There's no denying that tech talent is in short supply. Every business is scrambling to bag the best and brightest within the IT sector. So how much is this talent now worth? And has high demand driven that value up?
Your own IT skills, those of your staff or the people you’re looking to hire can be one of the most valuable assets for any business. As the technology landscape moves on, we look at the added value they provide, how skills will shape your business future and how to train or invest in them.
The value of modern IT skills
With IT availability and information sharing the single core asset of many businesses, the value and knowledge of department workers across networking, maintenance, analytics and security continues to grow.
Your company may need to put training in place or find new recruits to fill the IT skills gap around security, cloud, services or to simply create a unified IT system out of the many legacy bits and pieces. Yet, recruiting may be the biggest issue facing us all, with some 800,000 roles vacant by the end of the decade and the shadow of Brexit threatening to damage Britain’s reputation for IT leadership and global accessibility.
The boom in new skills like container-based apps, advanced security forensics, AI and data science also puts pressure on education to produce new workers with the skills, and business to train their own teams to meet any likely shortfall. In short, your business may not find the people it needs, the main solution will be training.
Training and bringing the latest skills into your organization can help build a more business-focused workforce. They can develop and help build the next generation of services or products faster and improve overall efficiency. And that’s a massive reward for what most companies consider a modest investment.
Training, training and training
The need for training and education can help any business grow its skillset organically. However, the main lesson for many IT departments is that it is no longer a discrete unit of the business. Instead, it needs to interact and engage with all other departments to build the IT infrastructure and services that will help the company grow and develop.
To this end, all IT workers need to vary their skillset away from the purely technical, and learn not just how to keep the lights on, but how IT impacts and benefits the business. This means teaching your IT staff key skills will help make them more valuable workers. Some of the key training areas to focus on include:
- Business acumen, focusing on IT as a service to the company
- People skills to help collaborate better and manage the department as it grows
- Risk management to handle the growing threats to business IT
Of course, teams also need to master the next generation of IT business skills, including:
- AI and automation skills to position the business for the Internet of Things and a smart future
- Digital forensics to help them trace and monitor the growing range of digital threats, along with other security training
- A grounding in blockchain and similar services to help the business understand how they can benefit
- Sending your coders to learn about full stack coding to make them more flexible or allow them to learn about user experience and other skills to make them better workers.
A mixture of training in these skills spread around key staff, and highlighting their availability to new workers, can help improve the appeal of working for the business and boost retention. Still, when it comes to performance review time, IT workers are looking for more than just money and new skills that they may consider an essential part of their role.
Tech rewards beyond the pay packet
Across the market, technology salaries have flattened out in recent years, and there is only so much money any company can offer to retain key IT workers. Having established the hard value of these skills, technology workers can be rewarded in many different ways beyond a pay rise. One of the key all-round benefits of being a tech worker is that many systems and services don’t require physical access, therefore workers can have the privilege of being allowed to work from home either part time or full time.
The business needs to ensure sufficient security and access privileges, and that workers are available or doing work, depending on their role. That aside, working from home saves on office space and consumable usage, frees up desks for other essential staff and helps teams with their work/life balance. Companies can rotate who is working from home to prevent workers going rogue, and should encourage regular reporting to HR to establish what people might need in terms of hardware/office equipment to enable them to do their job more effectively.
Aside from mandatory skills training, extra training can be another lure for workers. Those with good core skills but a limited educational background can be put on courses to boost their overall skills, be it general education, advanced subjects or wider business skills. Most workers will value the ability to enhance their CV when it comes to seeking internal promotions or for their longer-term career.
All businesses should be aware of the trappings of a start-up culture. A pool table, office slide and coffee machine won’t make any business better. However, adding creative spaces, encouraging workers to do more reading, and making offices a more relaxing place to be can help improve productivity and the flow of ideas.
Encouraging workers to suggest how they can get involved and improve the business can be another part of the appraisal/performance review process. This can help to build a better workplace and encouraging people to be a part of the company.
Whatever your business, technology is changing everything. Many companies lack the understanding to see where IT could accelerate their business and improve their fortunes. Or perhaps they feel they can’t afford data scientists and chief digital officers. Instead, every business can look to training to boost their in-house IT skills which can position them for the future of IT-led digital business.
IFP Expert: Chris Knight writes about how new technologies can help business, from AI and chatbots, virtual and augmented reality to the latest in mobile and cloud developments.