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Can tech self-correct the skills gap by upskilling employees?

You'll need a rock-solid L&D plan, the support of stakeholders and employee buy-in to close the skills gap in your organization. Here's what leaders need to know.

We've been talking about the skills gap in tech for a long time. Roughly seven out of 10 U.S. employers were reporting persistent talent shortages prior to the onset of the global pandemic -- and there's every reason to believe the issue has only intensified since then. A recent study by (ISC)2 found that nearly 3 million new cybersecurity roles were created in the last year alone.

What are tech companies, many of which appear to be emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic relatively unscathed, to do?

Recognize that employee interests and organizational needs are in sync

Rolling out any kind of robust upskilling and reskilling program is going to require sign-off and buy-in from senior-level stakeholders representing finance, operations, IT, HR and learning and development (L&D), among other groups. Inevitably, getting to a "yes" from these stakeholders will take time and it's only going to happen through a series of conversations. On your end, it will require collaboration -- and sometimes compromise, too -- to get the program across the goal line.

So, if you encounter resistance early in the process, don't be surprised. Research from KPMG shows that an uptick in IT investment in the aftermath of COVID-19 has not been matched by a parallel investment in L&D.

Meanwhile, bear in mind that the opposition you're facing might boil down to a more fundamental misalignment -- a classic case of organizational leadership and human capital not seeing eye to eye.

Research by Mercer Global shows that four out of five employees say they're fully capable of upskilling or reskilling to meet changing business needs. Yet CEOs and other C-suite executives take a far more pessimistic view on this issue. In fact, they think this is true of only about half, or less, of their current workforces.

That's a pretty big disconnect. If you can successfully frame your upskilling or reskilling program in the context of unmet employee appetite, you should have an easier time making the case.

Think about partners and incentives

The following two things, in my experience, typically distinguish successful L&D initiatives from those that tank:

  • having the right strategic partners; and
  • rolling out the upskilling or reskilling program with an accompanying incentive program.

Why the need for the right partners? Simply put, you need someone capable of planning and executing the program from end to end, and the scope of the overall journey -- encompassing everything from metrics to tech -- is beyond the purview of any one leader in L&D.

Why the need for an incentive program? Because built-in employee appetite isn't always enough. To succeed at scale, upskilling and reskilling initiatives need to gather a critical mass of support -- and they tend to either snowball or fail. So, it's a good idea to explore how your organization can incentivize the initiative. Following are two examples:

  • Offer employees waivers or reimbursement for self-directed online learning.
  • Reward team members who take part in upskilling or reskilling initiatives with opportunities to participate in current projects -- to learn through on-the-job experience.

Complementing self-directed learning with hands-on experience can be a very effective approach. It's a great way to ensure the self-directed education sticks.

Ready to upskill or reskill your team today?

It's hard to deny the urgency around upskilling and reskilling today. Just keep in mind that this is something your employees want front and center. Treat it as your north star and you'll be well positioned to start building your future workforce.

About the author
Alisia Genzler brings over 20 years of industry experience to her role as president and chief client officer at Randstad Technologies, where she oversees all sales teams and manages sales performance across strategic, major, key and emerging account segments. She's also responsible for expanding the company's staffing, permanent and solutions portfolios at the client level. Previously, Alisia served as executive vice president for the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of Randstad Technologies.

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