5 Strategies to Fill the IT Skills Gap

Gala Lyne
GVP, Regional GM, Americas - East
Rimini Street
5 min read
5 Strategies to Fill the IT Skills Gap

Finding and retaining IT talent is becoming a major IT cost

The labor market and supply chain have experienced significant upheaval in the wake of the global pandemic. Fortunately, the supply chain has begun to rebuild — a recent construction project had me pleasantly surprised to see the prices of lumber becoming reasonable again. However, it is still challenging to find and hire good talent. The Great Resignation of 2021 has significantly strained businesses looking to hire and retain talent.

In early 2021, McKinsey reported that 87% of companies acknowledged that they currently have a skills gaps or anticipate such a challenge in the near future. This problem is expected to cost organizations big bucks, to the tune of US$2.5 trillion over the next decade, according to IndustryWeek. Given the current state of the labor market, businesses must find ways to address the skills gap and ensure they have the talent they need to succeed. Here are five strategies organizations can use to build a strong and capable workforce.

1. Hire for soft skills, upskill for expertise

This may be a departure for organizations that put a premium on hiring for specific skill sets, especially when it comes to technical roles. However, I believe that if a candidate already has a base level of expertise, advanced technical skills can always be taught inside the organization.

Soft skills such as critical thinking, adaptability, creativity, and a love of learning are what enable individuals to think outside the box and deliver more value to their organizations. If you’re having trouble finding talent with all the intangibles you’re looking for, there’s good news. According to a recent PWC report, such soft skill expertise can be upskilled through different training initiatives. With constantly evolving technology and tools, it is essential that businesses prioritize these key qualities in both their hiring decisions and internal talent development programs.

2. Reconsider your talent source

When recruiting for a role, companies often turn to age-old tactics: posting openings on popular job boards and seeking candidates from the same universities. Revisiting the same watering hole will only cause resources to become scarcer — consider too how this problem compounds when many companies do the same thing. It’s time to think differently about where you go to get your talent. Thankfully, things have started to shift. One thing I’ve observed is that organizations are becoming more strategic in how they develop their talent pool, especially for entry-level positions.

The significance of this shift hit me while I attended an industry event, speaking with a representative from Nichols College, who laid out the institution’s newly developed transformational learning model, which is designed to help students hit the ground running when they begin the job search. The institution completely modified its curriculum to emphasize business process automation. It now uses an “experiential learning” approach that includes credit-bearing internships to prepare students to make an impact inside an organization on day one. This program is not tailored to a specific company. Still, savvy organizations could take a page from Nichols’ playbook and consider developing strategic partnerships with universities to develop talent that is ready to go upon graduation.

Partnerships with universities are just one avenue. Organizations like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have created a talent sourcing pipeline by introducing online training and certification programs. On the surface, these industry-lauded certs would initially appear to serve a candidate solely as a way to stand out to prospective employers. But dig a little deeper: these online training initiatives give their sponsoring companies the inside scoop on individuals who demonstrate extraordinary mastery of their products. This can lead to a well-stocked source from which to mine talent.

3. Revamp your recruiting process

Tell me if this story sounds familiar: You’re at your desk working through a number of tasks when someone drops by to ask for your help in interviewing a candidate in an hour or so. Your colleague shoots you an email with background on the position and applicant, you print out their resume, spend five minutes skimming through it, and then join up to ask the prospect some questions.

Most of us have had an experience like this, but few have taken the time to contrast it to the prospect’s experience. The level of effort that a candidate puts forward not just to find a job but apply for it, secure an interview, and take time away from their current company to meet onsite is disproportionate to the hiring organization’s effort. And with the labor shortage, people are becoming privy to this disparity and spending their time more wisely.

To help bridge the skills gap, organizations must realize that a potential employee is no different from a sales prospect: both must be courted and sold on the company. This means rethinking the interview process to better sell people on why you want them to work for you as much as it is understanding if they have the skills, experience, and wherewithal to do the job. Investing more time in the recruiting and interview process is meaningful to candidates with multiple options — and those are exactly the people you want working at your company.

4. Understand your employee engagement mission

The best way to bridge the skills gap is to ensure that the talented individuals already at your company don’t leave. After all, if you’re hiring 10 new employees but another 10 are on their way out, your total talent level stays flat. To prevent talent migration, you need to redefine your employee engagement mission.

To do so, it’s important to understand how involved your employees are at work. Are your employees energetic about what they do? Do they feel highly productive and do they excel in their jobs? Or are they too bogged down in their work, risking burnout? It is vital that you create a meaningful dialogue between leadership and your workforce to better understand how your employees feel about their workload. Making a concerted effort to cultivate an engaging workplace can increase retention.

5. Expand your talent pool outside the company walls

It takes time to implement these solutions, but not all organizations have the luxury of time. When faced with a dire talent shortage, many companies are finding success in outsourcing. Be it support for IT systems and applications or extra hands to help with marketing and public relations efforts, organizations are bridging their skills gap by tapping a talent pool that lives outside company walls.

Outsourcing to fill skills gaps can help companies respond to changing needs and demands in a flexible and scalable way without committing to long-term hiring or training processes. However, you may need to modernize your outsourcing strategy by shifting away from time and materials or statement of work (SOW) contracts. For example, build third-party services contracts using an outcomes-based approach that aligns with the priorities and demands of the business.

Bringing everything together: the fusion model talent strategy

To truly bridge the skills gap, it’s not enough to rely on just one solution. Instead, organizations should adopt what I call the Fusion Model Talent Strategy, which combines multiple approaches to sourcing, recruiting, and retaining talent. This includes building partnerships with universities, turning to independent support solutions, upskilling current employees, revamping the recruitment process, and putting a focus on employee engagement. As noted, some elements of this strategy may take time to implement, but others can be implemented quickly to address immediate needs.

It’s crucial to acknowledge that the demand for highly skilled labor will only continue to grow. Don’t risk falling behind by failing to properly staff your organization. By adopting a Fusion Model Talent Strategy, you’ll be better equipped to meet the evolving needs of your workforce and stay competitive in today’s talent-driven market.

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