How to Overcome the Tech Talent Shortage
Every sector competes for skilled tech workers these days. Technology has become such an integral part of the way organizations operate, because of this, the current talent pool isn’t enough to satisfy the outsized need for skills at every level of IT, especially as recruiting intensifies.
In researching this challenge, Skillsoft has found talent acquisition and development inextricably tied to the way organizations foster professional growth. A lack of training is often one of the key reasons why tech professionals leave their current role for another. On the other hand, training is listed as a key reason for loyalty.
At Skillsoft’s annual event, Perspectives, CTO Apratim Purakayastha — he goes by AP — hosted a panel of learning and development leaders who have grappled with challenges tied to talent acquisition, recruitment and development. They shared their stories and experiences, and importantly, they shared the ways they’ve found success.
Keep reading for insights and expertise from the following leaders in learning and development:
- Cari Bohley, VP of Talent Management at Peraton
- Gretchen Ringer, Director of Learning and Development at Leidos
- Sara Ley, Head of Digital and Tech Practice at Johnson & Johnson
- Tanya Pang, Senior Manager, Integrated Learning Solutions at Lockheed Martin
Attracting and Retaining Tech Workers Demands a More Holistic Approach to Development
The dramatic changes in how millions of people work around the world forced organizations to undergo rapid digital transformations. Many organizations weren’t prepared for what a pandemic would force them into. And this work never truly ends.
The resulting impacts created a tough job market for organizations struggling to attract or hold onto talent. This change gave even more leverage to tech workers who have something every company on the planet wants: skills.
The skills that IT professionals have are prized, demanded and needed. Every organization represented on this panel depends on the skills and often the certifications of their workforce. This knowledge translates into the high-quality products or services they deliver.
Regarding talent retention, pay isn’t the only factor luring skilled workers to other opportunities. In a survey of 9,325 IT workers, the number one reason they listed leaving their current role was due to a lack of professional development opportunities.
“We’ve really seen the numbers related to turnover go the way we want them to after we’ve implemented several programs and solutions to retain employees,” said Gretchen, with Leidos. “We’re saying, ‘where are your passions and interests and how do they align with what Leidos needs?’ Connecting talent to those opportunities will bring Leidos into the future.”
A lacking training program prevents the IT department from closing skills gaps. These gaps in knowledge cause a number of issues, not least of which include decreased revenue and customer satisfaction; increased stressed and turnover. (See more research on this in this report.) In this way, it becomes increasingly critical for IT leaders to work with their teams and counterparts in learning and development to find a solution.
Sara, with Johnson & Johnson, agreed with Gretchen’s comments, adding that it’s important to look holistically at what employees deem most important. Employees may want “other opportunities to experience project work, learn a new skill set in a different space or sector.” Access to career development is a part of the equation, Sara said, but it’s also the visibility into career mobility that plays an important role in training professionals and closing skills gaps afflicting the business.
Assess Your Workforce to Identify Skills Gaps and Track Increases in Proficiency
Most IT leaders recognize they have a growing problem on their hands: skills gaps. Data collected for Skillsoft’s IT Skills and Salary Report found 76% of IT leaders say they experience skills gaps on their teams.
But what’s the impact? Why are they so important to discuss and identify? Skills gaps affect all types of issues at work:
- Project durations
- Product deployments
It can become a vast list when you consider how a lack of knowledge could impact a single project or an entire organization. Think of it as pushing one domino tile into another, which then crashes into another and another and another.
IDC predicts skills gaps will cost organizations worldwide more than $6.5 trillion by 2025. (Dive into this data in more detail on page 10 of Skillsoft’s annual Lean Into Learning Report.)
The skills gap is often the result of the rapidly changing landscape in IT. But as many as one-third of IT leaders report that training programs aren’t meeting their needs. A joint Skillsoft-IDG survey found 53% of IT leaders struggle with inadequate learning libraries, and 56% say their teams don’t have enough time to practice skills.
Evidence like this helps learning and development leaders understand how to upskill their workforce and track their progress through assessments, training utilization and more.
Through its strategic workforce planning process at Lockheed Martin, Tanya and her team identify the current skills of their workforce and match them with what the company needs to deliver solutions to their customers. Ultimately, this process reveals growth opportunities.
