Could Tech Self-Correct the Skills Gap by Upskilling Employees?Written by Madisyn Villamil
Today, the tech industry is facing a growing talent shortage. As technology rapidly advances and traditional education falls behind, tech companies are forced to address the problem head-on. This begs the question, could tech self-correct the skills gap?
To attract, develop, and retain skilled talent, tech companies must adopt a multi-pronged approach. This approach involves bold changes to their hiring process, learning and development (L&D) programs, and overall culture. Employers may view these changes as intimidating or costly at first, but they may be the key to overcoming the skills gap and staying ahead of competitors.
Let’s look at how the skills gap affects the tech industry and some actions employers can take to correct it.
The Tech Skills Gap
By 2030, the skills gap in the U.S. alone is expected to create a total loss of $8.5 trillion. Tech-related skills, in particular, make up the overwhelming majority of hard skills in demand in 2023. Software development, cloud computing, and data analysis are just a few of the tech skills that made the top 10.
Skilled tech professionals have never been harder to recruit and retain, and many employers say it’s only getting worse. Nearly half of L&D leaders say their organization’s skills gap is widening. Higher education fails to keep up with technology and equip students with the tech skills in demand today. This means companies must embrace new strategies to compete for and develop skilled workers.
A lack of skilled workers can affect business by:
- Lowering productivity and efficiency
- Harming profits
- Preventing agility and innovation
- Reducing employee morale
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital transformation and shift to remote work has further widened the gap. The need for digital skills has increased, especially as new technologies such as AI, machine learning, the metaverse, blockchain technologies, cloud computing, and more take over.
We’re now at an inflection point where tech companies must make bold moves to respond to the critical talent shortage and overcome the disruption. After all, if you don’t self-correct the skills gap in your company and your competitors do, you will fall behind.
How Could Tech Self-Correct the Skills Gap?
Fortunately, many strategies exist to self-correct the skills gap in your organization. Although they require initial risk and investment, the pay-off will be a highly skilled and engaged workforce that keeps your business ahead of competitors.
Make Bold Hiring Decisions
The days of hiring for a perfect resume are over, especially for tech roles. It may feel safer to hire the person who checks all the boxes in the job requirements, but hiring for the perfect fit instead of hiring for potential can put you at a disadvantage.
The Perfect Fit Illusion
Due to the lack of qualified applicants, you’re competing against everyone else. If you hire for the perfect fit, you may have to make unsustainable changes to your compensation package or take much longer than expected to hire for the role.
Second, perfect technical skills don’t translate to a perfect fit for the role and your company. Your perfect candidate based on skills may lack the soft skills you need or prove a poor culture fit. They may also see your company as one step of many and be out the door as soon as they come in.
“You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”
— Simon Sinek, Author and Motivational Speaker
Hire for Attitude
Hiring for attitude and training for skills will lead to less turnover because the candidate you select will adjust well to your organization and have the motivation to learn. Helping employees expand their capabilities also creates a positive corporate learning culture.
Removing strict education requirements can vastly expand your pool of candidates. The rising cost of higher education makes it inaccessible for many. Therefore, many workers entering the tech field have learned through certification programs, on-the-job experience, or, believe it or not, even YouTube videos and other free resources.
Many tech workers don’t begin their careers in tech either. They break into it and master new skills with the help of employers willing to make bold hiring decisions. For example, one McKinsey study found almost three in five IT managers in the U.S. started in non-IT roles. The most common occupations for workers who move into tech are business operations, marketing, management, customer service, and more.
Create a Robust Upskilling Program
Employers facing a critical shortage of skilled talent must correct the problem by taking matters into their own hands. So how could tech self-correct the skills gap by upskilling?
An upskilling program will equip your new hires with skills they’re missing and help current employees keep up with changing business needs and technological advancements. Your upskilling program should be strategic, carefully planned, and constantly evolving.
Before upskilling, you should address the skills gaps in your organization. Ask yourself what skills are missing and find out what skills employees think would help them perform better. Knowledge tests and surveys are a great place to start.
Although your company may need hard tech skills, soft skills — or as we prefer to call them: power skills — are crucial. Skills like critical thinking, creativity, and communication are needed to leverage hard skills. Once you identify skills you want to train, set SMART goals that link back to your business KPIs to ensure your upskilling programs are intentional.
There are upskilling strategies to fit every company’s budget, culture, and training needs. Here are a few best practices for upskilling.
On-the-Job Coaching and Mentorship
Growth-focused experiences like training or mentorship from a senior employee develop the skills needed to move into a new role and add the context and experience often missing in traditional training. Coaching and mentorship can also be cost-effective, as they use existing talent to fill the skills gaps at your company. They also encourage collaboration and ensure the new employees you’ve hired for attitude have the support they need to develop their skills.
You can’t afford to give up your employees for several hours of training each week. In addition, employee engagement can drop during a lengthy training session. That’s why micro-learning has become a popular concept in L&D.
Micro-learning involves short, concise units of learning that keep learner attention in mind. Thirty minutes of focused training per day may be more efficient for your employees than a 3-hour training session once a week. Micro-learning is also less overwhelming for employees who may feel behind after a long training session.
Adding gamification, reward badges, and short assessments to micro-learning units can also increase engagement and give employees a sense of achievement during their short training sessions.
