The demand for IT professionals is at an all-time high. Highly skilled technical specialists are increasingly sought after to support new start-ups and provide vital in-house functions for larger businesses.
Without the ability to attract, develop and retain new technology talent, a multitude of problems arise which prevent companies from keeping up with the high pace of change and threatens the progress of much needed digital transformation projects. In a skills market saturated by employers, salary expectations of candidates are high and budgets often cannot stretch to their demands. These workers also expect world-class facilities, flexible working arrangements and state-of-the-art tools.
Korn Ferry predicted that by 2030 the US could witness unrealised revenue of up to $1.748 trillion from labour shortages, this would be equivalent to 6% of its entire economy. The World Economic Forum predicts that employers expect to reskill and upskill 70% of their employees by 2025, and that 97 million new roles will displace 85 million old roles in the Future of Work. In the UK the Government has identified the digital skills gaps as an issue that must be addressed and actions have been taken that could help plug the shortage in the longer term (for example the Lifetime Skills Guarantee).
Organisations however cannot be passive observers; to stay ahead of the competition, they need to recognise dynamics of today’s skills marketplace, target where investment in new talent is most valuable, and put in place strategies both for upskilling their existing workforce and for attracting and retaining highly skilled new staff.
IT skills experienced the biggest growth in demand in 2021 with vacancies up 105% last year. The UK alone is reported to have an estimated 178,000 to 234,000 open vacancies requiring data skills. More broadly across the growing IT sector, there are certain areas requiring specific domain knowledge for which demand is especially high. These include: cybersecurity, DevOps, artificial intelligence/machine learning, data analytics, cloud computing, software development and technical project management.
An outcome of this is that four in ten tech executives reported that they are struggling to retain key talent due to other firms poaching employees by offering inflated salaries.
There are variety of reasons for this technical skills shortage, however, this is not a new issue: The Learning and Work Institute confirmed that the number of young people taking up IT subjects at GCSE has dropped by 40% since 2015, resulting in less junior resources entering the job pool in order to upskill in specialist areas.
The Covid-19 pandemic undeniably turned this is into an acute problem by driving an unprecedented wave of tech adoption for businesses across all industries. In addition, employees are more mobile; life priorities have shifted following the COVID 19 pandemic, 46% of workforces are looking for new roles around the opportunity to work remotely for example. These highly skilled workers have the luxury of being able to pick where they go, what salary they would like and how long they stay. Some have even chosen to leave the corporate workplace altogether.
Digital transformation is changing the way businesses have to adapt to change and keep up with competitors, resulting in them asking the following questions:
- How do we pivot our organisation to a new digital business models, where our key differentiators are technology based?
- How do we sustain the pace of change needed to respond to customer needs and remain competitive?
To understand how they can bridge the technical skills gap, Organisations should start by being clear on their IT strategy, including a defined IT operating model design. By having a clear strategy and operating model design, you can better plan and resource your business capabilities enabling more informed resourcing efforts with focussed skill searches. This will ensure any investment is targeted in areas of maximum business value.
There are clear implications towards technical recruitment depending on which operating model a business decides to opt for and it is common for organisations to have multiple tiers of operating model running at the same time. In an outsourced model, many of the technical resources will be outsourced, potentially oversees where the skills shortage is less of an issue but the in-house IT resources would need to be senior and more experienced in a range of technical capabilities. An insource model requires more of these technical resources in house with a variety of specialists to cover each of the capabilities the business requires. This model could therefore be more directly impacted by the skills shortage but the return from investment in recruiting the best candidates is likely to be much higher.
Getting the operating model right is critical; outsourcing a capability supporting an area of business differentiation can lead to poor of control of Intellectual Property and lack of innovation and pace where it is needed most. Conversely, insourcing a more “off the shelf” capability can dramatically increase costs and inhibit your ability to “keep the lights on”.
The 3 R’s: RECRUITING, RETAINING AND RESKILLING THE RIGHT TALENT
Organisations are increasingly looking at their whole talent ecosystem to understand how best to manage their skills supply. For some, this means recruiting in a highly competitive job market, where there is a critical need to consider innovative resourcing approaches and be clear about why your organisation is the best place to work. For others, this is about a focused reskilling strategy within their existing workforce, identifying adjacent skills and an adaptive mindset, and building a long-term, planned investment to increase technical capability. This includes promoting technical transformation skills at each stage of the talent lifecycle and ensuring efficient and effective talent supply chain management, matched as closely as possible to the organisation’s technology transformation strategy.
Never has this been more important; to attract new Generation Z employees who will soon surpass Millennials as the most populous generation on earth. Organisations need to consider:-
- developing robust training and mentoring programs
- partnering with other organisations (such as universities) to attract top talent
- the attractiveness of the industry and company you are in.
The current generation of employees want to work for organisations with a sense of purpose, with a strong position on ESG commitments, and where their own individual purpose aligns closely. This means organisations must work harder to attract and retain their workforce than ever before, offering a personalised employee experience with a clear core value proposition (for example unique CSR activities, menopause policies or allowing mums to consider transferrable careers). All this alongside skilled managers and leaders who can support their people inside a culture of learning and continuous development.
Many organisations run parallel strategies given the volume demand and market competition, alongside flexible supply models achieved through harnessing the gig economy. As part of this integrated approach, employers need to be able to identify, upskill and effectively onboard the newly hired talent. It is key to remember is that success is not just driven by acquiring technical capability; mindsets like active learning, an ability to learn from failure and think critically are just as important to drive success in technology transformation activity. To create an environment where those with the desired technical skills and mindset can thrive, leaders must foster inclusivity, inspire trust and create a sense of shared purpose. With those foundations in place, organisations will build a strong talent ecosystem to deliver the transformation needed to stay ahead of the competition.