Tuesday, April 22, 2014

IT Skills Gap

Truly treat talent as a human asset and capital to invest in, not just a human resource to plug-in.

According to industry surveys, IT skills gap is a significant challenge facing IT leaders today, what are exactly the skills gaps and what are the resulting symptoms? For example, businesses have job openings, but cannot find people with the right skill set; or the talent people they currently have do not have the right competencies to adapt to the changes; or their business partners do not understand IT. Sometimes, the gaps people usually pick are not root causes, they are symptoms of specific best practices not being used. So what are the organizational best practices/ways that have been deployed to close the gap?

MotivationAt the core of all learning is motivation. The skill many companies and IT fail to recognize is the ability and desire to learn. Instead, they look for so many years of experience with a specified version of the certain product. Every true IT pro is behind the curve on specific skill sets and wants to learn new stuff. You can't teach someone to ride a bike if they don't want to learn; look for strong evidence of a desire to learn and to grow. In business, the value of your contributions and your ability to deliver value is frequently more important than technical expertise. IT people are accustomed to having to learn new things. If companies would embrace the idea of constant learning and invest in it and really encourage learning instead of giving it lip service, there would be no skills gap.

Problem-solvingThe talent that has demonstrated he/she can solve complex problems is on demand. Businesses become over-complex these days, more often than not, the skills gap is caused by candidates not having the appropriate balance of the right technical skills with business/management acumen, or lack of system, critical and creative thinking, interpersonal skills, as at the end of the day, it all means how to solve business problems. The bottom line is: Realistic expectations and focuses on fit, career development, and succession planning will go a long way to recruiting and retaining employees with the right attitude and aptitude to adapt to changing requirements.

Self-learning: It needs to be a job requirement, and it means that the core skill to look for is someone who is an effective self-learner and deep thinker! Overall, technology tends to be more dynamic (in a company as well as across the industry) while leadership/management/industry changes more slowly. The key is to recognize that they both change and demand everyone to continuously maintain and grow their expertise/skills and that the IT job market for candidates with the right skills is growing. The responsibility to maintain/grow one's expertise (technical and management/ leadership/ industry) has always largely fallen on the individual employee; albeit it is great when the organization provides support. For example, most great programmers have done everything from Assembler to C to Java, to Perl, to Python..... and- they keep adapting!

IT LeadershipThe lack of skill sets in IT leadership is perhaps the root cause. Often times IT leaders look narrowly at specific problems and projects developed to solve those business problems, partly because that is the way funding is allocated rather than having a broad view of their enterprise and the longer term strategy for the organization. They fail to develop talent strategy and keep up with standards within their domain that can lead to the holistic enterprise viewpoint and execution of IT strategies that fit within that enterprise viewpoint. Often time projects are not cohesive and create more problems, as their mindset, knowledge, or skills acquisition issue is a systemic problem. So the proposed solution scenario is 1) first, understand the problem (either skills gap or other IT issues) by going to the root cause beyond the symptoms. This is because true understanding is a life-changing for any decision maker. 2) When you do understand; you’ll know what you need (even if it is a vague idea), and 3) then what will be left is to mainly know how to get it, and then, leadership can be applied concretely by showing the direction. So the only way to solve this is to have CXO who has the courage to learn and make real changes. You have to fix the IT leadership skills gap first.

Next practice in HR and talent managementEvery organization must address their common and unique IT skills requirements and map that out through some sort of skills/competency matrix within their organization. Too often, leaders are allowed to complain generically about what they mean by skill and competency gaps and often they pick the symptom, not digging through the root causes. Ensure that the hiring managers understand how to effectively perform their job, and develop the best practice and next practice, to make sure that you don't hire a hammer when you actually need a wrench.

As the saying’s going -hire for character, and train for skills. IT skills gap can be bridged through futuristic IT leadership, the culture of learning, next practice in talent management, and look for the traits such as intelligence, motivation, problem-solving, self-learning and communications, etc., truly treat talent as the human asset and capital to invest in, not just human resource to plugin.


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