Building a Champion IT Team: How to Upskill Your Employees


Tech Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for IT pros

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Finding the best tech talent can be hard, so why not turn to upskilling your own team? Here's how to do it.

Article 5 Minutes
Successful group of tech professionals learning from one another to upskill themselves

The IT team is now at the heart of every business. Almost no firm can operate without the applications, networking and support provided by these professionals. But to get the best results, you need to have the best people.

A strong IT team can make a huge difference to an enterprise, helping business units be much more productive, ensuring the company is responsive to new trends and protecting it against threats.

However, finding people with the right skills to do this can be challenging. While you could turn to the job market to bring in the best talent, you'll find yourself competing for the best professionals, and it can take time to identify the right personnel, onboard them and bring them up to speed.

But there’s another way: looking within. Upskilling your existing employees can improve the performance of your team. Why should you be doing this, and what steps should you take to ensure your initiatives are successful?

The benefits of upskilling your IT employees

Upskilling is a highly useful activity across all areas of a business, but it's especially valuable for the IT department, for several reasons.

For starters, it means you don't have to fight for limited talent in a crowded marketplace. According to CompTIA, 82% of companies report issues with a skills gap in their IT department, while nearly 6 in 10 large enterprises believe this is growing. This makes it harder to find the right people externally, making upskilling a simple and cost-effective alternative.

There are many other benefits to upskilling your IT workforce. For instance, it can also help you retain talent. Up to 1 in 4 employees may be actively looking for a new job at any given time, and being able to show you have an interest in their professional development can be a major factor in persuading people to stay.

The IT industry also moves fast, and if you don't take steps to ensure your staff are moving with it, you'll quickly get left behind. This isn't just about enabling your employees to keep up with the latest technology, but also protecting their skills in a shifting industry.

As technologies like AI and automation become more commonplace, professionals will have to adapt to avoid being displaced. According to McKinsey, as many as 375 million workers may need to retrain by 2030 as tools like automation change the job landscape, and tech workers will be well-placed to develop new skills to respond to this and support these systems.

Finally, no-one knows your company better than your current employees. Those who've been with you for many years will have an in-depth knowledge of its intricacies and an understanding of the wider industry that even the most talented new hires won't have. Therefore, giving them more skills to put this knowledge to good use will be hugely beneficial.

Know the gaps in your current skillsets

The first step in any upskilling program is to identify where the greatest need lies. Once you have this knowledge, you can talk to your employees about the areas that interest them and try to match people to roles or particular skills.

Some of the most in-demand IT jobs at the moment include:

  • Big data analysts
  • Cloud specialists
  • Cybersecurity experts
  • Artificial intelligence
  • DevOps

These are all areas that can command high salaries - especially when fighting for new talent with other businesses. However, they’re also all roles that’ll be indispensable for all enterprises in the coming years.

Therefore, identifying people within your organization that already have the right base skills you can build on, as well as a strong interest in these disciplines, will ensure you're able to adapt quickly to these needs.

Keeping it personal

It's important to tailor any training programs to the needs of the individual. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to learning, and what works for one may be ineffective for another.

You need to be flexible with how any upskilling is delivered. For instance, some people's roles may make it impractical to attend all-day courses, so having the option to learn at their own pace, in bite-sized chunks they can fit around their other responsibilities, is key.

For IT professionals, on-the-job learning is often more useful than online or classroom-based approaches as it provides them with real-world examples where their skills will come in handy. Using a mentoring approach where they can learn directly from experienced colleagues is also highly useful.

Ensuring ongoing support

You should also make sure that upskilling initiatives aren't just treated as a one-off experience. Supporting ongoing learning and development is essential in ensuring the skills your employees gain can be put to the best use and can be used as a starting point for more advanced education.

This approach is especially important for IT workers, as it's an industry that never stands still. You should emphasize that there’ll always be further opportunities to improve their skills and frequently check in to see if there are any new areas people feel they’d benefit from.

This is all part of developing a learning culture throughout the business that encourages communication with employees and self-directed education. This can be supported by initiatives such as paid time off for training courses to ensure employees always have the right incentives to learn new skills and - more importantly - remain with the firm to put them into practice.

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