There are countless credentialing programs for tech-related skills. Microsoft Learn, for example, offers a variety of certifications in data analytics, AI, web development, app making, and more. Programming certifications such as Oracle’s java certifications have become popular for those wanting to learn how to program or sharpen their skills.
Employees can even add these certifications to their resumes, which incentivizes them to complete them. You can support your employees’ upskilling journey by offering to pay for these credentialing courses and certifications.
How could tech self-correct the skills gap through cross-training? Cross-training gives employees the skills and knowledge to perform tasks outside their roles.
One example of cross-training is having your junior web developer shadow your cybersecurity manager. The web developer will gain technical skills and knowledge outside of their wheelhouse. They may even pick up a cybersecurity-related task in addition to their regular duties. This will expand their tech knowledge and give them the ability to take over cybersecurity-related responsibilities when the cybersecurity manager is out.
Some of the benefits of cross-training your team are:
- Encouraging collaboration
- Promoting knowledge-sharing
- Improving agility and adaptability
- Creating a culture of continuous improvement
- Promoting internal mobility
With the rise of remote work and a scrap learning epidemic, immersive technologies are gaining momentum in the training world—and for a good reason. Virtual reality completely immerses trainees in their learning environment and provides more impactful and efficient training to correct skills gaps. VR simulations, for example, allow employees to go through dangerous or hard-to-replicate technical tasks without the fear of failure that real-life training entails.
Let’s say you’re a manufacturing employer who wants to invest in new, technologically advanced machinery. You must train your employees on the skills required to operate this new technology safely and efficiently. Instead of purchasing more machinery for training purposes or risking real-life mistakes during manufacturing, you could design a VR simulation that walks them through how to operate the new technology.
Employees can repeat steps as often as needed and experiment with different outcomes without any real risk. This immersive, learning-by-doing approach is why virtual reality is useful for technical and soft skills. In fact, according to PwC’s 2022 U.S. Metaverse Survey, 63% of companies say they already use VR or are in the process of integrating it.
Edsutia helps companies adapt to this new tech cycle and integrate immersive technologies into their training programs. Our Enterprise Solutions include ready-to-go training modules, or we can design custom VR-enhanced training modules for the specific skills you want to train at your organization.
Build a Learning Culture
How could tech self-correct the skills gap on an ongoing basis, rather than a one-and-done approach? A learning culture is an environment where employees continually seek to expand their knowledge and skills and share them across the organization. Employees value learning to improve themselves and their company’s performance.
Building a culture of continuous learning and knowledge-sharing at your company should be a priority. With the shortage of skilled workers and continuously emerging competition, a one-time upskilling program won’t ensure long-term success. Part of a strong learning culture is a constantly evolving upskilling program. Regularly re-evaluating and changing your L&D programs will help your organization adapt to technological advancements, new competition, and economic fluctuations.
Another critical part of building a learning culture is asking employees what they want to learn and making training equitable and easily accessible. If you’re in an executive or management position, you may not fully understand the pain points of your workforce.
Continuous surveys can help you understand what skills your employees lack and if your training programs are effective. You can ask employees if they have any barriers to participating in your training programs to ensure your L&D programs are inclusive and accessible.
You can develop an excellent upskilling program, but the truth is, if your employees aren’t motivated to learn new skills, it won’t be effective. Employees may not see the value in training programs, or they may consider them extra work that takes away from their daily tasks. Creating training incentives is vital to ensure employees are engaged and your efforts pay off.
Demonstrate the Value
Ensure the connection between your business KPIs and employee training is clear. Linking training goals to business KPIs and each employee’s personal goals is a critical first step in the upskilling process. If you can’t find a connection, perhaps the training isn’t valuable and should be reconsidered.
If you’re training employees on a new skill, clearly explain how this skill will help them be more efficient or agile in their careers. Let’s say you want to invest in more AI technologies. You may roll out a training program to equip employees with the skills they need to work with AI.
Perhaps you hold a company-wide meeting on the exciting new technologies you will bring to the organization if they can master these skills. This will demonstrate the value of the training and motivate employees to learn.
Embrace Healthy Competition
Healthy competition among coworkers makes the workplace fun and incentivizes them to learn. Gamification, a board featuring all employees and their certification badges, and short skill-based competitions are ways to create healthy competition. The competition will fuel training motivation and make learning more exciting.
Rewards and Promotions
Raises, bonuses, promotions, and PTO are all used as incentives to learn new skills. Consider giving a few hours of PTO every time an employee completes a new certification or a small bonus after 20 hours of training.
It’s also important to demonstrate how upskilling can further your employees’ careers. When hiring for a new role, think about how to move or promote an existing employee instead of hiring outside your organization. This employee should be someone who has demonstrated their motivation to learn new skills and acquire competencies in areas outside their role.
Higher ed is falling behind in developing skilled candidates for tech roles. Could tech self-correct the skills gap? The answer is yes, but it will take a lot of effort. Tech companies must address the skills gap by shifting their hiring mindset and creating robust upskilling programs.
As part of our Enterprise Solutions, Edstutia can help your company develop personalized training programs to equip employees with the skills they need for success. Training sessions can take place in our fully virtual campus that leverages the latest immersive technology to support experiential learning.
Contact us today to learn how Edstutia can help you attract, develop, and retain skilled talent with immersive training experiences.