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The need for upskilling and reskilling the IT workforce in the post-pandemic era

IT leaders should incorporate agile learning methods to encourage iterative short bursts of skill development and instill a growth mindset into new hiresPremium
IT leaders should incorporate agile learning methods to encourage iterative short bursts of skill development and instill a growth mindset into new hires

IT and HR leaders can focus on hiring talent with skills that don’t entirely match the required core skills but are still adjacent enough. This type of talent can then be upskilled with ease to address critical capability gaps in the workforce.

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After scrambling to stay afloat during the shutdowns, IT leaders have adopted or are planning to adopt digital-first business strategies by putting modern cloud architectures at the center of their intended digital transformation.

Companies aim to enhance organisational agility, lower operational costs, and improve time to market by going digital. However, a lack of qualified IT talent is a significant hurdle for IT leaders in accelerating technology adoption timelines, especially for cloud, edge, and automation.

As per Gartner’s 2021-2023 emerging technology roadmap survey, IT executives see talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to a majority of emerging technologies.

Companies must upskill or reskill their IT workforce and new hires to overcome this barrier. IT and HR leaders can focus on hiring talent with skills that don’t entirely match the required core skills but are still adjacent enough. This type of talent can then be upskilled with ease to address critical capability gaps in the workforce.

According to the Empowering Education e-book by AWS, technology can help overcome the gap and enable educators and learners alike to achieve their desired outcomes. The roadmap to success is different for every educational institution. However, their challenges and the way forward rests on one common thread: the prevalent use of technology and cloud to be specific.

The existing cloud scenario

Organisations are investing in cloud infrastructure to enable the shift of work environments between physical and virtual locations. They are switching from traditional Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) environments to serverless Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) alternatives to enhance employee productivity.

Therefore, IT leaders must invest in training their existing staff to manage hybrid and multi-cloud platform services and lay a futureproof technological foundation for the enterprise. They should explicitly show their liking for on-the-job learning so that the workforce recognizes the need to upgrade itself on an ongoing basis and without any hand-holding.

By making reskilling and upskilling a part of the organization’s culture, IT executives can be motivated to broaden their skill sets and scope of responsibilities.

Key focus areas for IT leaders to upskill and reskill their workforce amid ever-widening skills shortages

Surveying to understand the existing maturity of cloud-centric skills

Assessing the skills and competencies of IT executives can help leaders identify gaps in the existing process. Before surveying employees, it is essential to communicate the purpose of the exercise, which is to evaluate and not compare. The workforce should feel secure so that it doesn’t give prejudiced or biased responses.

Showing the career benefits of upskilling and reskilling

The performance-based discussions are generally centred around the “what targets have you achieved" narrative. IT leaders should shift this conventional narrative to “what new have you learned". They should create a competency-driven environment where IT executives can identify and target cloud-centric skills (both technical and managerial).

Hiring IT resources with a base level of skills

In the post-pandemic scenario, it may not be easy to find candidates who are a perfect match for the job. IT leaders should be willing to hire talent with a base level of skills, focusing on qualities like collaborative mindset and adaptability. Leaders should try to turn entry-level employees into valuable assets - by validating their core (cloud-centric) skills in the organization and helping them understand mission-critical priorities and developing business acumen.

IT leaders should incorporate agile learning methods to encourage iterative short bursts of skill development and instill a growth mindset into new hires so that they don’t just gain knowledge but apply it to produce significant business value. This approach can create an environment where people learn and grow together rather than in individual capacities, and thus compound the benefits more widely across the organisation.

Creating learning opportunities

There are different talent development approaches, and IT leaders should consider the ones that offer great ROI, and on-the-job learning opportunities for employees. The idea should be to create dynamic environments for IT executives, where they can learn and apply new skills in a quick span. Peer connections, 360-degree feedback, and group activities like hackathons or innovation labs can provide a fertile ground for sharing knowledge among new hires as well as senior employees.

The learning and development programs should become more predictive with time, but for that to happen, IT team leads need to allocate time for learning amid a massive backlog of work. For instance, they can dedicate a time window for training and cross-functional activities in a workweek. The window may include master classes, instructor-led online coaching, and mentoring programs on cloud-based technologies.

Motivation

IT leaders should take note of the following considerations to bring the best out of the workforce:

- Avoiding excessive interference: IT teams should be given the freedom to figure out the best way to remove the roadblocks and get the job done.

- Recognising the milestones: Employees should receive timely rewards for mastering cloud security, cloud service platform expertise, network management, etc. — not just from managers but also from peers.

- Instilling purpose: Employees should have a clear answer to this question — does their work positively impact the organisation’s growth and technological landscape?

Conclusion

The IT skill sets today are not necessarily future-proof and the workforce either lacks the required new skills or its existing skills cannot meet the needs of the digital business. IT and HR leaders need to leverage skills adjacencies to more effectively upskill or reskill employees to both manage the talent shortage and expedite the adoption of emerging technologies.

Read more: Skilling India’s Workforce for Sustainable Growth

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