“We’re in the midst of a digital transformation, we’re also in the midst of developing 21st century security solutions, so there is a great need for upskilling at all levels,” said Tanya, with Lockheed Martin.
After identifying these areas that require more growth, Tanya’s team launches a series of campaigns to deliver highly curated programs, communicate the company’s trajectory, and support the workforce with aid from learning providers.
“Our best talent is right here, and they have a lot of the adjacent skills we need,” Tanya said. “All they need is some upskilling and attention to get to the next level.”
Peraton takes a similar approach to identifying skills gaps. Through a relatively new internal mobility program, Cari’s team remains aware of the lifecycle of client contracts to help forecast when employees and their skills become available.
Then, Cari’s team identifies what skills employees have, including those that may apply to other needs of the business — even tangential skills. Those employees can then complete programs that help develop their existing skill set to use them effectively on more projects.
“We have to meet the learners where they are. Not everybody learns the same way,” said Cari, with Peraton. “It’s incredibly important to offer these different modalities because people will opt in to the ones that meet their needs most easily. Offering a diverse way for people to learn, we’re helping them achieve their goals in a way that’s meaningful, convenient.”
5 Skills These Companies Prioritize Right Now
- Data science
- AI and Machine Learning
- Software Development
‘A Million-Dollar Question’: What Does It Take to Show ROI on Training?
While learning and development leaders love to hear how their programs have benefitted someone’s career, it’s also important to see the numbers.
How has learning affected retention? Recruiting cost? Training or certification cost?
Having these numbers in hand can create a fuller picture of the impact training programs can have on an organization. They also become very supportive in efforts to double down on the positive impact these initiatives can have when it comes time to set a budget, test new programs, experiment with options, or bring in additional resources.
Panelists at Perspective gather as many insights as possible to understand how their programs align with business goals.
Retention as a Metric to Show ROI
Leidos developed a learning analytics dashboard on PowerBI, pulling in data from its learning management solution (LMS) Workday, an integration partner of Skillsoft’s. They started with the foundational metrics like utilization and employee feedback, so they could see the health of the program. But, leadership wants to know how these programs add value to the organization by retaining employees and improving outcomes.
Gretchen dug into the data and saw her learning programs were working. “We compared numbers of those in our technical stream with those who are participating in our technical upskilling programs, we found that we are retaining more people,” she said.
“I want to put a dollar amount to it,” she said. “When I go into our annual operating-planning meeting, I’m not begging for money. There’s no reason I shouldn’t get this budget because, with each person we save, this is the amount of money. So, it’s the cost-savings of the people.”
An Increase in Professional Certifications
“At previous organizations, some of the things we used to demonstrate value were an increase in professional certifications,” Cari said. “Because these are the things our customers required. If we could upskill internally instead of buy talent, that’s what we used to show value.”
Learning and development programs undoubtedly impact the organization. They can increase employee engagement and reinforce culture, but also add direct value to the organization. In Cari’s experience, showing value by measuring certifications has led to IT professionals who are ready and able to provide services to clients.
Responding to Cari, AP said: “If you have certifications, then you have project-ready people… You can fill projects much quicker when you have the right resume of certifications. That’s a clear business value.”
Show an Increase in Knowledge and See How Skills are Applied
At Lockheed Martin, Tanya says they keep track of talent movement to see how employees take what they’ve learned and put it into action. “People want to be developed. People come to companies to be developed,” said Tanya. “We want to look at talent movement and where they’re applying what they’ve learned.”
Similarly, Sara with Johnson&Johnson says tracking skills development can show value to the organization overall. “If you can show the increase in knowledge, skill, capability, that’s also another win,” Sara said.
4 Pieces of Advice for Those Facing Talent Acquisition and Retention Challenges
Know who the stakeholders are in your organization and become their best friends. Partner with them when designing programs. Don’t forget them.
Focus and prioritize on what you can accomplish. Don’t try to do everything at once. This is a journey for all of us, and we all start at different points.
One of the most important things we can do is to skill people up in learning agility and change agility to help them adapt.
Think through how to bring learning programs to the organization. Communication is such a big piece of the puzzle.
Perspectives makes several stops around the world in 2022. Up next is New York City and San Francisco, where conversations like these continue. Subscribe to Skillsoft’s blog to get notifications when new blogs come out.