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Plugging the skills gap with flexible resourcing

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Duncan Andison)

The relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and technology is unmistakable, with the events of the year accelerating a rise in remote working. However, this has also increased the number of cybercriminals preying on vulnerabilities within networks. Working from home has resulted in growing cloud adoption and use of video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Teams - now fundamental to our everyday working lives.

This growing relationship between COVID-19 and technology is resulting in a rapid rate of change, further compounding and worsening an already developing skills gap. Indeed, nine in 10 (88 percent) organizations admit they have a shortage of digital skills, which is negatively impacting productivity, efficiency and competitiveness. Coupled with the consumerization of IT, the rate of IT change is accelerating like never before. Employees now expect their workplace to provide the same personalized, seamless IT experience between different devices that working from home does.

The rapid rate of change causes significant challenges within the industry, and has highlighted an IT skills gap. Keeping up with emerging innovative technologies has proved challenging for IT teams, and there aren’t enough highly skilled staff to meet these demands. Research by the Open University outlines that 56 percent of UK businesses acknowledge that this has skills gap has already affected their business negatively.

Another challenge is the speed that organizations have been forced to evolve at, given the catalyst of the pandemic. This forced IT departments to be playing catch up with their digital transformation solutions. For example, Microsoft Teams may seem like a business’s best friend, but with new upgrades seemingly every week, IT teams can’t cope with that speed of transformation on top of their usual responsibilities.

As organizations try to adapt and settle towards the end of this bizarre year, the evidence is clear – IT needs help. We must explore, now, what the overriding pressure points are, how to plug the resultant gaps, and what the future of IT is likely to look like.

Understanding the skills gap

The skills gap isn’t complex to comprehend; organizations are understaffed to deal with the demands they are faced with. Moreover, they often don’t have the time to allocate to train staff and keep up to date with all the new tech, on top of looking for new employees to remedy the situation with permanent manpower.

The pandemic has exposed a lack of expertise in the market and the need to adapt, and quickly. Compounding the rapid evolution of various digital platforms, and their increased adoption, there is also the need to consider changes to markets, sectors, consumer habits, client demands, budget limitations and customer relationships.

It’s understandable why an existing cohort of IT professionals within an organization would struggle to keep up with everything, on top of their traditional day-to-day duties. To expect a new full-time employee to hit the ground running across all of those considerations, as well, is a stretch too far.

Flexibility is key to success

As a result of the inherent risks, and organizations’ revised financing models after a tough year, many are realizing they can cover the costs of external services, such as flexible resourcing, much more efficiently than hiring a new full-time employee.

Flexible resourcing mitigates many of the challenges put forward regarding both this year’s pressure points and the broader skills gap they have revealed. In December last year, even before COVID, Forbes shone a light on the advantages of temporary hires. Little did anyone know how quickly that trend would evolve in the months that have followed.

The process of flexible resourcing includes hiring the number of people and the skills you need at isolated intervals, for specific projects or, individual strategies. Consequently, pinpointing the requisite level of skill and expertise for that siloed purpose increases the likelihood of a successful outcome, in a more cost-effective way that doesn’t weigh down payroll long-term. What’s more, we don’t know what is around the corner considering the current state of affairs with the pandemic, and having flexible resourcing allows businesses to scale up and down resourcing as business performance and needs change.

In addition to the above advantages, what clients most enjoy from this prospect is the lack of maintenance required as part of the arrangement. Talent that’s incorporated into the organization is managed externally as part of the process, which frees up existing internal resources to focus on the longer-term strands of the company.

To this end, a flexible resourcing service must be built on ‘right first-time’ deployment, bespoke to each specific need, and inclusive of all vetting, onboarding and aforementioned management. Done properly, results include effective problem solving and solution support via highly skilled engineers, tailored engagement support, access to qualified FTE and partner resources, and an adaptable working relationship throughout.

Planning now to ensure a successful future

Flexible resourcing will be a tool that is essential for future success. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, the long saga of IR35 would have culminated this year, and is still scheduled to do so next year. Therefore, flexible resourcing also proves key for HR evolutions, as well as IT fluctuations. In fact, even in advance of the IR35 regulations, businesses have been releasing key contractors in fear of failing compliance as a result of the tech skills gap industries have seen this year.

A flexible resourcing approach will lessen the risk posed by this regulation - by framing and engaging correctly, external flexible resource services can be used for a specific engagement with fixed deliverables or milestones. Businesses can ensure this is a ring-fenced service, as opposed to hiring additional people, which can help a business to stay compliant within IR35 whilst also delivering against project and timeline pressures. 

By dedicating an external team of specialists, the IT skills gap can be filled. Businesses must ensure IT teams have the necessary skills to keep up with time-specific dynamic business changes and challenges. Though 2020 has been turbulent for all industries, the future of IT as an organizational function depends on upskilling staff, and moving towards the digital era.

Mark Skelton, Chief Technology Officer, CANCOM UK

Mark heads up CANCOM's Professional Services division with overall responsibility for the UK’s technology strategy. Prior to joining CANCOM his background was with big system integrators and large business-focused consulting firms. An expert in digital transformation, workplace transformation and hybrid IT strategy.