by Flint Brenton

How should tech companies invest in the next generation and prepare for the future?

Aug 22, 2017
CareersDigital TransformationIT Jobs

A playbook for hiring the top IT talent of the future.

fishing for it talent

You don’t have to look far in the news these days to see discussions on jobs in America and specifically tech jobs. Last year the White House announced that there were more than 500,000 job openings in IT, making it the largest occupational category for open jobs. 

We’ve seen many discussions since then on why there has been such a surge in available IT positions—the digital transformation, growing demand for software in all industries, etc. And we’ve also seen many ideas about what needs to be done to solve the problem. 

Technology leaders and executives in particular need to take responsibility for this issue. In a way, it is our problem to solve. As the CEO of a software company, I have a great personal interest in turning the reality of these statistics on the workforce shortage from a crisis into an opportunity. I want talented, adaptable and diverse people on my team and believe it’s time to be proactive and win this workforce challenge. 

There are a number of ways tech organizations can invest in the next generation of IT workers and prepare for the ways that hiring practices may be changing in the next few years. 

Create a workforce yourself 

Many of today’s talented IT professionals are not coming from a four-year college with a degree in computer science. Instead, they received a technical education through various certification courses or even “boot camps,” giving them hands-on experience. Some of these programs are coupled with internships or other learning-by-doing opportunities that will ramp the workers up for the job market. 

One accessible and achievable way tech companies can help to solve this worker crisis is embrace this new dynamic model of education and train talent through short-term certification classes. The training will provide a foundation that talent can build upon.   

The internet and advanced software are making technical skills and knowledge accessible to a wider range of people.  And with the demand for technical skills and knowledge on the rise it only makes sense to harness this new source of technical talent. 

GE’s head of software research, for example, says in an interview that his team has regularly hired self-taught coders who never attended college. It’s easier now than ever to secure a competitive job in Silicon Valley or at a Fortune 500 company, without an Ivy League degree. 

In a recent story on PC Mag’s “The Convo,” companies who are taking alternative routes to provide training programs to talented minority youth are discussed. These efforts intend to cultivate local talent. 

Here Evan Dashevsky interviews CNN Commentator and former Obama advisor, Van Jones, about filling the tech worker shortage with more diverse workers. Van Jones and Evan Dashevsky discuss an interesting perspective on the benefit to tech organizations that minority workers bring: 

“You don’t know what you don’t know. The reason you want diversity is not just because you want to make Dr. King proud or you don’t want to get sued, it’s because often demographic diversity is a stand-in for cognitive diversity, viewpoint diversity, lifestyle diversity,” explains CNN contributor and The Dream Corps founder, Van Jones.” (Jones as quoted in PC Mag’s The Convo With Evan Dashevsky. Read the full article here

I could not have said it better myself.  In my experience, a team that is diverse in skills, thinking and creativity supports innovation and provides insights into new market opportunities. The key to harnessing that diversity is to enable teamwork and collaboration through tools and training. 

My own organization has been partnering with #YesWeCode, founded by Jones, to provide Agile and Scrum training to underrepresented populations with technical skills. InformationWeek also discusses the benefits of partnerships such as these. By equipping the workforce in our regions, we all benefit. 

I want to encourage more tech companies to immediately take on endeavors such as #YesWeCode and invest in people in our own communities. In fact, 75 percent of the trainees who graduated from our Scrum course with #YesWeCode quickly found full-time jobs or apprenticeships in the field—a noteworthy success. 

This approach requires leadership and contributions from many team members across the organization. We’ve had great support from our executive sponsors, trainers, marketers and agency partner in providing the training, mentoring the students, promoting the effort, and increasing awareness of the program and the results. The rewards are worth the effort. In the long run the local talent pool will grow from such programs. 

That is just one of the things we must do. We can also adapt more to the growing “gig economy.” 

Prepare for a gig economy 

TechTarget defines the Gig Economy as, “an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.” In this prevalent model organizations are bringing in talent on a contract basis based on specific expertise or on a project basis, instead of permanent workers. Many organizations see the benefit of these types of relationships with workers and as a result the model is growing. 

There are many implications for IT environments with this “gig” model. With fluid and changing teams, spread out over various physical locations, workers need a way to collaborate, share and connect. One of the IT themes in recent years has been breaking down silos—whether data silos, or cultural boundaries between disciplines. We’ve come to realize as an industry that business thrives when information is shared and accessed across organizational boundaries. 

Organizations moving toward the gig economy need IT environments that allow different kinds of workers the right type of access, in order to best leverage their talent. Companies will need to be able to have disparate teams brought into cooperative initiatives and must be able to seamlessly integrate workers and projects with tools and teams enterprise-wide. 

The message of Agile and DevOps supports organizations who are filling jobs gig-economy style because these methodologies unify work processes, emphasize feedback loops, information sharing and resource re-use. All of which are important when you have teams and workers changing rapidly. 

Think outside the box

As company culture changes and siloed teams and departments are brought together through movements like BizDevOps, we will want to hire individuals who are adaptable and open to change. Hiring folks who embrace digitization may mean looking at a broader or well-rounded skill set and thinking outside the box. 

Workers of all ages and backgrounds have the opportunity now to re-invent themselves and this will only work to benefit tech organizations looking to hire forward-thinking team members. The surge in open tech positions that remain unfilled for so long need not be a cause for panic, but can be viewed as an opportunity to embrace the future and invest in creating a stronger workforce for what is becoming the most critical industry on our planet.