How a fresh approach to skills is key to unlocking tech talent of the future

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The telecoms industry, like many others, is grappling with a tech talent shortage as demand for digital skills continues to sharply outpace supply. Industries which increasingly rely on IT functions, and tech-focused organisations, in particular, are feeling the problem acutely. In fact, nearly all (93 percent) of UK businesses say they are facing a tech skills gap, according to research by Forbes in September 2023.

Furthermore, in today’s rapidly-changing tech landscape – especially with the revolution heralded by the growing significance of AI, fueled by the arrival of Generative AI – businesses of all kinds face a big challenge: cultivating workforces equipped with the digital skills of the future. Achieving this goal involves an intricate dance of recruitment, upskilling, and employee development.

The power of upskilling

Providing access to learning for new colleagues and upskilling in-house talent has become essential for employers that want to gain, and retain, a competitive edge, as well as colleague development. The majority (84 percent) of UK tech employers expect to recruit this year, but three-quarters (75 per cent) are concerned about insufficient numbers of suitable applicants, according to Hays UK salary research published in January.

Organizations should recognize the vital importance of tackling the tech talent crisis head-on, by investing in retaining and upskilling them so that they can move roles internally and progress their careers. This enables colleagues to move between departments to diversify their skill sets and encourages them to stay with an organization for the long term. This approach is key for a solid upskilling plan. Colleagues also need to take accountability for their learning and ensure that they are utilizing the opportunities given.

Committing to upskilling is not merely a box-ticking exercise – it's a strategic imperative. Equipping colleagues with the right skills is a win-win situation. It not only enhances their individual value but also contributes to the organization's resilience and adaptability in a rapidly evolving tech landscape.

Also, offering the opportunity to learn new skills is a powerful tool for attracting new workers and retaining talent. There’s a fierce fight going on for top talent and it’s set to continue as increasing numbers of people are quitting the industry. Within the tech sector, nearly two thirds (63 percent) of employees will consider moving jobs during 2023, according to.

Mark Murphy

Director of HR for Digital at BT Group.

Talent pipeline for the future

To address the ongoing challenges of digital talent scarcity, it is important for organizations to build their own talent pipeline – with a focus not only on constantly attracting fresh talent, but also on nurturing and developing existing colleagues. Companies need to be proactive in creating their talent pool for the future.

This means fostering a culture of continuous learning within the organization, one that encourages colleagues to embark on an ongoing journey of self-improvement. This extends beyond conventional training programs, with the emphasis on learning activities that are inherent to a role rather than ad hoc tasks.

Providing ready access to learning – through licensing, partnerships and other initiatives - not only equips people with the skills needed to excel but also fosters a sense of loyalty and belonging. Organizations should actively promote the idea that the pursuit of new skills is a shared mission across their workforce. By creating a collaborative learning environment, where colleagues not only engage in self-improvement but also contribute to the growth of their peers, businesses can create a self-sustaining ecosystem of learning and development.

Non-stop learning and embracing GenAI

Establishing dedicated programs for upskilling and reskilling creates a culture of continuous learning within organizations. This means they are better able to adapt to emerging technologies, better equipped to harness the full potential of their workforce, and better armed for the future.

GenAI has the power to revolutionize workplaces by automating tasks, assisting colleagues and enhancing productivity. As we embrace these technologies, we envision a future where the workforce collaborates seamlessly with AI systems, leading to increased efficiency and innovation. It will be essential for organizations to take the lead in ensuring that colleagues learn how to adequately navigate and utilize the powerful tools provided by GenAI.

The journey to unlocking tech talent

Organizations can no longer depend purely on recruitment to fill their tech skills gaps. In addition to a good external talent pipeline, it’s vital to also foster strong internal talent pools as well as encouraging mobility between teams and roles. Companies can now take ownership of upskilling their own workforce and prioritize their talent pipeline will be the ones that lay the foundations for a solid future.

A holistic approach that encompasses recruitment, upskilling, and employee development is vital for addressing the tech talent shortage. By fostering a culture of continuous learning and embracing emerging technologies, organizations can successfully overcome the challenge – while also driving growth and innovation.

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Mark Murphy is Director of HR for Digital at BT Group.