From STEM to STEAM: Why ‘art’ is the key to recognising the IT worker of the future

Technology is going to be a key differentiator going forwards in any sector, and those winning organisations will be the ones best positioned to exploit technology in most succesful way. This means having access to the very best people.

As a new report from Deloitte on the IT worker of the future outlines, organisations who want to compete face new challenges when it comes to attracting and attaining the right talent – whether they are permanent employees, or found through other more creative means such as crowdsourcing.

> See also: When technical meets creative – the four principles of digital product design

While many organisations have a critical dependency on older IT systems maintained by workers with decades of experience in technology people are no longer trained in, they face a balancing act preserving that seam of deep engineering expertise while recognising that the game is changing. Technology is evolving very quickly and you need access to new skills all the time. So how do you make sure the people you have are always current in the latest thinking?

Deloitte estimates that by 2020, retiring baby boomers are expected to leave around 31 million positions opened, while by 2025 millennials born after 1982 will represent 75% of the workforce. This massive influx of next generation workers, coupled with the exodus of more experienced employees, will mean a big demographic shift in the workplace. And according to the report, the single biggest factor for millennials in deciding to work for an organisation is whether or not they have a reputation for innovation.

When it comes to cultivating this new type of employee, it's all about going from STEM to STEAM – IT leaders should add an 'A' for Arts to the traditional Science, Technology Engineering and Maths charter, says Deloitte.

'Organisations need people that can completely reimagine the way a business process works or a customer proposition is put together,' says David Tansley, a partner at Deloitte, 'and that requires people that are not only good IT engineers but also people that really understand how customers think, what makes one customer experience desirable and another irritating, the psychology of how you interact with a service, and things like ergonomics, user experience and the creative aspect of how to design attractive products and online experiences – the whole science behind imagination. It's about stretching the imagination of what your capable of.'

'I think skillsets like the role of the behavioural psychologist trying to understand what's really going on in someone's mind when they buy things, really getting under the skin of the difference between what customers say they want and how they behave in the real world. That's a much newer area. We need to recognise the importance of empathy and a relentless focus on serving the customer better. When you're looking for that talent you pick that up from the language they use, the empathy they have.'

How do you spot this talent? In the past, it was all about highly skilled and certified professionals, reocognised through the number of years experience they had. Now firms are trying to recruit professionals that are adept at technology that didn't exist until a few years ago.

'Recognition of longevity is less relevant than those who can learn quickly and adapt quickly and reinvent themselves,' says Tansley. 'The raw material of a potentially successful IT professional is the ability to be chameleon-like, to innovative and keep pace with change.'

> See also: How millennials are changing the face of application development

Once organisations have found the talent they need, Deloitte recognises the importance of fostering the right culture where they can thrive. This means figuring out how much autonomy to give them, how much impact you're going to let them have, and how you're going to want your brand projected. But also, how to make your organisation reflective of their aspirations.

'The typical stereotype of a introverted IT worker coming out of a data centre blinking in the daylight is not really what a typical aspirational role model should be,' adds Tansley. 'So creating new rolemodels for what the next generation of what creative IT professionals will look like will begin to be easier now that we can think of iconic tech brands that many people are familair with. People want to be proud of the organisations they work for and what they do. The image is changing and it's more attractive to potential IT workers of the future.'

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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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