How Organizations Can Fill IT Skills Gaps In Their Workforce

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This article was originally published on Forbes with corporate leaders & executives as the intended target audience. Written by Liberty Munson of Microsoft & Forbes Human Resource Council, with contributions from Susan Farago of Salesforce and Jim Lucari from HPE.

In business, fueling future success often means looking for new opportunities for profitability. But what if there was a key differentiator between success and stagnation that your organization hasn’t considered yet? To advance your company’s mission and reach your digital transformation objectives, you must ensure the people you hire and your existing employees have the skills to leverage the power of technology.

People are the make-or-break factor of high-performing companies. But by 2025, more than 90% of organizations will experience IT skill shortages related to digital transformation. This will end up costing more than $6.5 trillion globally because of delayed product releases, reduced customer satisfaction and loss of business.

While the IT skills gap is nothing new, it’s growing exponentially, compounded by the reality that it’s also affecting non-technical roles. Furthermore, it’s predicted that “more than 40% of occupations might be affected by generative AI in the next three years.” So how can your organization effectively upskill employees, customers and partners to ultimately help your bottom line?

How To Invest In IT Skills

Technical skills gaps can be addressed in several ways. Strategies include gaining skills organically on the job, acquiring/hiring the necessary skills or growing skills through formalized training. But it starts with identifying the skills required to be successful in a given job or on a specific project.

Many organizations invest in defining required skills for given roles as part of career pathing, role clarity and alignment. But considering reorganizations, layoffs and even internal job changes, these required skills can change overnight. This creates a need for continuous upskilling and reskilling. What’s becoming increasingly important is verifying employees have the right skills and then rigorously validating those skills.

Practical Training

On-the-job training (OJT) is a practical approach to ensuring employees acquire the necessary skills. For new employees, OJT is a way for them to learn how to use particular tools in a live (or simulated) work environment. Rather than showing presentations, you can help them learn about the job by actually doing it. As technology continues to change the way we work, even existing employees are learning on the job as they explore how to incorporate new tools into the work they do every day.

Skills Acquisition

Hiring new talent is always an option when looking to fill skills gaps. Much like just-in-time training, there’s such a thing as just-in-time hiring. It occurs as managers find that perfect hire when a candidate’s skills align with a clearly defined job description for a specific role or gap. But how do you know you’ve found the perfect hire?

Verifying whether a candidate has the skills you need is a crucial part of the hiring process. The cost of hiring the wrong employee can be up to 30% of their annual salary or as high as $240,000 in total costs, including onboarding. This doesn’t include the potential impact of lost clients, damage to your brand reputation, decreased teamwork and lost time.

Certifications Can Help Validate Skills

When it comes to workforce transformation, training is often the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, American companies’ training expenditures increased in 2023 to $101.8 billion. But if trainees don’t demonstrate knowledge or skills acquisition, how is the return on investment measured? Does your company validate skills and knowledge regarding your products and solutions? Is there a team dedicated to ensuring your customers have the right skills and knowledge to gain the most from their purchase of your products and solutions?

Certifications can help answer these questions. Alternatives to degree solutions go far beyond training to verify skills in a valid, fair and meaningful way. With guidance from credentialing industry associations, you can gain the insights needed to differentiate high-quality credentials and certifications from low-quality ones.

Today, the challenge facing organizations is that there are more than 1 million credentials in the market. When it comes to validating technical skills, there are several IT companies that have robust certification programs to help skill up your workforce. This can lead to confusion around what constitutes a valid certification or credential. According to a Society for Human Resource Management study, 54% of HR professionals say they’re apprehensive about using alternative credentials because it’s not always clear what skills were evaluated or whether they were evaluated in a way that ensures the professional has them. So you must craft ways to ensure certified skills are legitimate.

A skilled workforce is vital for business success, transformation and profitability. You need to understand the importance and use of reliable, valid and relevant credentials and certifications if you want to close technical skills gaps and move forward.

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There’s something about the word “certified” when it precedes a professional title that conveys the consumers and employers a sense of trust, credibility, knowledge and an official “stamp” of approval. This is not a coincidence. IT certification has long been a proven means of differentiation and qualification among professionals in the industry. Employers often include certification as a prerequisite when seeking qualified candidates to fill positions; consumers often trust only those IT professionals who boast credentials proving they have attained a certain level of knowledge.