Despite the current backdrop of economic certainty, organizations both large and small are dealing with an acute and prolonged level of job vacancies across their IT teams.
Exacerbating the problem is the fact that every sector of business competes for skilled tech workers these days. Technology has become such an integral part of the way organizations operate, and the current talent pool isn’t growing fast enough to satisfy the outsized need for skills at every level of IT, especially as demand rises.
This well-documented problem has become known as the IT talent gap, and it is causing significant difficulty for HR leaders and organizations to fill these critical roles. In fact, 73% of business leaders predict they will struggle to fill open technology roles in 2023, according to research. These gaps in knowledge cause a number of issues, not the least of which include decreased revenue and customer satisfaction, increased stress, and high turnover.
Bridging the Talent Gap
The IT talent gap is clearly a growing problem for organizations trying to attract, develop, and retain new talent. So, what can HR leaders and businesses do to address these mission-critical challenges? With traditional methods alone failing to close the IT talent gap, it is essential that business leaders explore every possible option and begin thinking outside the box by utilizing existing and innovative strategies to attract and retain new talent. In this way, it becomes increasingly critical for IT leaders to work with their teams and counterparts in learning and development to find creative solutions.
Provide Pathways to Tech Careers
Employers will need to begin investing more in training and upskilling programs to equip their workers with the skills they require. In the tech industry specifically, demand is soaring for qualified technology workers, and continuous learning is required to keep up with the ever-evolving IT and cyberthreat landscape. For this reason, providing pathways to tech careers through apprenticeships, opportunities to learn on the job, certification programs, strategic partnerships, and other creative solutions will help to reduce the IT talent gap on a much grander scale.
HR leaders may want to consider creating partnerships with local academic institutions and other entities such as technical schools and certificate programs. These partnerships have the benefit of providing an employer with an applicant pool that is gaining the skills the employer needs. Many organizations and jobseekers are also turning to local, state, and federal government programs for technical training and IT skills development. A number of these resources serve employers and jobseekers simultaneously.
These types of partnerships help to grow the workforce, and they’re going to equip tech talent from any background with the skills, trainings, and certifications they need to grow careers.
Expand Hiring Pools
Across the IT industry, many groups still find themselves seriously underrepresented. Less than a quarter of women and minorities in tech report a feeling of belonging within the industry. In contrast, 75% of executives believe that women and minority employees feel a sense of belonging in their organizations—a fact that only serves to underline further the diversity, equity, and inclusion shortcomings inherent across the IT industry.
Despite the emergence of important diversity and equality initiatives across the IT industry, HR leaders could and should be doing more to deliver equality of opportunity and progression. One way employers can work to address today’s talent challenges is by tapping into a wider variety of nontraditional and increasingly diverse or underrepresented talent pools. These include individuals with disabilities, veterans, older workers who can upskill for specific roles, Gen Zs who have not yet entered the workforce but will soon, and global talent, to name a few examples.
Mentorship also becomes a valuable tool to help minority colleagues ensure they develop a genuine sense of belonging within their organization as they progress on their career path. And when senior-level employees commit to supporting new minority colleagues, the impact can be transformative. In this win-win scenario, both employers and employees benefit.
Improve Internal Training Programs
Learning and development programs can increase employee engagement and reinforce culture but also add direct value to the organization. Studies show employees consider learning opportunities highly important to their job satisfaction. By investing in more effective and meaningful professional development programs, employers can prove they are genuinely invested in the long-term success of their staff while investing in future-proofing their IT teams. As these workers progress and grow, employers can draw on individuals and teams with improved capabilities that enable them to tackle a wider variety of tasks.
Certification programs also lead to IT professionals who are ready and able to provide services to clients. An IT certification typically refers to a qualification individuals receive that shows their competency in a specific field of information technology. To get a certification, individuals generally need to pass an exam that tests their capabilities in the field. Potential benefits of getting a certification can include improved job performance and increased ability to solve complex problems, and many times, employers are more than happy to pay for their employees to get certified for in-demand skills.
There are some common IT certifications designed to prepare individuals for entry-level tech positions. The list includes programs that are broad enough to expose individuals to a variety of skills and will help equip them with building more specialized skills. What works particularly well for organizations looking to fill the IT talent gap, however, is when these certification programs are focused on specific needs or areas of specialization. For example, by linking cybersecurity training to specific requirements or career plans such as those offered through ISC2, organizations can build their talent pool to more effectively meet their requirements. This has become incredibly important in the cybersecurity niche, where the talent gap is disproportionately wide globally.
Building a Talent Foundation in IT
With no end to the IT talent shortage in sight, tech businesses need to take a fresh look at the workplace systems, environments, and cultures they have in place. The pivotal question to ask is: Do they maximize the opportunity for finding, training, and retaining top talent? More often than not, the answer will be no. With this in mind, leaders must begin investing time and resources into their diversity efforts, as well as their learning and development opportunities for employees. The IT skill shortage demonstrates how diversity and upskilling have been far too overlooked in the tech sector and how close-minded hiring and retention efforts have a negative impact on an organization’s customer service, growth, and brand.
Jen Locklear is Chief People Officer for ConnectWise. She has responsibility for engaging and developing high-performing ConnectWise colleagues, facilitating a professional environment that cultivates dynamic teams obsessed with partner success, and helping individuals grow and meet their career goals. Before joining ConnectWise in 2016, Locklear held leadership positions at WilsonHCG as chief people and culture officer and at Healthesystems as vice president of human relations.