Employee reskilling and upskilling is the need of the hour for large enterprises. A massive shift from analog to digital is making it a strategic imperative to retrain workers in new skills and competencies.
According to the World Economic Forum, over 130 million new roles will exist worldwide over the next decade as businesses re-factor the division of labor between humans and machines. The demand for technical skills such as programming, cybersecurity, and network management will continue to grow. Corporations must find a way to address the lack of technical skills if they want to remain competitive.
Many within the IT space have been concerned about the lack of technical skills for years. However, that lack did not directly impact a business’s ability to compete — until recently. Now that the problem reaches every aspect of an organization’s operation, the demand to acquire technical skills has become crucial. Without the needed skills, an organization’s ability to deploy new technologies and remain competitive declines. And, CIOs are being tasked with fixing the decades-old problem. So how do CIOs address the labor skills gap?
Employee Reskilling Strategy Starts with a Gap Analysis
A gap analysis is a process in which companies determine where they are and where they want to be. For CIOs, it means identifying the needed skills and the existing skills. The difference is the gap that needs to be filled. In the past, CIOs would look to hire individuals with the necessary skills. Today, hiring is still an option, but a very expensive one. A recent survey found that aside from help desk personnel, an IT hire with no experience would demand a salary between $80,000 to $125,000. The cost does not include benefits or incentives.
For many CIOs, the need isn’t for someone who can migrate an enterprise to the cloud as much as someone who has enough cloud-computing knowledge and experience to support a cloud implementation. The same applies to machine learning technologies. IT departments need individuals who understand AI so when an AI solution is purchased they can ensure that the organization can fully utilize it.
Cybersecurity is another area where supply falls short of demand. It is estimated that the worldwide demand for cybersecurity jobs will be 3.5 million in 2021. With the growth in cybercrime, organizations not only need people with cybersecurity training, but they also need individuals who understand how to work with automated tools. Data management professionals have the skills needed to work with volumes of data for analytics or machine learning implementations, but organizations need these individuals to understand how to best support these data-intensive solutions.
Filling the gap is more than finding a skill. These gaps need to be filled by employees who can ensure that a company is getting a return on its technology investment. It’s easy to look at what skills are needed in terms of people — a cybersecurity specialist or a database administrator — instead of looking at the specific application of the skills. CIOs need to be more focused on talent that can ensure the solution supports both a business and technical strategy.
Employee Reskilling Requires Mentoring, Training, and Coursework
Reskilling IT personnel starts with business strategies. What are the business initiatives for the next two or three years? What skills are needed to support those initiatives? Many companies are moving to the cloud for more functionality so what types of skills are needed?
Cloud computing covers a range of skills, depending on the role. For example, cloud architects are responsible for computing strategies and need skills in multiple operating systems, networking, programming, and security. Someone working in cloud services needs knowledge of how public clouds operate as well as governance and automation. A cloud application developer needs to understand how to scale applications. Organizations expect that CIOs will know which skills are necessary, so the IT department can successfully move to the cloud.
Cloud computing is just one area with a skills gap. What happens when a company does not have the technical knowledge to support an AI solution? Then, there’s a need for mobile application developers as more customers increase their use of smartphones. How does a CIO deliver such a diverse skill set?
According to McKinsey, a tailored upskilling plan is essential to the success of a retraining program. The plan should reflect the requirements for anyone in a given role. An individualized path can be created that evolves based on an employee’s skill set. Training plans must be agile if they are to address changing business environments. That’s why, a plan should include iterative steps that allow for swift adjustments without disruption.
Partnering with Education Industry
When looking to reskill IT staff, CIOs should look at forming partnerships with educational institutions. Recent changes in their business models have made institutions of higher learning more open to collaborative endeavors. This openness presents numerous opportunities to help bridge the skills gap.
Reskilling isn’t just about technical skills. As more cross-functional teams develop, soft skills become equally important. For example, listening is a skill that everyone can use help with. Most institutions offer courses in various soft skills including listening, communication, and empathy. Universities and colleges may offer boot camps for technical skills or intensive summer programs in areas such as C+ programming, cybersecurity, or network monitoring. These programs are a way to ensure a steady flow of talent.
Some companies have partnered with local community colleges to develop a two-year program with an apprenticeship. The company has the benefit of a tailored program and the school attracts more students with its guaranteed internships. In some areas, the program is modified for high-school implementation. Schools that offer a career tech option allow students to attend school for half days. The second half of the school day is spent at the company, learning basic skills in a work setting. Partnering is another way for CIOs to feed a pipeline for technical talent for years.
Employee Reskilling invovles Life-Long Learning
A recent survey found that 78% of business executives said their companies lacked a life-long learning resource. These executives considered ongoing learning to be a vital part of company growth, but were unable to find a viable solution, especially within the education industry. Given the continuous demand for innovation, employers have to find a way to empower employees to become life-long learners. If not, the employee’s usefulness will rapidly decline and the skills gap will continue to grow.
One way to foster a life-long learner mind-set is to establish company-sponsored programs that demonstrate a commitment to individual development. Some options include:
- Developing on-line training programs
- Encouraging employees to pursue certifications
- Cross-training within the IT department
- Offering in-house seminars on new technologies
Having company-created training programs that employees can pursue on-line lets them know that learning is valued. Cross-training provides more flexibility in managing resources. For example, when an employee becomes seriously ill, a cross-trained employee can step in without significant disruption, making for a more agile department. Not only do ongoing training programs create a learning environment, but they also help with employee retention.
Employee Reskilling and Retention
Every year the skills gap widens and CIOs are faced with acquiring talent to bridge those gaps. Given the magnitude of the problem, companies cannot hire enough talent to fill those holes. Instead, CIOs have to rely on reskilling existing staff and attracting new talent through partnerships. Finding resources is only part of the solution. The other part is retaining them. Fostering a life-long learning environment is an essential component of employee retention. Now, is the time for CIOs to devise a plan that will ensure a steady flow of technical skills into the organization. Waiting may well be too late.