Adapt or fail: Tech skills requirements are changing, organisations must too

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming a top priority for CEOs around the globe--and rightly so. More and more CEOs are realising if they don’t embrace digital transformation and incorporate technology into the core strategy of the companies they lead, they risk being left behind. For enterprises sitting on the fence, they need only consider the closure of UK high street heavyweights BHS and Maplin as well as U.S.-based behemoth Toys ‘R’ Us to see the impact of failing to embrace modernisation programmes in time.   

Despite these unfortunate stories, many businesses are finding new ways to embrace technology and stand out from the competition. Be it through automating manual processes which British Gas is doing by transitioning traditional gas readings with smart meters or by championing convenience such as online supermarket Ocado. These are effective product strategies, but to be truly successful in the long-term, a company’s entire business proposition must be underpinned by technology. This means that digital transformation cannot be seen solely as a management and investor initiative but engrained across the entire workforce. It’s crucial that employees learn and engage with the latest technologies always with the goal of delivering new innovations to market.  

McKinsey suggests that the demand for new skills will dramatically increase by 2030, requiring a 55 per cent rise in the supply of equipped workers. Filling these positions, however, is not going to be enough as there are not enough developers to fill all the open jobs. Further compounding the problem is the fact that because technology moves so fast, today’s engineers, coders and developers are constantly behind the curve, which leaves a global technology skills gap. In fact, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit 94 per cent of executives say there is a digital skills gap in their businesses and 59 per cent of IT employees worry that their current skills will become obsolete.

The challenge is massive, but our ability to meet it head on is achievable. To do so will require an almost complete reskilling of the workforce. However, the last time there was such a significant shift was the industrial revolution—so, as a society, we’re a little out of practice. To fully realise the potential opportunity, businesses must rethink how to develop technology skills within their organisations in order to deliver on their business objectives.

The need for continuous technology skill development

First and foremost, businesses should adopt a culture of learning to confront this new demand for skilled workers. According to a recent report from Deloitte, organisations with a strong learning culture are 56 per cent more likely to be first to market. They will also outperform the profitability of their peers by 17 per cent.

Aside from just being a smart business strategy, fostering a culture of ongoing technology skill development is the only way to keep pace with the speed of technological innovation and digital transformation. Decades ago, there were two software languages. Today, there are more than 250 languages and they’re constantly being updated, sometimes more than eight times per year. In fact, Java had 5 updates in the last year and PHP had 20.

McKinsey finds that IT, programming and data analytics will become the most sought-after skills over the next three years. You can add to the list, cloud, security and mobile. And you can bet new skills will keep emerging that companies need to identify and stay ahead of to remain competitive. And so, developing the needed technology skills has never been so important to meet demand for these skills and ensure future business success.

Finding alternative routes to technology skills development

In-person classroom learning has been a staple to teach engineers and developers the latest technologies for decades, but it is outdated, expensive and ineffective. Leaders will find it’s very costly, both in terms of time and money, and it doesn’t scale. It’s also inflexible, as it assumes a one-size-fits-all approach without taking into consideration the individual skill levels of team members.

Employees learn best in a comfortable and supportive environment. They want to understand where their current skill level is, have a clear idea of progression, and personalisation for their development and goals. They also want to be empowered with the freedom to venture out and learn new technologies, frameworks, and tools that, while not necessarily assigned to their role, could unlock possibilities for their organisations in the future.

To take full advantage of this opportunity, employers need to look towards digital on-demand technology learning platforms to provide the type of learning enrichment employees need. These platforms combine skill assessments, course libraries, personalised earning paths and analytics to ensure that learners have access to the courses they need and want. They are easily scalable too, with courses taught by world-renowned subject matter experts and on-demand accessibility to learn anytime, anywhere on any device.

While there are obvious direct benefits to employees to hone their existing skills and skill up in new ones, importantly, on-demand technology learning supports company goals as well. Through personalised measurement tools, employers can understand their organisation’s skills gap and benchmark their workforce against industry standards, addressing learning needs in an efficient and targeted manner. As a result, a digital technology learning platform can help companies identify the latest technologies and then train their workforce with the right skills to keep pace with innovation and execute on their core objectives. This in turn better positions companies for profitability and competitive advantage.

Embracing change

We’ve entered an age where your technology strategy is your company strategy—it’s no longer a nice to have but a need to have. By adapting their business proposition to one grounded in technology, organisations can deliver innovation at scale and better meet customer needs. But in order to do so, they need technology teams that are equipped with the right technology skills to deliver against these goals.

Hiring new talent is a challenging avenue to pursue, and the well-documented skills shortage means that it’s more competitive than ever to recruit and retain technology professionals. Companies can overcome this obstacle by first embracing a model of continuous learning and then deploying technology learning platforms to ensure their existing teams have all the skills they need to thrive in their roles. Employees can be taught in bite-sized chunks, learn a new skill and put it into practice before going back to learn more skills, supporting talent mobility programs to shift and deploy team members strategically. By embracing a twenty-first century approach to developing technology skills and empowering teams with access to on demand technology learning platforms, CEOs can successfully navigate the skills mismatch and keep themselves at the forefront of innovation and in the heart of the customer.

Sean Farrington, Senior Vice President of EMEIA, Pluralsight
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa