Can’t Hire Enough Tech Workers? Johnson & Johnson Found a Solution

October 5, 2022 | Reskill Your Workforce | 6 min read

The labor market for tech professionals has been hot for years. However, more recently, the addition of the Great Resignation, changes in personal and professional priorities, and a widening skills gap, it’s become increasingly difficult to hire and retain tech talent.

Johnson & Johnson isn’t exempt from this challenge. The global producer of consumer products, pharmaceuticals and MedTech faces the same issues as virtually every company today:

  • The need for skilled tech workers continues to grow.
  • It’s tougher to recruit and retain workers today.
  • Knowledge and skill gaps can slow progress.

However, Johnson & Johnson has begun to shift its approach. “There’s not enough talent out there,” said Sara Ley, head of digital & tech practice at Johnson & Johnson Learn. “How do we elevate who we have?”

Sara leads a team of learning professionals internally, who support business initiatives by recruiting and upskilling technologists. Knowing the state of recruiting tech talent well, Sara says the company has shifted more of its focus to upskilling existing employees in a way that aligns with its learning framework, the Three E’s: Experience, Exposure and Education. The idea being as people advance throughout their careers, they will need experience, exposure and education to be successful.

Recently, Sara joined Skillsoft’s Perspectives panel in Washington DC to talk about how to overcome the tech talent shortage. Read the event recap here: Perspectives 2022: Overcoming the Tech Talent Shortage

The company continues to recognize the need for skills in intelligent automation, data science, and software engineering to deliver innovative solutions in health care. But Skillsoft research has found people in these roles can be some of the toughest to hire for.

So, how are they building the skills they need, despite the headwinds blown in from a trying labor market?

Organizations Must Nurture the Workforce They Have to Close Skill Gaps

At Johnson & Johnson, there exists counsels made up of company leaders from various backgrounds to address big topics like digital transformation, improving the use of data science, and more.

As ideas and plans emerge from these counsels, capable people must be ready to carry out the projects successfully.

That’s where Sara’s team comes in. It’s up to her team to help source talent or ensure existing employees have the skills they need to get the job done.

“Upskilling is a bigger focus,” Sara said. “Yes, we want to hire the best and brightest from outside, but if we go in knowing there’s a shortage, then how do we also build the capability in house with who we have, who are eager to learn?”

This strategy is consistent with findings from Skillsoft’s annual IT Skills and Salary Report, in which half of tech leaders say they planned to train existing staff in order to close skill gaps.

In areas like cloud computing, cybersecurity, data science and DevOps, talent shortages are often the most acute, meaning that organizations must invest in their employees to develop the skills they need.

Otherwise, they could face a series of consequences ranging from longer project durations or resolution times to slumping client satisfaction and even revenue losses, according to findings from a joint IDG-Skillsoft survey. (See pg. 11 of our annual Lean Into Learning Report for more.)

In spring 2022, Johnson & Johnson launched a program internally that gives employees room to develop new skills and begin applying them in different parts of the business.

It’s like an internal gig economy.

When people need help with a project, they post a short-term opening for a job on the company’s learning platform. The algorithm matches prospective candidates with jobs based on existing skills and experience. So far, nearly 1,000 gigs have been listed since the program started.

At the heart of the program is the idea of career mobility, or helping people chart pathways to achieve their professional goals. It resulted from a desire to enable employees to pursue their interests, find their place at the organization, and begin sourcing skills from within.

Mentorship is also available to employees through the Johnson & Johnson Learn platform. People, like Sara, have signed up to serve as a mentor. They get matched with employees based on their skills. Once matched, they connect to teach one another and learn from one another.

These initiatives give employees the chance to work on their portfolios, build their skills, network with others, and explore their options — all without the risk, stress and disruption of leaving their current role.

In this way, it's mutually beneficial. Learners can feel empowered to jump in and out of projects to gain experience and pursue their interests, all the while Johnson & Johnson encourages its workforce to gain skills that they can invest back into the company.

The Benefits for Employees

The Benefits for Johnson & Johnson

  • Gigs provide real-world experience
  • The chance to network with other professionals
  • Enables employees to explore different roles and parts of the business
  • Sources skills internally to support initiatives
  • Encourages continual learning and professional development
  • Helps retain employees who show interest in areas outside of their roles

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Johnson & Johnson Supports Talent Development Through Real-World Skill Application

In a time when hiring and retaining tech workers can prove challenging, programs like Johnson & Johnson’s can help by giving employees the agency to find their calling, which is an important factor when people think about their jobs, according to research from Gallup.

Fifty-eight percent of people responding to Gallup’s survey say they want space to do what they do best.

“When people have the opportunity to do work they are naturally gifted at and trained to do, they enjoy their work, find it stimulating, and want to do more of it,” writes Ben Wigert, director of research and strategy, Workplace Management, at Gallup. “Unsurprisingly, this item remains one of the most important for workers. Workers who aren't allowed to use their strengths very often seek jobs where they can; workers who do get to use their strengths seek out jobs where they get to use them even more.”

Through this program, Johnson & Johnson encourages its employees to continually invest in their own education, find what they enjoy doing, and apply their skills in a way that supports the company’s far-reaching, innovative work.

In June 2022, Sara joined talent development leaders from Leidos, Peraton and Lockheed Martin at Skillsoft’s Perspectives event in Washington DC to discuss the issue. To learn about how these companies are addressing the challenges of skill and talent shortages, read this blog, “How to Overcome the Tech Talent Shortage.”