Tools, talent and time: future-proofing your business

It’s a good time for businesses to start considering what staffing requirements they have for the year ahead.

With the new year gradually coming into sight, it’s a good time for businesses across all sectors to start considering what staffing requirements they have for the year ahead and beyond. In the tech sectors, it’s all the more important for businesses to make plans for what future skills they might need, given the ever evolving digital landscape and the skills shortage the tech industry is currently facing. 

If tech companies don’t have the relevant skills embedded into their workforce, they stand to suffer and lose their competitive edge. So how can businesses plan for the future in a skills-short environment? 

Anticipate customer needs

In any type of business, the customer should be at the centre of the purpose and strategy. Anticipating the customer’s future needs and behaviours is therefore crucial in the future effectiveness of a business. Consider how customer needs have changed over time and how their experiences have shaped their expectations. 

For example, 20 years ago, it wouldn’t have been uncommon for someone to pay for their groceries or bills using a cheque but with the rise of chip n pin, contactless cards and pay facilities like ApplePay, customers have gotten used to a quick and easy payment method. It is no surprise that the use of cheques as a payment method has declined by 79 per cent in the UK over the past two decades.  Once new options and experiences become available to consumers, they expect the same from other industries. If you can predict customer needs, you have a good chance at keeping your business successful.

Embrace new technology

Technology advancements obviously play a big part in this so it is vital for businesses to keep their finger on the pulse and remain agile to changing trends. There are several examples of companies who haven’t pre-empted the technology and skills that they need and have suffered as a result. One area where this is particularly evident is in cyber security.  

The most recent high profile security attack in the UK was the case of Tesco Bank, which saw 9,000 customers have money taken out of their accounts in what is described as a ‘systemic, sophisticated attack’. Not only did this cause extreme concern amongst Tesco Bank customers and inconvenience whilst they were blocked from using their debit cards and online banking, but it also caused considerable reputational damage to the Tesco brand as well as a drop in its share price.  

Tesco is just one name in a long list of businesses who have been subject to a security attack in the past year. The sheer volume and frequency of attacks demonstrates that security needs to be a top priority for businesses across all industries.

Stay informed of regulatory change

Embracing technology is one thing but keeping up to date with good practices and regulatory change is another. In the world of data and security, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a piece of legislation which any organisation with data stored in or passed through Europe must adhere to. The GDPR was adopted by the European Parliament back in April and whilst the legislation won’t come into effect until 2018, impacted businesses need to ensure they are fully compliant in time to avoid risking huge fines. If you’re one of these businesses, you’ll want to make sure you have the right information security professionals on board now to meet the demands of this future regulation.

Investing in talent

Once you’ve considered what the future needs and expectations of your customers are and what technology you will need to invest in and embrace, you can then plan for the staff that you will need to recruit and nurture in order to deliver your strategy. In a skills-short market, you need to recognise the talent you have available to you and work out the best way of utilising it. 

Do your current employees have the technical knowledge and experience to implement new technologies or to upgrade/convert your existing systems? Are there any gaps in their knowledge? If there is a slight discrepancy in current skill level of your employees and the anticipated skill level your business will rely on, then offering your existing employees training and development opportunities might help you to fill these gaps. From an employee’s perspective, knowing that your employer sees potential in you and is willing to invest in your career development is a fundamental factor in determining job satisfaction. From a business point of view, having happy employees plays a big part in staff retention, which is even more important in a skills short market. 

Should you decide that the knowledge gaps within your workforce are too great to address through upskilling, then making new hires could be the answer. However, in skills short disciplines like security, a lack of Security Risk Analysts, IT Security Analysts, SOC Analysts, and Cyber Architects in the market makes recruitment extremely fierce. One tactic you can employ is to consider candidates with transferable skills from other realms of IT where the behaviours and traits of the role are similar. For example, second and third line IT support staff could well transfer their problem solving skills to IT security.

Looking to the future now  

With a digital skills deficit of 745,000 people (Science and Technology Committee Report 2016), you need to act now if you want to future proof your business with the right skills. It’s not about making rash decisions but it is about being agile to change and anticipating future demands. Many initiatives are in place to help mitigate the technology skills gap in the UK including STEM campaigns to encourage more young people into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths careers. 

Educational bodies, government departments and businesses can all play their part in ensuring the UK has the skills it needs for the future.  However, it will take time for these initiatives to deliver tangible results. In the meantime, it is crucial to make use of the talent you have within your business and scope out the skills available in the market. Start today to plan your future. 

James Smith, Managing Director of Networkers, Technology Recruitment
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