Closing The Tech Skills Gap: 3 Key Factors For CEOs To Consider

Chief Executive Officer

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The demand for technology talent is growing across every industry, and the pandemic has increased the gap between education and new-age job requirements, significantly increasing the need to reskill and upskill the workforce, and executives are starting to realize, too. In a recent survey by McKinsey, 87 percent of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years.

But less than half of the respondents had a clear sense of how to address the problem. What used to be an ignorable issue has now escalated well beyond reason and justification. With so much uncertainty in what is to come, enterprises must continue to look toward the future, reassess their business strategy and create a plan to ensure their workforce remains adaptable.

Desired tech skills and predictions become more complicated every year and this year was exceptionally challenging. Several ‘normal’ business functions have been paused or changed with the pandemic, forcing industries to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives in record time. Limited resources and tightened budgets have placed restrictions on hiring new talent and several industries were left scrambling to reskill and quickly adapt. While hiring new talent seems like a valid solution, in reality, the hiring, onboarding and culture development process requires a significant amount of time and dedication, impacting the overall company’s output. As enterprises continue to identify ways to do more with less now is an opportune time for reskilling and upskilling initiatives to become part of the “new norm.”

Reskilling and upskilling initiatives are not only beneficial to employees but impactful to the enterprise. According to a recent study, nearly 30% of employees feel their skills will be redundant within the next two years, with 50% of those in Gen-Y and Gen-Z indicating that their skills will be irrelevant within the next four to five years. Although technology tends to create more jobs than it takes away, those fears are still incredibly prevalent. A workforce of the future must be prepared to welcome change and remain agile, they also must have the support and resources to further enhance their skills. Furthermore, employees will find comfort in knowing their company wants to invest in them and their future—and loyalty will likely follow.

For the enterprise, hiring an employee outside of the company can be six times more costly than merely reskilling a current workforce member. Retaining talent and investing time into reskilling ad upskilling initiatives, partnership programs, or apprenticeship programs will help alleviate costs in the long run and increase employee satisfaction—a win for both parties involved.

There are three key factors all CEOs need to consider when it comes to retaining and hiring workforce talent in 2020 and beyond.

1. Tech priorities should be aligned with human resources. As the gap between HR and the C-Suite continues to increase, human resources and recruiting teams must keep an open line of communication with the CEO to remain attuned to the evolving tech initiatives and overall direction of key business initiatives.

When it comes to tech talent and managing how employees can advance their skills, it’s the CEO’s job to ensure the entire organization is appropriately aligned to deliver on the corporate vision and strategy. The executive leadership bench must collaborate and discuss the business model and future, including how they can upscale the model that is currently in place to be unified across all layers of the workforce and, more importantly, scalable.

2. Great tech employees can do more than code. Technology has evolved, and over time, each role within the technology sector has, as well, including coding. Having a workforce capable of coding or managing specific systems is essential; however, that does not imply they can efficiently drive innovation across the company and deliver tangible business results. Tech industry talent now require adaptable soft skills, including the ability to problem-solve, collaborate and be detail-oriented. In addition to these soft skills, the workforce must remain flexible and agile to grow.

The past year has highlighted the importance of scalability. Without soft skills and the willingness to develop, employees and employers place themselves at risk to evolve. When looking to build a scalable workforce, CEOs should consider working with internal teams to launch training programs to meet enterprise and employee-specific needs. Training programs should focus on personal development skills and reskilling initiatives to help new and existing staff evolve alongside the company.

3. Look at non-traditional talent in the U.S. Talent in the United States is far too frequently overlooked for various reasons, including education level, geographic location, background, and even socioeconomic situations. In many cases, particularly with entry-level candidates, they don’t have access to employment in the technology sector. Leadership is tasked with building a workforce that is diverse, innovative, and results-driven. When CEOs switch their mindset to focus on aptitude in comparison to skills, employee innovation accelerates. A diverse workforce brings a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, allowing for teams to collaborate, learn and thrive from one another. This approach may be considered a gateway to closing the technology skill gap for the future as it helps to strengthen company culture and spark innovation.

In summary, CEOs are not only responsible for delivering on business initiatives, but also for championing a tech-first recruiting strategy—an important task to remain on par with evolving technology. Now more than ever, it is imperative leaders remain conscious of the future. Reskilling and upskilling presents a unique opportunity across the enterprise, for leaders to strengthen the workforce both culturally and educationally.

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