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Exponential advancements in AI and cybersecurity have unlocked immense value and efficiency gains for businesses, but they’ve also fueled the growing need for digital skills.
The shortage of digital experts is a widespread global challenge, estimated to cost the UK economy alone up to £63 billion per year through lower productivity, missed growth opportunities, inflated staffing costs, and reduced customer service levels. While it is an issue that almost every industry is grappling with, no sector is under as much pressure as IT.
The 2023 Upskilling IT research report, developed by the DevOps Institute – a member of PeopleCert – revealed the depth of the issue, with 31% of IT businesses identifying their most significant challenge as the lack of skilled resources. The rapid pace of digital transformation, continuous evolution of best practice management models, demographic shifts and intelligent automation are just some of the factors exacerbating the IT talent crisis, and it’s a problem no business can afford to ignore.
Business & IT Research Director at PeopleCert.
Combatting the skills shortage through upskilling
With IT organizations unable to hire their way out of this technical talent crunch, upskilling and reskilling play an invaluable role in addressing the IT talent and skills crisis now and in the future.
Leaders need to be more intentional about expanding, developing, and learning skills among themselves and their teams to ensure their organization can seize market opportunities. This need is reinforced by the World Economic Forum’s prediction that over half of all employees globally will require upskilling or reskilling by 2025 to embrace new responsibilities driven by automation and new technologies.
Intention vs action
Fortunately, most organizations already recognize the benefits of upskilling to close the skills gap, with our research confirming that 68% of IT organizations are currently engaging in training and upskilling programs. But a deeper look at where organizations are on their training and development journey reveals a gap between the planning and execution stages of learning strategies, with 44% of businesses yet to actually implement initiatives.
This disconnect can stem from a number of sources. Budget constraints (Corndel found that half of organizations usually cut L&D costs amid economic uncertainty), lack of expertise in developing effective training programs, and misalignments between organizational goals and skill development strategies are just a few potential challenges.
The more time businesses spend assessing skills gaps as opposed to making headway into training employees, the wider these deficits become. If IT teams want to overcome their digital skills challenges, they urgently need to transition from intention to actionable strategy, but they might not be able to do it alone.
The need for HR and IT collaboration
Collaboration plays a vital role in bridging the gap between professional development intention and execution. While tech leaders must take the lead in driving upskilling initiatives, they will often need assistance from HR leaders who can offer critical support on the journey.
The first way HR can support is by collaborating closely with IT leadership to conduct a skills gap analysis. This involves identifying the existing capabilities within the IT team and contrasting them with the skills required to meet current and future organizational goals. Our research found that the most critical areas to perform this analysis and plug skills gaps are process framework skills such as ITIL, followed by technical skills, human skills, leadership skills and then automation skills. Assessing the skills needs against these five areas is the starting point for developing a learning pathway to provide the greatest chance of success within an evolving IT organization.
HR leaders can also help IT teams to quantify the benefits of upskilling and measure ROI. By collaborating with IT leaders, HR can establish KPIs to measure the impact of upskilling initiatives. These metrics may include enhanced productivity, reduced error rates, faster project delivery, or improved employee satisfaction. Measuring and understanding ROI is crucial not only for justifying the investment in upskilling but also for fine-tuning the training programs to ensure they deliver the desired results. HR can gather data, conduct surveys and analyze performance metrics to provide a clear understanding of how upskilling positively affects the organization’s bottom line.
As digital transformation accelerates across every industry, one thing is clear – organizations can no longer afford to delay upskilling their IT workforces. As we move into 2024 and beyond, the collaboration between IT and HR leaders will be instrumental in shaping the future of upskilling in the IT sector with proven and effective qualifications, ensuring that organizations are well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Only concerted, organization-wide efforts focused on training, retention and recruitment will lead to meaningful progress towards closing the widening digital skills gap.
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