Britain is currently facing a chronic tech skills deficit. Demand for digitally skilled professionals continues to grow and, according to recent research from the Open University, the lack of skilled workers available is costing UK companies around £2.2 billion a year in higher salaries and temporary resourcing.
For 2018, the critical issue remains that the demand for IT skills is outpacing the growth of the talent pool. The reason for this is twofold – technologies such as Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT), AI and robotics are disrupting businesses faster than employees can find the talent to manage them. But equally, they are evolving at such a pace that the skills needed to manage them are becoming quickly outdated. The Government estimates that digital skills will be needed for 90% of jobs in 20 years’ time, and as the multitude of different talents required continues to grow, the technical skills that young people are learning at school and university now may not be relevant by the time they enter the working world.
As we begin what is set to be another testing year for businesses tackling digital transformation, here are four areas that employers need to address:
1. Ensuring compliance with new regulation
With GDPR a top priority for 2018, UK employers must ensure they have the right talent in place to prepare for the new regulation, particularly when there are hefty fines involved for those who don’t comply. However, GDPR shouldn’t be perceived as another regulatory hoop to jump through – it can be a competitive advantage. The insight that can be derived from a company’s data is vital to the way that it operates today and those that get GDPR right could increase their customers’ trust. But business leaders must start by identifying the gaps within their organisation and engaging the wider workforce to ensure they have a long-term solution. With the deadline fast approaching, businesses must act now.
2. Plugging the digital skills gap
The industry is facing an escalating digital skills crisis – by 2021, there will be three million unfilled jobs in cyber security worldwide. In 2018, businesses need to take a two-pronged approach to tackle this: training the current workforce to deal with the issue now and championing tech education to lay the foundations for the future.
Businesses are challenged to both keep pace with the wave of new technologies that are emerging continuously and prepare for ever more sophisticated cyber threats. But there are fewer specialist skills available in the market than businesses currently need to bring into their organisation to manage this. 2018 will therefore see employers focus on upskilling their existing workforce to complement their recruiting efforts and bring in those much-needed skills.
Looking more long-term – action must be taken to increase the focus on primary and secondary education in STEM subjects, and particularly on technology. The pace of change is such that specialties in technology can quickly become obsolete. So, beyond the broad STEM groundings, employability will depend less on what individuals already know and more on their ability to continuously learn and adapt.
3. Embracing new ways of working
In recent research, over half of the millennial respondents said they would be open to non-traditional forms of employment in the future – including freelance, gig work or portfolio careers with multiple jobs. To meet the demands of this increasingly transient workforce, employers need to better understand these alternative work styles and career expectations. Whether that’s offering flexible hours or more short-term contractor opportunities, leaders must develop to keep their staff energised and engaged.
4. Responding to the needs of a multi-generational workforce
While Generation Z are beginning to enter the workplace, millions of Baby Boomers over the age of 65 are finding themselves having to continue with full-time employment in order to support themselves in retirement. At the same time, employers are grappling with the conflicting requirements of millennials and Generation Xers – often referred to as the “lost generation”. New entrants to the workplace are motivated by rapid promotion, yet formal structures are being dropped in favour of a flatter management style. Generation Z and Millennials often arrive in the workplace with a more digital know-how than their managers, and will readily share their expertise with their older colleagues through reverse mentoring. Some Baby Boomers, however, may find this uncomfortable. Employers will need to find ways to navigate this culture clash by reducing the emphasis on outdated management models and ensuring that there are ongoing feedback mechanisms in place to keep an open dialogue.
We are likely to see many new roles emerge in the tech industry over the next 12 months, as UK businesses look to tackle the IT skills deficit and prepare for impending regulations. In order to keep up with this pace of change and remain competitive in 2018, businesses must ensure they are equipping their employees with new skills, and giving them the relevant training and freedom to experiment with new and emerging technologies. By taking the right steps, businesses can future-proof their organisation for the year ahead.