Why & How to Build Your Tech Workforce with Upskilling and Talent Development

Macro employment trends that garner media headlines – such as industry layoffs – might give the impression that IT hiring and tech talent demand are on the decline. But layoffs are only one factor affecting the complex technology employment market. Look deeper and you’ll find a market that remains short on talented professionals and hungry for specialized technology skills. 

Macro Trends & the Tech Talent Resilience Story

To understand tech spending trends, look to the CFOs who hold companies’ proverbial purse strings. TradeShift’s CFODive report for the fall of 2022 found that CFOs are committed to continued IT spending. According to the report, 74% of CFO respondents said macroeconomic pressures have led them to “continue to prioritize technology investment, with 38% saying it’s led them to increase technology investments by up to a quarter.” Those increases are reflected in Gartner’s October 2022 IT outlook, which predicts enterprise IT spending will reach $4.6 trillion worldwide in 2023, increasing by 5.1% over 2022.  

As CFOs focus on IT investments, which is their number one priority? TradeShift’s survey found talent acquisition and retention topped the list with 45% of CFOs listing it as their main focus. 

And while tech behemoths are laying off talent, the tech industry as a whole is still hiring. CompTIA reported in early November that tech companies overall added 20,700 workers in October. In addition, there were signs of continued hiring demand:

  • Job postings increased by more than 10,000 from September to 317,000.
  • Employment at tech firms increased by 193,900 so far this year, 28% higher than the same period last year.

In contrast to layoffs, this growth in jobs and postings is a reminder of how essential technology skills are to business growth. Companies rely on technologists to keep them competitive and future ready. The 2022 Nash Squared Digital Leadership Report revealed that 70% of digital leaders attribute skills shortages to not keeping up with the pace of change. 

The right technology team is essential to staying relevant and meeting customer experience, and critical to your company’s digital transformation strategy. Building and maintaining a team that drives transformation will require you to go beyond hiring. The job market is too competitive due to the ongoing tech talent shortage. It’s time to get serious about IT upskilling to develop talent and grow your team from your existing resources.

What Is Upskilling?

Upskilling refers to the process of increasing a technology professional’s skills so they can take their existing skills to the next level in their current job. For a software developer or engineer that may mean learning a new programming language, working to become a full stack engineer, or gaining DevOps proficiency. 

Upskilling versus Reskilling

While upskilling is easily confused with reskilling, the two talent development strategies are distinct. Reskilling is training an employee to do an entirely new job. For example, an accounting team is reskilled to work in IT support or development. Both approaches – upskilling and reskilling – can be effective in improving job satisfaction and retention by giving talented employees opportunities to learn and grow.

The Benefits to Employees

In addition to expanding the skills of your IT team, upskilling is a powerful way to demonstrate your long-term commitment to employees. Tech workers are keenly aware of how fast technology advances and understand the advantage they gain by increasing their skills and knowledge. An employer that offers upskilling opportunities to employees who want to grow their careers will see talent retention, engagement, and satisfaction increase. 

Empowering tech skill development also helps your businesses develop a culture of learning where employees feel they are prepared and equipped to advance. This increases worker confidence to aim high and push boundaries. A workplace where knowledge and growth are valued is a place where innovation and future-focused thinking thrive. 

Technology Skills & Your Best Upskilling Bets

For businesses interested in IT talent development, here the top ten areas to consider: 

Top 10 Examples:

  1. UX/UI – Optimizing interactions users have with applications, websites, platforms, products, and other digital tools. 
  2. Analytics – Uncovering, assessing, and explaining data patterns.
  3. Data Visualization – Translating data into a visual context, such as diagrams, pictures, charts, graphics, etc.
  4. Automation – Developing processes, software, and systems to take over manual, human-driven processes.
  5. Digital Marketing – Leveraging web-based and digital technologies and platforms to promote products and services. 
  6. Cybersecurity – Protecting digital systems and networks from data theft and/or damage.   
  7. Project Management – Managing IT projects and their delivery teams to ensure timely and successful outcomes.  
  8. Machine Learning – Providing computers and systems with the ability to learn new information and adapt in real time. 
  9. Quality Assurance – Improving technology processes, products, and outcomes with rigorous oversight and testing. 
  10. Cloud Computing – Building and providing on-demand digital services and products by way of the Internet. 

Technology Talent Development Strategies

It’s important to remember that developing a robust tech workforce takes time and a multifaceted approach. There’s no single  talent development strategy that will deliver every tech professional you need. Variety is key and should include:

Skill Development Programs

To embrace upskilling, many businesses are building in-house academies where employees gain tech skills and explore new areas of interest. Cisco has gone even further. Its Cisco Networking Academy not only upskills internal talent but also provides some training free to the public and other curriculum developed for  high school and higher learning institutions. While not all businesses can build a robust and global talent development academy, employers of IT professionals can and should find ways to build tech skill development into internal training and career advancement programs. 

A DEI Mindset

The undeniable need for tech talent is one reason to increase training opportunities. The second is DEI. Leveling the playing field by offering skills training that is accessible to everyone is a way to tear down barriers to accessing knowledge and growth. As your organization develops its upskilling programs, make sure they are accessible and equitable. If training schedules only work for employees with extra time in their days, key groups may be missed. Examine who is inadvertently left out of programs and find ways to welcome everyone who has the willingness to learn and expand their tech potential.

Tech Apprenticeships

They may sound old-fashioned, but apprenticeships – where trainees work closely with an expert in their respective field of IT – are highly effective. They provide valuable first-hand access to experienced tech pros and the chance to “watch and learn,” from those who are more advanced in their career.

Work with Schools

Tapping into schools, from local colleges to HBCUs, is a way to strengthen your tech talent pipeline while also providing eager new entrants an important first job opportunity. Mojo Trek is exploring this type of partnership with schools across key markets in 2023. Our goal is to identify standout graduates and provide them with tech training using a robust, 12-week program. 

Tech hiring isn’t going away, no matter the economic outlook. Continued care and cultivation of the tech talent pool is an investment in the competitiveness of your business today and a long-term investment in innovation, opportunity, and success tomorrow. 

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