Upskilling: what tech clients need to focus on and why?

In order to stay ahead of the talent curve and better manage resources and costs, it naturally serves technology businesses well to upskill their workforce. In the long term, as innovations in tech proliferate across society, upskilling is likely to be a necessary function of any thriving business and may prove to be a more worthwhile investment than ever before. Even within the current climate, many are already asking, just how important is it for tech companies to upskill their workforce?

Do we need to upskill?

It’s the big question, but upskilling is one of the critical success factors for any well-founded and innovative tech organisation that is likely to stand the test of time in the race to be new and cutting edge. As technology and digital transformation accelerate over the not too distant future, an established regime of upskilling the current workforce in the right areas will deliver many benefits to future-proof these organisations. These benefits include developing a highly skilled and more advanced workforce capable of driving company performance to new levels, increased employee investment and retention, as well as a more compelling proposition when attracting higher calibre candidates. It creates an adaptable and forward-thinking culture geared towards developing the latest product or service. Upskilling becomes a necessity because unemployment is relatively low and the majority of employers are trying to tackle an industry-wide skills shortage.
The downside to this may be where the upskilling investment seems difficult to warrant, given the costs of training, resources and time spent, only for those unique skills to become more attractive to a rival company or head-hunter. That is a decision for each individual company, but for those who do push ahead on increasing their upskilling investment, it is important to establish a training programme fit for purpose and one that is able to measure benefits realisation and value add. As companies undergo digital transformation and technology projects, it is critical to have a clear roadmap and an understanding of project goals, to ensure that the correct areas are considered for upskilling investment. 

A clear path to the right skills

With the contagion of cloud-based computing, risks of cyber-attack, new web applications, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, business intelligence, regular software updates, and rapid hardware obsolescence, tech employees need to be upskilled accordingly to keep up with the times. Tech skills such as software development, are in very high demand as companies look to create and upskill teams of in-demand, full stack developers and software engineers, who will program in numerous phases of the technology life-cycle, in both back-end and front-end platforms. Hence, creating a more diverse and valuable employee in the process.
There are numerous methods and resources that companies can utilise to upskill their teams. These include: running in-house training from existing or external training professionals to both share and add new skills, endorsing relevant study and courses for employees to attend, and identifying any tech groups, associations, governing bodies, or thought leaders, in that space to support skills development. The benefit of a long-term investment strategy in upskilling means that knowledge sharing becomes the culture as new generations of employees move into that workforce.

Upskilling the technology workforce

Principally, the method of upskilling is universal, but the approach and investment required in tech would need to be more innovative and forward thinking. This is to reflect the evolution of the industry based on market needs. It becomes increasingly critical that companies take the time to understand their skills gaps and invest in upskilling to maximise their current talent pool. Once they have acquired that data, they can use it to drive their decision making. Tech teams should consider running tailored programmes and training for more technical teams such as development, business intelligence, or infrastructure architecture, but may also have underlying general learning and development programmes for more IT support or systems and applications roll out. However, upskilling is just one part of the process, the other part is retaining those upskilled staff. It is crucial that upskilled staff have the opportunity to apply their new skills via programmes or tech projects that will bring a return and add value to the business. Employees tend to seek acknowledgement and reward for their efforts as they add value to the business and complete objectives.

Upskilling vs reskilling

Upskilling is the process of teaching, coaching and enhancing current skills, and abilities, to effectively expand the capabilities of existing staff. This often gets confused with reskilling - teaching people new skills from one area of the business, so they can move across and add value to a different area of the business. Back in 2016, AT&T conducted a mass employee reskilling overhaul and sought a culture of ongoing learning in a ploy to future-proof its long-term strategy. PageGroup has made huge investments in CRM systems, web-based applications, and company-wide digitisation. To do this, we sought to utilise reskilling of existing operational staff to add value in more operationally focused technology roles. Upskilling and reskilling both have a part to play in the technology sectors’ next steps, but so will the crossover skill of commerciality. Being commercially aware can be a very valuable commodity, knowing how to manipulate the technology in a competitive marketplace to add extra value to the business, either through bottom line business efficiency or customer engagement/experience. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid loss-making investments, and maximise financial return through customer spend and product optimisation.  
To summarise, it is apparent that there is a very strong case for every organisation to create a strategy for investing in skills development. But as we have seen many organisations do this well and some struggle to realise their ROI, it is essential to gain the advice and support from a range of sources, both internal and external to support your decision making.
If you would like to discuss upskilling in the tech industry further, or are looking to hire top talent for your organisation, Michael Page Technology can advise you on how to streamline your processes. As well as provide you with a shortlist of candidates for you to invite to an interview. Please get in touch with us today to discuss your vacancies and to get bespoke advice for your business.
Michael Warren
Operating Director, Michael Page Technology     
T: +44 207 269 2311