Tech Talent Shortage Paralyzing Biz Recovery

Image credit: iStockphoto/amanalang

We’ve all heard the same excuse: Tech talents are hard to find, expensive, and challenging to retain. But as companies look to recover from the COVID-19 and maximize new opportunities, the shortage in tech talent might become a party pooper.

A recent report, “Lean Into Tech: 2020 Tech Skills Trends & 2021 Predictions” showed how rapidly the demand for tech skills is growing. It analyzed the opinions of five million learners to gain a deeper understanding of how the confluence of these circumstances will affect the workforce for years to come.

In 2021, the following tech skills will be in hot demand: programming skills (especially in Python), data analytics, data security fundamentals, agile methodologies, DevOps/SecOps, and cloud fundamentals. “We've seen demand for software craft, infrastructure, and data lead the globe,” says Rosie Cairnes, vice president for Asia Pacific at Skillsoft.

Start with your employees

With new talent hard to find, Cairnes suggests companies take a hard look at their L&D plans for tech upskilling. “It is never easy to upskill. It requires commitment; there's no doubt about it. It’s got to be a specific endeavor that people and organizations need to invest in,” she explains.

Cairnes also admits that the tech skills in demand are not easy to learn. But companies have no choice but to find ways to upskill.

“The skills aren't necessarily in and of themselves easy. The thing about it is that these skills aren't necessarily available on the street corner either. Organizations can't necessarily hire their way out of this situation. So, the skills really need to be developed internally,” she explains.  

Cairnes also notes that waiting is not an option either. “From a point of view of attracting talent, it implies that those skills are out there. And that's really not the case; there is a chronic skill shortage. For example, it is projected that about 3.5 million security roles will go unfilled this year,” she explains.  

There is also trouble brewing on the other side of the talent management equation: talent retention. Studies show that employees are willing to stay if their employers invest in their career and development.  

 “One of the things that we've been able to observe is that in these [hard-to-find tech] skills, there is a voluntary turnover reduction of about 5% with abundant learning opportunities. So certainly, it does help if learning can be made universally and abundantly available to employees,” says Cairnes.

Guided learning needed

Only making online learning content available is not enough. CHROs need to steer today’s learners toward future roles. For example, if a data analyst wants to become a data scientist, the employer needs to map out the journey. It should include live learning, boot camps, practice environment in sandbox environments, etc.

Skillsoft, which delivers online learning, training, and talent solutions to 45 million learners, sees the need for CHROs to double down on role-based journeys. “We call them Aspire journeys because the idea is that individuals are aspiring for the next role.”

CHROs also need to stop being transfixed on experience. After all, many jobs are very new, and looking for an aptitude to learn fast is more important.

In fact, Cairnes urges team leaders and CHROs to plan L&D journeys for their team members from day one. “In the report, there are actually some case study examples of how organizations pivoted to upskill their existing teams rather than respond to the problem by trying to recruit their way out of it.”

Beyond democratizing learning, Cairnes argued that L&D should be viewed as an organization-wide responsibility. “Learning departments or HR functions cannot do it alone. It's a bit like we're all responsible for marketing, not just the marketing department. And learning is really no different. It's an individual and personal responsibility,” she notes, adding that CHROs should focus on creating a learning culture.

Future skills: multidisciplinary and people-focused

Cairnes notes that as organizational structures get flatter, it is not uncommon for employees to work with peers from different domains. 

“You've got to have multidisciplinary skills. And many models talk about this in the case of T-shaped employees. So that's becoming the shape of the organization increasingly and therefore the shape of individuals,” she adds.

While there is an acute shortage of tech skills today, human or people skills will also be in great demand in the near future.

One of the things that COVID-19 taught us that while we've all relied on technology to connect, it also highlighted a need to be human,” says Cairnes.

As companies become more data-centric and tech-driven, the ability to connect at an interpersonal level will be a much sought-after skill.  

“We see an increasing convergence of tech and people skills. So, at Skillsoft, we are focused on professional development and human skills, as well as the deep tech skills.”

Winston Thomas is the editor-in-chief of CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends. He is always curious about all things digital, including new digital business models, the widening impact of AI/ML, unproven singularity theories, proven data science success stories, lurking cybersecurity dangers, and reimagining the digital experience. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/amanalang