A group of female and male IT professionals working on software development using modern devices while sitting at table.
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With the emergence of digital workplaces in the enterprise, finding the right talent is becoming increasingly difficult. According to research from Gartner-owned CEB at the end of 2017, all industries and verticals are under pressure to find skilled workers. This includes industries that have been traditionally on the cutting edge of enterprise development in recent years.

Searching For Digital Workers

The research entitled Competing for Talent in the Digital Age shows that talent shortages are significantly affecting organizations with the median time to fill posts increasing by 30 business days, or six weeks, between 2010 and 2017. Those digital skills include the ability to develop, implement and use digital technologies in the workplace with demand highest for the digital skills needed to create new technologies, including programming languages and software development strategies. In addition, companies need non-technical employees

Thomas Handcock, HR practice leader with CEB, explained in the report that the research looked at data from CEB’s TalentNeuron platform on all of the job postings done by the S&P 100 companies in 2016. It found that while they were hiring for close to 9,000 different positions, 39 percent of the entire job posting activity was really only focused on 29 jobs. In addition, 90 percent of those S&P 100 companies were recruiting for each role.

This is not limited to just S&P companies. “This is a trend that we are seeing across all geographies. To put it simply, companies across diverse industries and across the globe are converging on the same talent pools,” he wrote.

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Data-Driven Training

Stefano Bellasio is the CEO of Cloud Academy, which develops an enterprise-training platform that offers organizations digital skills training. He points out that now, with the tech talent gap in plain sight, organizations are looking for a data-driven approach to training. They must be able to define job roles, skills and technologies needed for cloud adoption and ongoing competitiveness in order to identify internal skill gaps and upskill their workforce. By positioning training as a perk or should-do, more often than not, it isn’t done. The importance of goal-driven training cannot be overstated. “When companies implement comprehensive training, they see increased engagement. Upskilling employees is a practical endeavor, and should emphasize actionable skills and outcomes. Which is why employees want training with an end goal in mind,” he said.

Lack Of Leadership Is A Problem

Could it be that the problem with upskilling workers is a problem with enterprise leaders who stand behind excuses of financial constraints to avoid investing in training? Airto Zamorano, founder and CEO of Numana SEO, thinks so. “What I have often found is that employees always want more development, but the organization isn't always able to or interested in giving them exactly what they desire,” he said. “My experience has shown that this is almost always excused by claiming financial limitations, but I believe it really comes down to the lack of ability from leadership.”

The key to upskilling workers is to have them led by dynamic, creative people who have firsthand experience and an ability to develop their team. This requires agility within the organization that allows smaller teams to function with as much autonomy as possible. It also requires that team leaders and managers are allowed to lead without being micromanaged while assuming responsibility for the success or failure of their projects. “It is important to keep in mind that failure, in and of itself, is not a problem. People learn more from failure than success, so the real indicator of a problem is when a person, or team, repeat their mistakes and fails to develop,” he added.

Indeed, if a person is not making mistakes, they are not pushing themselves toward growth. Yet most workers are incentivized to earn high marks on annual reviews with antiquated metrics rather than to push themselves toward personal development.

Ultimately, if an organization does not see the benefit of continually developing each person on their team, and the value that brings to its bottom line, then it may be veritably impossible for a business to upskill its workers in a meaningful way. On the other hand, agile organizations who realize they're only as good as their weakest link will understand the value of their people and they will make every investment possible in their team. There are many ways of approaching the problem. Three companies we contacted offered the following advice.

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1. Effective Spend

Not all upskilling requires high-tech solutions, though. In fact, while Natalia Wulfe of Effective Spend said that upskilling workers and empowering them with digital practical understanding is critical to the success a company there are some low-tech solutions. “One of the best ways we ensure our employees are learning new digital skills is surprisingly low-tech,” she said. “We've created a sort of audit buddy system, where we pair up team members from all different job levels and have them audit each other's work.” This helps teach new skills and facilitates learning:

  • Each employee brings a slightly different experience, so their friend can learn about (and even demo) new features, strategies and tools that they have not been exposed to on their own teams.
  • Provide employees with a safe (non-client) environment to get constructive feedback and trial new ideas.
  • Facilitates a collaborative and non-siloed company culture as employees from different teams will have the chance to work together and get to know each other. Employees that know each other on a personal level are much more likely to ask a co-worker for help learning a new skill.
  • Encourages a company culture of knowledge sharing rather than knowledge hoarding. Again, employees that know each other on a personal level are more likely to proactively share new information with their co-workers because they care about helping their team members learn.

“The results of the employees' audits also help guide the development of internal processes and tools, such as account checklists and reporting templates, which the entire team can learn and benefit from,” she added.

2. Pagely

Joshua Strebel, CEO of Pagely, one of the top managed WordPress hosting providers, has a different approach. He said that at Pagely they upskill the team in a variety of ways including access to top notch technical equipment with a stipend for each new employee to spend on a new and dedicated work computer.

In addition, they have replaced top down management with a leader-leader working style where everyone has the authority to own the outcomes of their work. “Putting people in this kind of mindset keeps them learning new skills and techniques to help themselves and their team members succeed. When you put the power in someone's hands to be recognized for their success, they find new ways to make their time and work more effective,” he said.

3. HPL Echo

A final example comes from HPL Echo, a cloud-based, SaaS solution that empowers employees to learn at their own pace. According to HPL's Chief Strategy Officer, Mike Friedin, the learning journey in the digital workplace still begins in the classroom, but is extended through a tailored, mobile-first micro-learning platform that is accessible both online and off.

HPL Echo reinforces key competency development through short bursts of information to the user over time. Through the use of gamification, flashcards, podcasts and videos, quizzes and push notifications, the platform echoes back what has already been learned, allowing knowledge to move from short to long-term memory. Each of these activities can be completed in the time it takes to read an email, meaning employees can learn on the subway platform, in line for coffee, between meetings — pick your three-minute interval.

“Every company needs a digital transformation strategy, and a big part of that strategy must center around employee enablement. Employers need to offer new tools and systems that simplify processes and improve the employee experience, and employees need to learn how to use those tools,” Friedin said.