Analysis: How do we solve the skills gap?
The competition for tech talent has been steadily increasing in the last two decades, and it’s showing no signs of ending anytime soon. Companies are struggling to find and hire skilled workers, but there is a way to gain an edge in the talent market: to become a learning organization.
By Markus Åberg, Head of Talent Advisory, Academic Work.
This text is an opinion piece. The analyses are the writer’s own.
In this highly competitive market, a lot of companies waste time focusing on the skills they needed yesterday. What they should be doing is looking ahead and hiring people who are fast learners and can adapt to the skills and technologies of tomorrow.
How can I be saying this in times of global economic uncertainty? Aren’t all the big tech giants laying people off – that should be balancing things out, shouldn’t it?
Unfortunately, no. This is not the case for the Swedish and European markets but just to clarify – let’s look at the American market, where the layoffs are most noticeable and talked about.
While almost 200.000 Americans have been laid off from large tech companies in the past year, many of them could easily find a vacant position of the 316.000 open positions available. On top of that, another 160.000 brand new tech jobs are being added to the market this year alone. So no, even these significant tech layoffs are not even close to solving the tech talent crisis.
Hire for tomorrow, not today
Now that we know that the market is not getting any easier – what are companies doing?
When we speak to hiring managers, we see a trend that many jobs in most industries are becoming more complex and need more specific skills. This easily leads to putting even more emphasis on hard skills when hiring, which creates a risk of narrowing the pool of potential candidates even further, compromising other qualities to get someone with “the skills we need.”
If there is anything we should have learned by now, it is that the world is not finished changing. New technologies emerge that impact our lives and businesses at a sometimes overwhelming pace. Right now, employers are trying to figure out how to utilize AI at a scale that most didn’t imagine was possible a year ago.
If we hire for the skills that were needed yesterday but we fail to look far enough ahead, we might find ourselves staffed with people who would have been great yesterday, but that might not be the best people to get us ready for the problems we are going to face tomorrow.
Willingness to learn more important than hard skills
If you know exactly what the technical landscape will look like a couple of years from now, you should absolutely hire for that. But if you are not certain, maybe your emphasis should be on hiring people who can adapt to that.
“If you are running a scale-up, you need to hire people that are ready to scale-up.”
As a recruitment company, we are trying to challenge our clients on this every day – and when they dare to think differently, the results can be amazing.
In the past few years, we have re-skilled over 3000 people who had no previous experience in tech or IT and trained them with the skills they need to get into the IT/Tech industry. Our main emphasis when we hired these people obviously was not their hard skills – but very much on their behavior and ability and eagerness to learn.
When we speak to clients who have hired these career-shifters, it is not uncommon to hear that they outperform more experienced colleagues in this fast-paced environment once they are up to speed.
Beat competition by the power of learning
What is the next “Chat GPT”? What’s going to be the next amazing opportunity that has the potential to change the entire industry that you are in? Will you be staffed with the right people to make the most of that?
My point is: Lack of awareness about the talent market hinders companies’ ability to compete for the best talent. My experience is that this applies to multiple ranges of companies, both scale-ups and large corporations. The company that gets significantly better than its competition at taking in new people and training them will have a significant edge in attracting talent. That means that, right now, any employer has an opportunity to set itself apart from its competition long term.
Developing your ability to be a learning organization is going to be your best bet if you want to be a winner in the talent market.
See Markus Åberg’s Knowledge Track “How to navigate today’s talent market” at Techarenan Summit 2023.
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