Bridging the developer skills gaps in enterprises

About 20 years ago, during the “dot-com” era, technology impacted a relatively small portion of the enterprise, and very few would consider themselves tech companies. Today, every company needs to think and act like a software company to compete in our digital world.

As mainstream companies race to modernize their business and migrate to the cloud, keeping up with new technologies, training and upskilling workforces has become a business imperative. In fact, according to a Forrester report, 75% of IT and business executives say that their company’s ability to compete is directly related to their ability to release quality software quickly. But great software doesn’t magically appear — developers must build it. And that is getting more complex and challenging, even in a world where generative-AI is emerging.

Amid a period of tightened budgets, macroeconomic challenges, and labor skill shortages, upskilling and reskilling workers to meet the pace of tech complexity is critical. Organizations need to prioritize upskilling employees and leverage their “super powers” to not only retain valuable tech talent, but improve productivity and efficiency. Organizations that understand and implement modern application development processes will deliver higher quality, more secure code to production – at a consistent and rapid pace. This allows them to be more nimble in meeting evolving customer expectations and needs, and positions them to better compete in crowded markets.

Challenges facing upskilling efforts

In today’s tumultuous macroeconomic and industry landscape, not only is talent availability a concern, but developer skills (or lack thereof) are an issue as well. In-house expertise can help maximize investments in cloud and kubernetes migrations, for example, but many companies lack employees with these skills or have gaps as employees moved on to new roles during the “Great Resignation”.

According to a recent Gartner survey, IT executives see the talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies, compared with just 4% in 2020. A lack of talent availability was cited far more often than other barriers, such as implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%). Now more than ever, upskilling programs are critical to ensure employees have an opportunity to grow in their roles, while equipping organizations with the skilled developers needed to undertake big modernization efforts.

And, as is increasingly common in today’s tightening labor market, a lack of skilled professionals adds yet another layer of difficulty. Workforce skills gaps paired with cost and regulations serve as barriers to modernization efforts, which is why it’s critical that organizations continue to build business cases that training initiatives generate a strong ROI while boosting productivity and innovation. Training aligned with emerging competencies can not only improve employee retention but also employee and business performance.

But organizations are also dealing with reduced budgets for upskilling opportunities. According to a recent report, nearly half of workers say their employers have reduced upskilling opportunities during the pandemic. Considering that for most companies, developer productivity now directly impacts both bottom-line and top-line growth, the need for skilled workers to build, manage and deploy mission critical apps has become a business imperative. Organizations must continue to make intentional investments to ensure skills are meeting the pace of technology innovation, regardless of the market in which they operate.

Smart companies are prioritizing upskilling planning

Despite knowing that upskilling is critical, the economic reality means organizations may not have budget allocated for these types of training. Organizations that are cloud smart plan ahead and think strategically about how to do more with less. They build an internal culture around embracing modern techniques for software development and these techniques to business outcomes.

Closing the skills gap doesn’t require organizations to completely rethink their training programs, rather it’s about updating and supplementing existing initiatives or skills and approaching them with a different mindset. For example, rethinking recruitment strategies can help bring new skills into enterprises. Today, many hiring managers today evaluate talent based on knowledge of specific software or languages, rather than soft skills or a demonstrated aptitude for learning. The practice of hiring or promoting employees based on soft skills and aptitude, and training them in new languages & development methods, can be a successful way to best fit organizational needs.

In addition, organizations can upskill workers with targeted learnings to help developer teams build technical proficiency that can drive the business forward. Professional training programs can improve IT workforce productivity, satisfaction, and career development. Even more experienced employees can benefit by expanding their existing skill set and potentially discovering new, better ways of working. Plus, by establishing a consistent and foundational cloud & modern application development training program, organizations can establish common terminology and best practices for modernization across the organization.

Meanwhile, cloud native technologies increasingly demand new skills sets and better cross collaboration with teams beyond IT. Creating a culture of learning and innovation in enterprises is key to meet the accelerated pace of digital transformation in all areas of business – from human resources, to customer support, to operations, sales and beyond. Because while technical skills can be learned, attitudes are difficult to change. Equipping developer teams with capable employees with the right aptitude and attitudes, rather than prioritizing historically required technical skills, positions you to execute long-term vision while delivering business value.

Establishing consistent and robust training practices and rethinking hiring practices across organizations can help bridge the existing skills gap, prevent costly setbacks and promote an agile and sustainable business.

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IT Leadership