Guest Column | July 11, 2019

Closing The IT Skills Gap: A Bridge (Not) Too Far

By John Prestridge, EasyVista

Bridging The Gap

In the midst of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, where digital transformation takes reign, there has been growing discussion around the IT skills gap and how to address it. Prevalent in nearly every industry from retail to finance to manufacturing and causing a stir among workforces, executives are scratching their heads to present a corporate-wide solution — and quickly. Fortunately, bridging the gap between legacy and modern-day skillsets is more attainable than you might think. But first, your organization must be willing to embrace a culture of change.

According to data revealed by Korn Ferry Institute, by 2030 the global technical talent shortage could reach 4.3 million workers and cost companies billions in lost economic opportunities. Technology workers are the ones who usher in innovations that will empower significant productivity gains across the workforce that leverage cloud, AI, and other transformation technologies.

However, this statistic shouldn’t scare the traditional enterprise, but rather spur it into action. To navigate through the inevitable changes transforming each and every industry from top to bottom, organizations must have a thorough understanding of the next wave of in-demand technology skills. This is where IT departments everywhere will play a critical role. If the industry can take ownership of this next revolution and help usher in a new era of necessary skillsets, IT can operate as the engine behind the future of work.  

Before we get there, though, there are a few key things to keep in mind that can help your organization take immediate action against the widening IT skills gap.

  • It starts with management. According to a digital transformation survey by edtech company AVADO, about half (45 percent) of companies surveyed said only C-suite employees/the Board are included in their company's digital transformation plans. As technologies continue to trigger change throughout the corporate landscape, there’s an imperative need for leaders to set forth a plan of action and ensure the entire company — the IT team, in particular — is aware of it. As such, an IT leader’s ability to stay nimble, versatile, and dynamic in their approach to implementing the aforementioned plan is crucial to creating an environment of innovation that pushes the company forward alongside the changing times. The growth must be parallel. IT leaders must understand the needs of the business, so they are equipment to attract, develop and retain the right technical talent.
  • Change starts by evaluating the talent in your own organization, not outside of it. The reason for this is not only because it is more expensive to hire others than it is to educate those who are already on payroll, but because it creates an environment of trust, dedication and personal reward. Therefore, efforts to upskill current staff should never be overlooked. Whether it involves educating staff on new skills like data analysis and AI, or cloud computing and security, among others, implementing this approach can help stabilize an organization’s employee pipeline.
  • Don’t let HR technology do all the work. Sure, AI-assisted recruiting can sift through thousands of applicants and home in on a Harvard or Yale grad but, as we all know, there’s more to brains than education. In particular, if you’re looking to hire an IT professional to help lead your company’s war against digital transformation, you have to prioritize a few major “soft skills” including stronger interpersonal communication, flexibility, and adaptability, as well as a strong element of patience when working with unfamiliar and emerging technologies.
  • Human interaction and intervention will never be replaced by AI. There’s no denying the fact AI functionalities are transforming the needs of the workforce — but human intervention, and thus IT aptitude, still has a critical role to play in the overall process. While the use of AI in organizations is advancing from trivial to more complex operations, skilled and intuitive IT oversight is still a pivotal part of the process. The ability to smartly leverage these technologies to deliver modernized service experiences and provide AI-augmented guidance to the workforce is as important a skill as any right now — and one that combines both technical aptitude but also a keen eye for user experience.
  • Know how (and when) to properly leverage specialized skillsets. This is a critical practice that is imperative to successfully driving digital transformation across an organization. Given these skills can be based in niche areas like leveraging AI or cloud-enabled solutions, it may be necessary to look outside of your existing employee base. While seasoned IT veterans surely have experience on their side, millennials or even recent college grads are potentially a more fitting option, as they are fully immersed in many of these technologies simply by virtue of growing up in the digital age. Having an innate understating of how humans interact with technology in today’s digital-first world can pay dividends when working within teams that are designing solutions for the workforce. Taking advantage of early-career employees can help plug some gaps in the tech workforce

Addressing the IT talent shortage is no easy task, but if organizational leaders can take a holistic approach to solving the problem and ensure that a few easy first steps are taken, the gap can (and will) close much more quickly. The time to embrace change is now.

About The Author

John Prestridge is CMO & SVP of North America for EasyVista.