Why you can't hire your way out of a tech skills crisis and what you should be doing instead

Desperate for tech-skilled staff? Try taking a sideways look at L&D opportunities

Why you can't hire your way out of a tech skills crisis and what you should be doing instead

Technology has become such an integral part of the way organisations operate, and because of this, the tech industry is facing a huge skills shortage. So much so that big pay packets are being offered to those with the most in-demand skills. Adding to this pressure, the Technology Council of Australia has set a target of delivering a million tech jobs by 2025, which means that an additional 286,000 workers are needed to join the sector.

The temptation to have recruitment consultants on speed dial is undoubtedly there and has a place, but organisations need to think a little more creatively if they’re going to meet this challenge head-on, says Kath Greenhough, Regional APAC VP, Skillsoft.

The price of hiring and retaining a new employee has skyrocketed this past year. According to a report from ELMO software, the cost to hire an employee in Australia more than doubled in 2021, rising from $10,500 in 2020 to $23,860 per worker.

Read more: Are firms accommodating LGBT employees?

So, what can companies do to address the skills crisis without hiring from outside?

Offer opportunities for growth

“When employees do not feel a company is supporting their progression, their eyes will start to wander toward the job market. Companies should start offering more career mobility opportunities, which support employees who want to move across different departments or even change their occupations,” says Greenhough.

According to Skillsoft’s Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report, for the third consecutive year, respondents that switched employers within the past year cited a lack of growth and development opportunities as their top reason for doing so, taking precedence over better compensation and work/life balance.

Organisations need to build individual employee profiles, including their interests, experience, skills, and competencies, to start career planning. Starting with the employee’s interests, map what they are interested in working on against their current role but also against aspirational or currently open positions. Then identify the skills the employee needs to progress and recommend the relevant training. By doing this, organisations can design and create an individual development plan based on the employee’s potential within their organisation.

Track goals and provide learning recommendations

Once the development plan is in place, it will be imperative to check in on how employees are tracking against their goals and continue to provide learning recommendations to help them achieve those goals. Continuous feedback and on-the-spot learning will help build a culture of learning and development across the organisation.

Read more: How HR can improve the hiring process

A growth-based culture rewards learning and creates talent agility. High-performing organisations treat employee satisfaction as a business objective and link their employees’ development and career progression to business results.

“You need to start with your employees if you want a thriving workforce, successful business, and happy customers. Treating employees well will have a knock-on effect that ripples throughout your company,” says Greenhough.

Prioritise culture and employee support

With more and more employees working remotely for the foreseeable future, it’s critical that businesses support the well-being of their disparate teams. With normal routines disrupted, many business leaders have upped their communication and engagement with remote workers — implementing regular virtual huddles and coffee mornings using video technology to banish feelings of isolation, filling the social void and nurturing team bonds. 

Some companies have issued helpful guidelines encouraging employees to take regular breaks from monitors and go for walks. Others have offered employees free counselling sessions and webinars on how to nurture their emotional and mental health. Meanwhile, some are offering employees access to EAP programmes, providing a well-being budget for staff to take fitness classes or buy equipment and sometimes even pushing the envelope further by providing virtual guided meditation classes.

Nurturing the workforce's mental outlook and well-being is being prioritised now and in the future by HR departments.

Encourage flexible working

Employees’ desire for flexible working arrangements is apparent, and COVID-19 has proven it can work. By allowing employees to work from home or to work different hours, companies are helping to foster a friendly working environment and drive a more positive attitude from staff, increasing employee productivity and retention.

But to make any flexible working policy succeed, communication is key. Regular phone meetings can be used to maintain visibility of employee actions daily. At the same time, digital learning and electronic resources can provide a useful method to ensure staff have easy access to the latest training and resources, regardless of their location.

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