IT reskilling and upskilling is the biggest human capital issue across the corporate world. Particularly, the pandemic has exacerbated the challenge. Anyone in IT knows there’s a talent shortage, but many may not realize its magnitude. The latest statistics show that:
Approximately 3.5 million cyber jobs are unfilled worldwide.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the shortage of software engineers will exceed 1.2 million in the next five years as about half a million experienced developers will leave the market.
Between 60% and 70% of software architects and DevOps, candidates do not fully meet the job requirements.
Over 50% of tech hires do not have all the necessary skills.
This gap is not isolated to “large tech locations.” Four out of five technology companies are located outside areas such as Silicon Valley. A recent survey by the World Economic Forum found that only 27% to 29% of organizations believe they have sufficient talent for a digital transformation.
Given the overwhelming shortage of tech talent, how can an organization minimize its impact? Clearly, businesses cannot depend on the traditional talent pipelines. They need to look at alternatives to reskill and upskill their employees. So, IT reskilling and upskilling is not a one-size-fits-all strategy and there is no silver bullet.
In addition to IT reskilling and upskilling, companies may consider acquihiring as a strategic endeavor.
Strategies for IT Reskilling and Upskilling
Many large tech companies are developing partnerships with local schools, colleges, and universities to deliver certifications and specialized training in advanced technologies such as cloud computing or machine learning. Not every employee needs a four-year degree in computer science to provide troubleshooting support or for answering end-user questions.
Technology companies such as Microsoft recognize the shortage of qualified candidates in cloud computing. They have established partnerships with local educational institutions to deliver specialized training. For example, Microsoft has created a data center academy in Des Moines, Iowa, with the Des Moines Area Community College (DACC) to offer crucial skills in data center management, troubleshooting, and system administration.
Because Microsoft was planning to open a cloud-based data center in Iowa, the company decided to train local candidates in the needed skills. Microsoft’s leadership knew that many of its employees would not want to transfer to less populated areas; when they did, they did not remain with the company.
Rather than looking for personnel willing to relocate, Microsoft decided to create its own pool of data-center talent in local communities. These programs train students to work in Microsoft facilities, although students are not obligated to work for the company. They can use their skills to acquire jobs in other businesses needing the same skill sets.
Google and Amazon
Microsoft is not the only technology company working with higher education. Both Google and Amazon are partnering with colleges to offer credit-bearing versions of their credentialing programs. For example, Amazon’s in-house training offers 11 certifications in cloud technology.
Google has partnered with as many as 100 community colleges to develop credit-bearing paths in technology. Many of these programs offer in-person instruction and added support. Alternative routes to acquire IT certifications provide companies with ways to find certified employees.
Upskilling Soft Skills
As companies try to navigate a changing work environment, they’ve realized that soft skills are a requirement, not a nice-to-have. With fewer in-person interactions, employees need to hone their interpersonal skills to be more empathetic. This change is especially true for IT personnel who spend more time supporting a remote workforce, many of whom are unfamiliar with cloud technologies. Unfortunately, proficiency in soft skills comes through practice, preferably in simulated environments with immediate feedback.
Technology can help. Online simulations and artificial intelligence can emulate responses and provide feedback. Virtual reality has shown its ability to improve an employee’s soft skills. What’s important is for IT to be adaptable with strong communication and team-building skills.
Fostering an Adaptable Workforce
People resist change, but today’s work environment doesn’t provide time for employees to grow accustomed to something new. Instead, employees need to develop a mindset that embraces it. IT has to adapt to changing work models, whether it is office-only, a hybrid model, or entirely remote frameworks. They also need to be flexible in how they schedule their workdays. They have to understand that the diversity of work environments may require them to change gears at any moment.
Adaptability also means being open to learning new skills. Expectations have changed. Staff not only need technical skills, but they also need soft skills that enable a better working relationship among IT and other employees. Helping employees develop an adaptive mindset creates a positive approach to change and an agile corporate culture.
Enhancing Communication Skills
Communication has been a weak point for many highly technical staff. They are comfortable talking with other techies but find it difficult to communicate effectively with non-technical employees. When some IT staff cannot communicate to all employees, it places an added burden on those who can. That limits a company’s agility. When looking to reallocate resources quickly, organizations have to consider an individual’s technical and communication skills to ensure a positive outcome.
If two employees have similar technical skills, but only one has effective communication skills, they cannot be swapped interchangeably. That discrepancy means managers have to take more time to find the right mix of resources and may ultimately settle for a less skilled resource because of the lack of soft skills. As more companies adopt hybrid work models, communication becomes an essential skill. It takes excellent speaking and listening skills to ensure that all parties understand what is being said.
As the future of work changes in unpredictable ways, IT staff need to work in teams not only within IT but also across the enterprise. Without the water cooler moments or shared physical experiences, everyone has to work at maintaining those team-building connections. If IT doesn’t have the communication skills and an adaptive mindset, it will be difficult to build strong teams that can ensure the delivery of critical solutions.
The good news is that technology is being deployed to help employees develop their soft skills. By using technology, companies can encourage employees to invest in acquiring needed skills and employees can access the training when it is convenient for them.
Expanding Talent Pool
Given the growing shortage of IT staff, many companies are looking at citizen developers as a way to bridge the gap. Gartner defines a citizen developer as a user who creates business applications for use by others. They use IT-approved development and runtime environments that rely on shared services and fourth-generation language platforms. In other words, non-programmers build applications that can be used across an enterprise without jeopardizing system integrity.
Non-technical resources allow IT to focus its technical staff on mission-critical tasks such as network performance and reduce the appearance of shadow IT. Using citizen developers for a percentage of application development helps companies realize:
- Faster deployment
- Better use of IT resources
- Lower development costs
Expanding the development pool makes an organization more agile. It enables companies to pivot business strategies quickly because they have more resources to draw upon.
Addressing IT Skill Shortage
To bridge the IT gap, organizations need to look beyond traditional pipelines for technical talent. They need to build a strategy that utilizes all available resources to upskill and reskill existing staff. Whether it’s using existing certification programs, technology, or citizen developers, IT departments can no longer wait for the perfect candidate. Instead, managers need to assess the skills of existing staff and determine which employees can benefit from a reskilling or upskilling program.