Susanne Tedrick currently works as a cloud computing technical trainer at Microsoft. In her work, Susanne delivers skills-based, outcome-driven training on the Azure platform for some of Microsoft’s leading enterprise clients. Susanne is a Microsoft Certified Educator, Trainer and Azure Solutions Architect. She is committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the tech industry. She is the co-author of Innovating for Diversity: Lessons from Top Companies that are Disrupting Old Practices to Achieve Inclusivity, Equity and Business Success (Wiley, 2023) author of the critically acclaimed Women of Color in Tech: A Blueprint for Inspiring and Mentoring the Next Generation of Technology Innovators (Wiley, 2020).
Roads are likely to buckle and fail if they cannot handle a growing number of motorists. In online terms, more and more remote IT workers, fueled by the global pandemic, are finding they lack in-house skills to handle more than half of their current operational tasks. Even more important, this deficiency is making it difficult for employers to build and maintain resilient and secure clouds and other technological services.
Here’s what business leaders, C-suite executives, and HR, can do to bridge this gap and keep their own “roads” from buckling and failing. Recommendations for employers include:
Involve multiple stakeholders in discussions.
Establish a cross-section of finance, HR, and other departments (In addition to IT) in cloud and other technological discussions. This not only ensures that critical decisions are not being made in a silo, but representation from different departments can also help identify where skills gaps exist, and in turn help organizations develop a strategy for addressing them. This can particularly be useful in terms of cost and attracting and retaining IT talent.
Attract and retain IT talent by understanding the organizational values that are most important to them.
This point is crucial since IT employees, especially those in infrastructure and operations (I&O), are more likely to be job hunting than non-IT staff. Employers can help buck this trend by recognizing what IT candidates look for most.
- Fair compensation, work-life balance, and organizational and job stability are cited by IT workers as the leading corporate traits they seek when hunting for a new job. And yet, Gartner analysts state that HR and others in the C-suite tend to focus on the technical aspects of the job — technical skills, vendor knowledge, and specific technologies —even though they are not the factors candidates look at most. “There is a clear need for I&O leaders to proactively assess the underlying needs of their personnel as a continual management practice to avoid early and frequent turnover,” states Mark Margevicius, VP analyst at Gartner.
- Manager quality and work-life balance were among the top factors that caused IT employees to be dissatisfied with their previous organization. Recognizing and addressing these needs will also help employers attract and retain IT candidates.
Make sure employees have sufficient time to study.
It may not be enough to retain IT talent if employers don’t provide the time for them to expand their knowledge. Designating and protecting study time is paramount for skill development. There will be times when study time is not possible, but it is vital for business leaders to instill the importance of job-relevant training and make it a priority. Without emphasis from leadership, time-crunched employees may worry that studying will keep them from completing their regular work.
Find out what specific skills IT employees are lacking.
IT leaders responding to the Gartner study said they are particularly deficient in the areas of security, networking, compliance, and dev-ops (a hybrid of development and operational skills). Cloud development is another concern. More than half of respondents to the Gartner survey felt they won’t meet their company’s cloud adoption goals this year due to the scarcity of in-house skills and experience. Take the time to do an internal skills assessment of your current staff. This can be done through surveys or even through informal talks.
Leverage free or low-cost training opportunities.
Enhancing security, networking, and other job-relevant technological learning does not need to be an expensive or an entirely formal endeavor. In fact, many major platforms offer free training resources, including best practices and assistance in preparing for formal certifications.
Emphasize experiential learning.
Experiential learning reaps the most benefits from training because it reinforces subject matter. As noted, major cloud platform providers offer free credits or discounted pricing so newer learners can obtain experience with their offerings. Allow employees the opportunity to leverage their learnings in their day to day wherever possible, including conducting presentations to colleagues on what they’ve learned.
In conclusion, it’s crucial that HR and C-suite executives develop a better cross section in developing technology strategies, not only cost but also in terms of attracting and retaining IT talent.
Business leaders also need to empower managers and supervisors so that, with the exception of mitigating work circumstances, employee study time for enhancing IT and other job-relevant skills is protected.
Training time needs to be an organizational must-have and not a “nice-to-have” when other work is done. Better understanding IT needs, and prioritizing training will go a long way toward addressing the skills gap that currently exists and, in turn, benefit the company as a whole.