Tackling the challenge of digital skills shortages

As a digital transformation consultancy providing experts into the private, public and third sector, Triad experiences the phenomenon known as the digital skills shortage on a daily basis; when clients come to us looking for a business savvy app developer or support in transforming their customer database into a cloud based self-service weapon of competitive advantage. As such, over the years, we think we’ve found some ways to overcome or navigate this digital skills shortage but, conscious that there’s more than one way to experience something like this and a limitless set of influencing factors, we commissioned to interview technology leaders across the UK to see how the issue was preventing their businesses achieve their goals and what ways they had found to solve the digital skills shortage. The feedback has been incredibly revealing and we hope useful. In fact, we went on to select a smaller cross-section of the people surveyed to participate in a Triad Round Table event. These two initiatives have given us some concrete evidence of both the problem and potential solutions.

The Millennial stereotype

The issue of attracting and retaining Millennials came up repeatedly. However, there was also very strong recognition that Generation X comprises a significant percentage of the working population, accompanied by some pre-retirement Baby Boomers. What struck me during our discussions with other business leaders was the ease with which we all fell into a stereotyping mode, especially when talking about these demographic groupings. “Millennials will want pizza and beer at work, a table tennis table in the recreation space, and to be able to bring their dog into the office.” Really? All of them? And Generation X don’t want these things too?

Whilst there may be some generational preferences, I do think stereotyping is dangerous and potentially divisive. I think there is a need to focus on common ground as much as emerging trends that may favour one generation over another. Personally, I am a big fan of Daniel Pink’s notion of autonomy, mastery and purpose. These three dimensions cut across age groups and focus on giving people challenging and rewarding work with the opportunity to hone their skills in pursuit of the organisation’s goals. Indeed, having these three things at the heart of people’s jobs can do away with the need to focus on groovy workplaces!

Never too old

I am also a firm believer that everyone has a deep seam of development potential that can continue to yield dividends regardless of how old they are. At Triad, we have a significant number of 50-somethings who are absolutely on top of their game, mastering today’s skills whilst being able to draw on many years of hard-won experience. These are the role models we want our newer (younger) recruits to emulate, and they will surely play a huge part in helping to retain Millennial talent. Increasingly, there needs to be an emphasis on learning and development, with a key skill in my mind being the ability to actually take on new skills.

Service provider adaptations

When I think of some of our existing and potential clients, and how the skills shortage manifests itself to them, I also consider our role as service provider. Surely, the right kind of service provider holds the key to the skills shortage? I like the notion of “elastic technology partners”. We aim to stretch ourselves to deal with peak workloads in our client businesses and to contract when demand subsides, remaining ready to respond at short notice to new peaks. We also take responsibility for transferring in resources when needed, either on a temporary or permanent basis. Advice and guidance should always be on tap, helping businesses to steer the right course of action and to make course corrections as conditions dictate. Having this flexible resourcing and fulfilment model is, we believe, crucial in our role as a genuine technology partner.

Finally, it is vital that we also play the role of “critical friend” when advising clients on not only work packages and strategies but things such as working patterns and environments. As a service provider, we should be bringing to bear the benefit of working with hundreds of clients so that our client, at any given time, can avail themselves of this vast experience. Clients and service providers both need to look at how they can take these positive steps to confront the challenge of skills shortages rather than accept it and, by doing so, shy away from the need to deliver digital transformation.

So if you’re currently facing a digital skills shortage or just want to learn more about this growing challenge within talent acquisition, please read Triad’s eBook The Digital Skills Shortage here.

Adrian Leer
Managing Director