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The IT Skills Gap: Expectation vs Reality

03 March 2021

On the one hand you’ve got what an organisation needs or wants their employees to do. On the other you’ve got what the employees are in fact capable of doing.

Sometimes the two will align perfectly. At others time they won’t, forcing the organisation to track down workers who are capable of filling the gap. But what if such workers aren’t available?

What exactly is the IT skills gap, and why does it exist?

Moving swiftly from the hypothetical world to our real one, the situation described above is increasingly the case in the IT job market. IT is a field in which demand for specific and high-end skills is increasing at far beyond the rate that professionals are entering the space. In recent times, this has only accelerated with increased digitisation of industries, adoption of technology, shift to remote work, demand for data and rising cyber-crime faced by organisations. 

This skills shortage creates issues for both employer and employee. Organisations lack the talent resources they need to grow, evolve and compete – according to PwC, 78% of Australian CEOs believe that the availability of key skills is a top threat to growth – while workers are handed tasks that are far beyond their pay grade, with job satisfaction and mental wellbeing affected as a result.

While a lack of necessary talent is the major contributing factor to the IT skills gap, many organisations are also experiencing self-inflicted wounds. Many businesses are yet to experience the full impact of the skills gap, making it crucial they recognise the problem early and implement mitigation strategies in place to avoid it. 

The expectation of the IT skills gap is that it’s out of control. Too much demand, not enough talent. However, the reality is that you have far more control over the situation than it may first appear. 

Strategies to deal with or avoid the IT skills gap

How can you avoid falling into the IT skills gap? There are a number of strategies that can help to either deal with or entirely avoid the issue – they simply demand resources and commitment.

Understand your IT needs

Understanding your IT needs can greatly reduce the impact of the IT skills gap on your organisation. If you know exactly what you need (personnel, infrastructure, software, etc.) now and into the future, you can streamline your overall IT spend and plug all gaps that may arise. 

To do this, you need to ask the following questions:

  • What degree of on-premise IT infrastructure do we actually require? 
  • How much of our IT setup could be converted to technologies that relieve our team?
  • Do we have any major IT projects coming up? Do we need to scale our IT workforce?
  • What are key trends influencing IT usage moving forward? 

By gaining a deeper understanding of your IT needs, and how technologies could reduce or remove the need for on-premise assistance, you can then work towards developing a strategic IT plan. 

Make a strategic IT plan

It’s quite surprising how many organisations still don’t have a strategic IT plan in place. An IT plan should outline your ongoing IT needs, and provide clarity on the skills and resources you need to fulfill them. Many organisations waste considerable time, money and effort on their IT function, because they haven’t put a strategic plan in place to guide their decision-making. 

Bring clarity to your hiring processes

Strategic plan in hand, focus your talent acquisition efforts on talent and skills that you actually need. Bring clarity to your hiring processes by creating clear job descriptions that offer a detailed (and ideally alluring) picture of what working at your company looks like. Remember, competition for talent is high, so you need to stand out by being clear about what the role actually entails. When skills gaps exist, building strong relationships with relevant candidates is invaluable to negating any future potential impact. 

Once you make a hire, turn your focus to attention. 

Offer appropriate reward

An IT professional’s worth is determined by what the market is willing to pay. When skills are in short supply, and competitive intensity is high, the market is willing to pay more. This means, if you want top IT professionals, you need to be willing to pay a rate that reflects their scarcity. For example, software engineers, cloud architects and cyber-security talent are demanding larger pay packets than ever before. 

However, for some companies, competing for talent solely on remuneration is simply not an option. In these cases, there is opportunity to offer non-financial rewards such as flexibility and career progression opportunities, which are increasingly valued by top IT candidates. .

Upskill from within

If you can’t buy talent, then why not build the talent you need. Many organisations already have great resources across their teams – it’s just a matter of identifying them and investing in them. Big banks, for example, are training thousands of their employees to use various IT softwares to boost their internal IT capabilities. Government agencies are pushing for less use of external IT contractors in favour of developing their internal workforce. While such initiatives are time consuming and expensive, they enable organisations to develop talent and skills tailored to their current and future IT needs. If they have their own exclusive supply of talent, then they are significantly more resilient to skills gaps. 

Closing an ever-expanding gap

The IT skills gap is an ever more pressing issue for organisations reliant on IT – i.e. all of them. However, like my doctor says, “prevention is far better than the cure”. This means, If organisations want to minimise the impacts of the IT skills gap, they can do so by utilising the strategies above. Essentially, this comes down to their willingness to invest time and resources now to secure greater long-term talent outcomes. This will simultaneously enhance satisfaction of current employees but also position yourself as an employer of choice for scarce talent in the process. Do it well, and the attraction of IT talent will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

If you need help navigating the IT skills gap as a business? Get in touch with Ignite for a no-obligation chat to see if we can help.

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