LEVELS
The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, revealed how older IT professionals are being passed over by employers for much younger talents, despite the shortage of IT workers. The reasons behind the choice range from lack of skills in the artificial intelligence (AI) era to the cost of compensation packages.
However, the Executive Vice President of Robert Half, John Reed, believed that, “hiring managers can’t afford to overlook any potential talent pool” as companies will lose the advantage of having a team with varying experience levels to tackle different tech issues.
Another talent source is the gig economy. The emergence of the gig economy, or contract work, has significantly changed the traditional work dynamics, being dubbed as the ‘future of work’.
Reworked, a digital publication, commented that skills such as AI, natural language processing (NLP) and data engineering would be best filled by gig workers as “organizations are realizing they only need access to this skilled work for a limited time.”
START FROM THE TOP
Although companies should focus on training their workforce, the C-suites themselves must ensure that their digital skills are up-to-date. At the same time, CEOs and other C-level partners are encouraged to be actively involved in the development of corporate learning.
Chief Learning Officer (CLO)
Most organizations have an L&D department tasked with driving effective corporate learning. Oftentimes, though, the training programs either lack analytical data on determining the agenda or lack the adaptive advantage of innovating according to market conditions.
This is why it’s vital for CEOs to make learning a C-suite priority by designating a Chief Learning Officer (CLO) to head the L&D function. Industry giants such as General Electric and Merck, for instance, appoint CLOs to oversee the ‘corporate learnscape’, utilizing data, science and other relevant learning in the workflow.
Upskilling shouldn’t be limited to employees. Top executives should also scrutinize their C-suite tech skills inventory, and seek to improve their knowledge and experience in high technologies for greater chances of successful growth.
With the digital revolution strongly underway, the C-levels must have an intimate understanding of digital innovations and how they impact the organizations. Unfortunately, not all leaders comprehend technologies, as seen in the case of cloud transformation, which can cause misaligned goals and stalled projects.
Change of C-Level Mindset
Change is ever consistent, and leaders who are unwilling to embrace the technology-driven future of business risk falling behind their competitors, especially in the current time of remote working and digital business.
According to Management Events’ Executive Trend Survey, respondents stated that lack of experimentation and organizational support are top internal challenges when adopting new technologies in their companies, showing that some leaders are deeply rooted in the ‘legacy mindset’.
Before analyzing and closing the skills gap among the workforce, C-suites must ask themselves, “Are they equipped with the digital abilities and mindset to tackle the demands of the new economy?”
Many leaders may be ill-prepared to manage the tech skills gap, but that is why the whole executive team must come together to tackle the IT talent gap in today’s digital world – from HR leaders morphing into digital change agents able to drive talent strategies to respective C-levels analyzing missing skills and developing an integrated learning ecosystem.
There’s no single solution to address the digital skills shortage, and organizations may need a mix of approaches to close the gap. But whatever the case, businesses must start now to rectify the shortage of IT professionals and prepare actions for future talent disruptions.