How HR can start to overcome the IT skills gap

Is there a wider lack of digital skills, or are we looking at the problem the wrong way?
4 December 2018

IT grads might think tech-based companies offer the better careers. Source: Sans Institute

With the emergence of a distinct understanding that investing in people and not just services are key towards solving our organizations’ digital challenges,  the realization that we may not have access to the skilled workers we need has begun to creep in. But this may be more of a perception problem than anything else— on both sides of the hiring table.

Since there is no real shortage of IT graduates, the apparent skills shortage may lie in the belief among job seekers that tech companies offer the best springboard for their careers, when in fact there are hundreds of equally competitive and esteemed non-tech companies with similar digital needs where graduates can make a dent.

For human resources (HR) professionals, the challenge lies making non-tech companies appealing towards ‘techies’, says founder and CEO of CloudPeeps, Kate Kendall, who believes that a company’s unique mission and value must be in line with giving technical talent the belief that they are creating something important.

Flexibility seems to be another issue overlooked by HR, as the younger generation and freelancers alike prefer remote working conditions. Nonetheless, most companies, especially non-tech companies may not be ready to embrace this.

There are methods to overcome such roadblocks, however, and hiring a technology consultant could be the first step in order to ensure the focus of recruiting in the bigger picture of the company’s strategic business directions. This approach can help companies focus on outcomes and take a holistic approach to people, processes and technology.

While technical IT skill-sets are vital for roles for the data scientist, cybersecurity or digital transformation roles in most demand, however, communication skills are an oft-overlooked, but equally significant, trait to take into account when recruiting new talent.

From a company-wide perspective, IT experts are only as good as their ability to articulate their work. How will a CEO be convinced to invest US$20,000 a year into cybersecurity measures of your newly-hired head of IT security can’t adequately explain the threat?

The power of good communication skills, however, goes both ways. HR teams should exhibit creativity and understanding in terms of hiring personnel, offering a degree of flexibility, company perks, on-the-job training, and regular checks on job satisfaction levels for starters.

But while it’s tough to find the right talent now, the influx of a Generation Z workforce could make things easier. Set to account for almost 20 percent of the employee-base by 2020, this group claim to be attracted to companies with great technology and are keen to embrace a future focused on adding new layers of value to the menial work carried out by advances in artificial intelligence and automation.