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Mind the Skills Gap – Diversify Your Approach!

There’s been much public debate in the tech industry around a growing shortage of qualified tech talent that’s making it difficult for organizations to hire or find workers with the right skills or experience.

Indeed, the fast-paced momentum of digital transformation projects has left many IT departments reporting they’re struggling to find people with the pre-requisite cybersecurity, data analytics, AI or cloud skills.

But are the industry’s claims that there simply aren’t enough tech workers to go around vastly exaggerated?

That’s certainly the view of some tech leaders, who view the problem as being more self-inflicted rather than insurmountable. Take Forrester’s Vice President Andrew Bartels, who states that fears of a crisis in the U.S. labor market are “vastly overblown.”

So, what’s the problem?

According to Forrester and other industry observers, adapting too narrow a field of vision when it comes to recruiting talent is a big part of the issue. As is refusing to invest in developing entry level tech talent or failing to pay the right salary or perks for specialist tech positions.

So, what steps can organizations take to resolve their skills gap in IT?

Closing the talent gap – widen the net and grow from within

Limiting hiring practices to only recruiting graduates with computer science or engineering degrees and wooing specialists from other employers means many enterprises are missing a trick. Because the digital talent pool is potentially so much larger than this.

What’s needed is a more creative and sustainable approach that results in a widening of talent sourcing strategies.

For starters, that means discovering the hidden potential in existing tech personnel and upskilling or reskilling them with future-forward tech skills. It also means considering employees currently working in non-tech roles who can be trained on the tech skills the business needs.

Extending the talent search beyond ‘qualified’ candidates to include experienced workers of all ages and backgrounds means recruitment will need to become much more focused on behavioural competencies —like critical thinking, creativeness and an eagerness to learn new skills.

Diversify the recruitment pipeline

IT departments are also falling behind when it comes to getting diversity and inclusion right in terms of race, gender and religion.

According to a recent Frost & Sullivan cybersecurity workforce study, just 11% of women work in the profession globally. That represents a vast untapped resource of talent IT organizations are failing to explore or entice.

Changing hiring practices to emphasize competencies such as innovation, adaptability, business acumen, collaboration and people with a diversity of life experiences and education can go a long way to addressing this issue.

What’s more, viewing diversity in a much more holistic manner will also generate gains that go beyond just opening up a broader field of candidates. As a 2018 research report from McKinsey shows, greater diversity in the workforce also results in greater productivity, profitability and value creation.

Addressing the digital talent shortage requires a change of recruitment thinking and a keen understanding of where IT and business needs meet. The answer lies in opening workplace education to all and optimizing existing in-house resources and a change of approach to what makes someone eligible for a role.