How do you solve a problem like the tech talent deficit? It’s a question that has burdened the minds of many tech leaders over the years. Well documented, the talent deficit in the tech sector is no new thing. Often it is met with short-term, unsustainable practices to help plug the gaps and meet current demand.
However, the pandemic has shone an exposing light not only on the current deficit but the rapid growth in new tech roles to come and the lack of talent available to meet this increased demand. Demand is significantly outstripping supply – and there’s now a business necessity for tech that’s only set to grow.
A talent deficit can imply many root causes (and effects). On the surface level there’s the exodus of tech talent from certain regions and companies to premium job offers and prospects elsewhere, and the subsequent scarcity of ‘qualified’ people available, resulting in a scramble to snap up the next – on paper – skilled prospect. But it runs deeper than this. It’s a multifaceted issue that carries many problems to solve and requires new thinking to reduce the gap; it’s not only a problem-solving task for today, but for the future as well.
What’s required is a dramatic change in philosophy and practice to overturn it. How we scout, hire and train talent needs to be modernised to create the supply; a chance to reimagine recruitment. How we use our existing staff to meet this flurry of new talent and roles needs to be reevaluated; a chance to reinvigorate the workforce. Long gone should be the days of different countries having to depend on the strengths of a small, undiverse hub of staff. So, how do we level up that all-important supply-and-demand?
The recruiting conundrum
As outlined, one cause of the deficit is tech workers being poached from others to fulfil company needs and advance business. This is generating a funnel effect. Talent from across the continent is sucked in by lucrative offers, training opportunities, and career progression and subsequently channelled into certain businesses and regions, creating a high concentration of specialists in specific areas. It’s unsustainable. It hinders other areas of the economy and a region’s sources of knowledge – and inspiration – to build up its next wave of talent.
It’s worth noting that many companies are thriving on the fact that Covid has opened their eyes to greater remote talent across the world. But the challenge lies in the wage spiral – the spoils go to the highest bidder, and again, this is probably unsustainable. Then there’s the subsequent pitfall and current predicament for many organisations managing disparate remote teams: how do you maintain culture and instil a company-wide DNA when effectively in the absence of proximity?
But the deficit is also being compounded by the tech industry’s struggle to both uncover potential talent in other industries and encourage various demographics into the sector; this includes, most pertinently, the well-documented shortage of women in tech. Moldova, for example, is bursting with tech talent. But it is not seen as the most lucrative market for Moldovan women to go into. Instead, they are encouraged into beauty and similar industries. If we’re to close the talent deficit gap, we need to diversify recruitment strategies to attract a greater variety of talent and also build towards a gender-equal workforce. How we recruit and what we look for in candidates needs to be reevaluated, and overcoming the tech deficit means striving to balance the gender imbalance.
Curating an ever-growing talent pool
Environments mould and shape people, their interests, skills, and culture. We should be curating environments that allow tech talent to grow and, crucially, sustain and reproduce it. A key consideration for global development – regardless of sector – is ensuring that all countries have the best opportunities to source and access the greatest talent available. It’s a big win for your business as well: through adopting this unique growth ethos, you can nurture, leverage and employ some of the world’s best talent in its existing region, utilising staff skill-sets for the good of a company and the wider country in which the business operates.
But how do you go about putting this ethos into action? A fundamental component involves investing in local education and skill development, as well as building technology centres of excellence in regional communities across the continent and the globe. More specifically, this investment can be joined by technical internship programs, sponsored technology festivals, and tech initiatives (such as hackathon competitions) that have the ability to both develop talent and attract passionate developers to the region. Offering active support, mentorship, apprenticeships, work schemes and flexibility to less represented demographics are critical to reaching new audiences and encouraging people into tech.
Cultivating the talent
Invest in people, and the skills will come. Seems simple, but is actually groundbreaking in shaking up the existing foundations that still support the old-school way of recruiting. These foundations currently uphold a reliance on skills, experience, and competency and therefore fail to adapt to the streams of missed talent lying dormant in other industries. It’s why the deficit appears so stark – it’s measured on tech skills and competency alone. There are even those staff in the same company who have the potential to be upskilled and redeployed elsewhere but are overlooked.
You can teach skills and gain competency, but you can’t teach natural traits. The benefit of creating such environments outlined above is that you can train people based on their aptitude and potential. With the right ingredients cooking up in a thriving environment, with the best trainers, infrastructure, and a holistic ecosystem, you can turn potential talent into superstars. This immediately cuts out the apparent shortage of skills and redefines what talent is.
Securing the future
This strategy isn’t for today’s ROI but for 3-4 years’ time. It’s about creating the jobs in the next five years that aren’t jobs yet, finding the people and women who aren’t in tech but have the aptitude and potential to be so. Not only this, but having systems in place to upskill and redeploy your own workforce, either elsewhere in the company or even to other businesses will help enhance the local economy.
Partnerships can be struck that benefit both the company and education institutions. For example, company employees can teach at local universities and investment can be used to develop university facilities. Alongside this investment into talent and excellence, companies can open offices and base staff in these regions to provide a presence in the area; this offers a gateway for initiating careers, career progression, and business development.
Partnerships can also be extended to other organisations whose talent isn’t tech talent yet but possesses the potential to be so. They can be activated with organisations such as Women in Tech to help encourage and grow the number of women in tech. By facilitating such a methodology, you can begin to build a thriving hub of knowledge, skills, and talent in regions and between organisations, evenly distributing tech, and creating a network of mutually beneficial growth.
By redefining what talent is and how to produce it, we can adapt to an outward-looking vision that becomes more accessible to more people. This will allow true potential to be realised and start to close that supply-demand gap. The world is dramatically changing, and a reimagining of how we source and create talent can drive the digital and sustainable advancement we vitally need.