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Closing the Skills Gap Brought On by Innovative Technology

Here's how to build a technically skilled workforce that can adapt to emerging tech trends.

Many organizations struggle to keep up with the pace of required technological innovation because their employees don't have the skills to design, architect, utilize, and manage cutting-edge digital solutions.

Most companies say they either have a skills gap or expect to see one within the next few years — and solutions are in short supply. Hiring their way out of a skills backlog isn't an option because there's also a shortage of qualified candidates with the skills needed to address emerging technology needs. In addition, the high cost of hiring outside talent may not be feasible if an economic recession is on the horizon, as some forecasters fear. As for upskilling existing employees, many companies' programs lack the resources and structures to provide learning and development opportunities that can build in-demand skills.

Skills Gaps Hurt Businesses

A key example of this conundrum is companies' investments in innovation and digital transformation through cloud platforms. Cloud transformations allow organizations to reconfigure and innovate business offerings for greater scalability, efficiency, and productivity. However, this approach also requires the right skills and organizational alignment to operationalize and realize the benefits. If your employees can't architect, deploy, and manage cloud technologies, you likely will not realize the expected benefits.

Another example is artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are changing entire industries. Companies that leverage these technologies make more informed decisions, act on emerging trends faster, and operate more efficiently than their competitors. Your organization risks losing the value proposition that distinguishes you and makes your business viable if you don't have the qualified employees to manage the required innovative technology.

Finally, skills gaps can also limit your organization's ability to grow. You need to rely on hiring to scale your business if you don't have a robust skills development strategy — and that's a costly proposition because qualified individuals with in-demand skills are hard to find. Hiring a new employee is also typically more expensive than upskilling due to advertising, recruiting, and onboarding costs. And since a new hire is unlikely to understand your business or the industry vertical in which you operate, they'll still require extensive training — even if they possess the technical abilities your organization needs.

Regardless of which example of technology innovation you look at, a technically skilled workforce that can adapt to emerging industry trends will enable technological innovations and guard against economic downturns that can impact available skills. So, how do we address potential mismatches between skills and innovation?

Close the Skills Gap to Create Growth


Plan Now to Prepare for What Comes Later

Hiring and training outside talent will only become more complicated if the global economy falls into a recession and the labor market tightens. This may seem like a good time to cut down on spending on your teams, but that's typically not the case. Yes, digital transformation initiatives require an investment of time and money, and they can be risky. But a growth-minded enterprise can't afford to play it safe. To remain competitive, you must continuously plan for and execute employee upskilling so your organization can utilize emerging technologies. Consider employee enablement and upskilling as a continuous journey to keep up with the pace of technology innovation and retaining talent.

Consider Outside Help as the Bridge

If you currently have a situation where your employees have both the appetite and aptitude to upskill, but simply need the time to do so, consider using outside help to bridge this gap. Various approaches here include:

  • Staff AugmentationThis is usually not as effective because the person(s) engaged usually need your direction to execute specific tasks.
  • Professional Services Project-based Engagements — These are effective in achieving an immediate outcome for a specific project, but are less valuable in upskilling your personnel.
  • Flexible Skillset PODsThese PODs are typically tailored to your specific needs. They can contain a set of roles that can dynamically flex between architect, design, and deploy skills across a variety of technologies. In addition, these PODs are typically focused on working with your teams to enable them through shared execution and on-the-job training.

Regardless of your method, focus on identifying the skills needed to support your innovative technology, as well as ensuring there is a way to both guide and enable your employees.

Leverage Managed Services to Remove the Mundane

If you have appropriately skilled employees or those that are very close but don't have enough time to finish their upskilling, consider bringing in Managed Services offerings to remove the mundane, low-value activities from their plates. By freeing skilled employees from boring, day-to-day activities, they can focus on more innovative and value-added activities. This approach also typically excites your valued employees and entices them to remain with the organization as they learn new skills and avoid repetitive activities that they have mastered long ago.

Build the Organizational Structure to Entice Participation

Regardless of the approach you choose above, don't forget that updating the organizational structure to address the new, innovative technologies can also attract your employees and help them be excited to gain new skills and work on new projects. For example, if you're embarking on a cloud or automation journey — building out a Cloud Community of Excellence (CCoE) around cloud or automation can entice participation and ignite the desire to upskill and learn more. It can also help attract new talent and differentiate you from your competition. In addition, CCoEs have the added advantage of cross-team collaboration and communication, which is crucial to leveraging innovative technology for successful outcomes.

Keep the Competitive Edge through Innovation and Upskilling

Skills gaps inevitably reduce efficiency and productivity, putting your ability to truly leverage innovative technology for business objectives at risk. Ensuring that innovative technology drives successful outcomes is as much a people and skills problem as a technology problem.  Consider leveraging the approaches discussed in this article to retain valuable employees, attract new talent, and upskill employees to align with the innovative technology that drives and transforms your business.

Pam Coffey is Field CTO at AHEAD.

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