What to Do When the Skills of Your Tech Workforce Become Obsolete

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The seismic shifts in the technology landscape have upended the way work happens. Take a look a decade back. While we were technology-dependent, technology by itself did not seem so all-pervasive. 

Technology today has changed the very fabric of the enterprise. It has changed how work happens. It has changed the very nature of work itself. Technologies such as AI, automation, robotics, cloud, blockchain and the like have matured and are quietly on the way to become mainstream technologies. It is a great time to be working in tech. There are opportunities abound. However, the tech workforce also has a reason for concern.

Research shows that one out of four tech workers is worried that their skills will become obsolete. And they have all the reasons to fear - owing to the pronounced shift towards digital transformation initiatives. 

These transformation initiatives have opened up several digital roles that have spurred the demand for digital skills in avenues such as RPA, Machine Learning, Data Science, Natural Language Processing, Advanced Analytics, IoT, Cybersecurity, etc. Organizations also want to stay ahead of the curve by creating new digital products and services. However, in the absence of a skilled workforce, this can be an uphill battle.

Technology is also at an inflection point, and with it, is the enterprise. According to Accenture research:

  • By 2024 roles needing digital skills will grow by 12%
  • Knowledge and task-based project work will increase from 28% in 2015 to 65% in 2020
  • 9% of all jobs are easily automatable

While technology has always been a driver of job disruption, the pace of this disruption is only likely to increase. Today, the number of jobs that need high levels of digital skills has more than quadrupled from 5 to 23 percent of total employment in the U.S.  

83% of CIO’s state the lack of tech talent as one of the primary obstacles that impede enterprise goals. Nearly 1 million computer programming jobs in the US are expected to remain unfulfilled by 2020. The battle for niche skills such as those of data science and Cybersecurity will wage on. 

Given this fluid landscape, what can organizations do when they see the skills of their tech workforce on the path to becoming obsolete? 

Why Reskilling, Up-skilling?

With technology changing faster than ever before, the average software developer has to replace about half of what they know every two years. At one time, we had just two main programming languages. Today we have around 250.

Developers have to thus stay on top of not just the language but also the way the industry and the market are developing. How else will they be able to design solutions that meet today’s need and stay relevant tomorrow?

Take Cybersecurity, for example. Cybersecurity professionals have to constantly stay updated on all aspects of technological and industry change so that they can meet any threats head-on. Not doing so would result in a data breach that could easily cripple an enterprise. 

In the wake of the overwhelming number of open tech positions, it can be easy to focus solely on which positions need to be filled. One way is improving the recruitment process by leveraging effective pre-employment assessments to get relevant and qualified candidates.

Another is to find out how best to reskill and upskill the existing talent pool in the company.

Filling the talent gap from a ready-made talent pool is not the solution

Providing the workforce with constant training access and focusing on upskilling and reskilling opportunities will address the skills gap. This has been further compounded by McKinsey research.

  • Create a healthy work environment through retraining and reskilling opportunities
  • Encourage continuous learning and collaboration

You also retain the historic knowledge that your workforce has about the business. People keep their jobs. You retain your tribal knowledge. You cannot underestimate this value. 

The benefits of reskilling & upskilling

  • Improves productivity: By looking at technological advancement, it not only improving employee efficiency at work but also helping them deliver maximum output in limited time. What if the employees do not understand the required new skills well enough, they may not be able to perform rather than being more productive. Up-skilling of your employees in next-gen skills is therefore vital to increase productivity.
  • Improves employees retention: Employees who feel their organization gives priority to their future, career and invests in their growth are more likely to stay with the company for a long time. In addition to this, if they are provided with training to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, the companies will not have to deal with high employee attrition.
  • Motivates employees: Employees stay motivated when they get training and development opportunity in their job roles. Reskilling & upskilling keep them motivated by showing them the path of their careers in advance and excites them for future growth. Employee realizing this will lead them to better lives generates more interest in their work.

The shift towards continuous learning

Reskilling, upskilling or training can no longer be an annual or bi-annual drive. Owing to the shifts in the enterprise dynamics, that has to be baked into a long-term strategy. This consequently translates to developing continuous learning practices and providing the resources and support to enable this either by internal or external training programs. 

It also involves continuously assessing emerging practices and technologies that will impact your organization. And along with this, it involves identifying the right candidates for reskilling initiatives. For example, business analysts with data engineering experience are good candidates for AI. 

To ensure the success of continuous learning initiatives, we also must have a continuous skills assessment process.

  • Skill assessment gives you the data-driven insight to assess the success of these reskilling and upskilling initiatives
  • It helps determine the practical application of the skills and knowledge
  • It is also a great way to determine where your training initiatives are falling short in case the practical applications do not match the expected outcomes

Leveraging customized test plans, the business applications of the technology, analytical thinking, cognitive thinking capabilities, etc. you can ably assess the skill set of your existing workforce and charter a course for reskilling success. 

With the evolving technology organizations are facing the skills shortage. HR departments need to design a skill development strategy where they will keep a record of what skills they have and the skills they will need as per the future needs.

In the coming years, it will not be the ‘jobs’ but the ‘skills’ will be driving the recruitment industry. And the organization will no longer look for skills that are become redundant by technology growth. Instead, they will empower the workforce by up-skilling and re-skilling.

Abraham Lincoln very wisely once said, “Give me six hours to cut a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax”. The time to sharpen the ax is upon us as we prepare to meet the Future of Work with success. 

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