Future proofing your IT team’s talent and digital skills

The UK is currently in the grip of an IT skills crisis with an estimated 12.6 million lacking even the most basic digital skills.

So where does this leave us when it comes to developing advanced technology talent?

According to the EU Commission, by 2020 Europe will have a shortfall of 900,000 much needed IT professionals.

To put this in perspective, this is equivalent to the population of Stockholm. The facts are staggering, and the tech skills gap will only widen if we continue with the same approach.

In the UK, it’s a time of turbulent change, both politically and economically and fostering home grown talent will be even more important than before.

We’re already seeing some companies take a radical approach, hiring IT talent with less than 100% of the skills needed for the job, and giving them intensive online learning to bring them up to speed.

>See also: The STEM skills gap on the road to closing?

But upskilling entry level talent is only one part of the equation. The priority for CIOs’ will be to ensure a long term approach to continuous learning for all levels of the IT department in order to keep pace with technology innovation.

However, future-proofing your IT team is a complex challenge.

At a recent debate on the global technology skills shortage at Pluralsight’s recent Technology Learning Summit in London, we captured some of the top tips from thought leaders at the event to inspire CIOs’ thinking on how they can constantly refresh their IT teams’ skills and embrace emerging technologies.

Enjoy the pace of change

Technology has touched every industry from watches to driverless cars and this is only the beginning.

One CIO at the Pluralsight conference said that keeping this passion alive was critical and taking enjoyment from being in an industry where you can have the flexibility to “move fast and break things”.

By falling back in love with the pace of change a team culture will develop where trial and error is encouraged.

This is essential for innovation – and skills are kept alive and fresh when disruptive technologies are embraced and new tools and different ways of working are tried out.

Keeping your team engaged will also reduce the risk of losing your best talent to competitors.

>See also: Solving the STEM conundrum: how to bridge the skills shortage

Embrace self-directed learning

It’s important to build a space where an IT team can grow or express a passion for their work and be in control of their own destiny.

Encourage an open dialogue for your team to suggest new coding languages or frameworks that they’d like to explore. By loosening the reins your team will feel more empowered to be creative and push boundaries.

Creating a culture of trust and independence will demonstrate that you care about their long-term personal development.

Grant access to learning tools that will give the power to your team to learn exactly what they want. This will bring new skills to the team that you didn’t even know were needed.

Map your team

By encouraging a healthier learning culture you’ll begin to discover where the skills gaps are.

One idea could be to create a tech radar to identify emerging technologies that are key to your business.

>See also: Government relaxes student loan access to help boost STEM skills

Map your team’s skills to their proficiency in these tech areas to identify training needs and be open to suggestions of areas where your team would like to grow their skill set further.

This shouldn’t be viewed as a way to catch people out, it’s a means for everyone to update their skills and work on their own employability and professional development.

Build a community

Set up hackathons and forums that allow employees to work in ‘shared mental boundaries’ by learning from each other.

It’s likely that your IT staff will do this outside of work anyway so why not facilitate this at work too?

Social learning is a great way to encourage dialogue and also a way to encourage your teams to reinforce their new knowledge.

Float the idea with your teams and determine what will work best for them. This might be a scheduled lunch once a fortnight to informally debate new ideas or a book club style meeting to discuss a course that several people have taken, or a larger scale hackathon.

To create the learning culture that will deliver the best ROI, keep the communications channel open and be receptive to new ideas and different ways of working.

>See also: STEM is for boys! Survey exposes how negatively young girls perceive STEM subjects

Enable continuous learning

IT talent crave new knowledge and exploring new technologies. It’s important to tap into this – especially if half of their skills will be irrelevant after two years.

While a day out of the office might seem like a welcome break, it’s not the way that all people want to learn.

In fact, accessing an online course at the point of need helps devs to problem solve and apply their new knowledge in their day-to-day jobs.

Consider a ‘just in time’ approach to learning, where employees have access to on-demand, high quality online courses when they need them, 24×7.

By creating a culture of continuous learning, you’re helping to future proof your IT teams.

Equally, employees will be able to solve more problems for the business, supercharge their own professional development and even change the IT industry. The possibilities are limitless.

Sourced by Julian Wragg, EMEA managing director, Pluralsight

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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