Building Tech Skills From Within

In a year of significant change across all industries, business leaders across the globe are looking for solutions. 

As most companies have shifted to almost entirely home working, the Digital Skills gap still lingers over employers. Covid-19 has accelerated the digital change that led to this skills gap and has left employers with two options – to recruit new talent or develop it from within. 

Recruiting new talent is a familiar process for most employers, but in this age of remote working, how can you build tech skills from within?

The impact of Skills Gaps

We’ve spoken extensively about the Digital Skills gap in the past, which is reported to cost the UK economy £63 billion a year. It boils down to skills shortages across a number of roles, which 52% of firms claim increases the workload of their existing staff.

The skills gaps are being felt even more this year, as covid-19 has become a driver of digital transformation. The workload on IT infrastructure and support has increased substantially, both from supporting internal teams to achieve their goals remotely, and facilitating business as usual for customers and clients.

So with these pronounced impacts on business across the UK, it’s clear that diversifying the skills your employees have will result in better productivity, and by extension more growth and profit. The real question lies in how best to fill the skills gaps, and the answer to this varies depending on the role in question.

How to develop tech talent

Training staff is a familiar process for most organisations. This comes in many forms, with the most familiar being the onboarding new team members into your organisation.

In-house training is used for most internal systems, such as familiarisation with existing processes and software. This can also extend to more specific role based knowledge, but is entirely dependent on the right person existing in the business already to deliver the training.

External training comes into play when a team member needs knowledge that doesn’t reside with the company. This can be as general as first aid training, to more specific professional qualifications such as Prince 2. External training also covers apprenticeships, with the key difference that apprenticeships include a focus towards ‘on the job’ learning. 

Apprenticeships can be used either to advance a team member’s career progression, or to introduce a new team member at a junior level under the management of an existing team. Apprenticeship standards cover a broad range of expertise, from Scaffolding to Data Analysts, meaning that every organisation can benefit in some way. 

The overwhelming trend in the training space this year, has been remote delivery. Online learning has been on the rise for those who find themselves furloughed, or anyone looking to upskill whilst seeking a new opportunity. In that vein, apprenticeships have also shifted to a more online approach, meaning that delivery of apprenticeships is not only possible for remote workers – it’s easier than ever.

With skills gaps in mind, the goal for most employers is to bridge the deficits across their organisation, in order to boost productivity. The difficulty lies not only in correctly identifying skills gaps, but then in creating the framework to deliver the necessary upskilling. Some organisations have found much new success by adding Business Analysts to their teams. These analysts equip an organisation with skills to identify new and existing opportunities for focus or growth based on internal and market trends.

The government introduced the Apprenticeship Levy in April of 2017. This reimagined approach to skills provision not only sought to provide pathways into new careers for young people, but also offer upskilling to existing employees of all ages. 

Considered complementary to the UK Digital Strategy, the Apprenticeship Levy is funded by employers with a wage bill of over £3 million a year, who pay a 5% contribution of their total wage bill. The whole purpose of this fund was to drive skills provision across the country, but for a number of reasons much of the funding goes to waste.

There are a number of myths about the scheme – including that large employers are the sole beneficiaries. But employers with a wage bill of under £3 million a year only have to pay 5% of the cost of an apprenticeship – meaning the scheme is far better at distributing skills across the economy. 

The apprenticeship levy has been utilised by some prominent employers – Amazon have pledged to create 1,000 apprenticeships spanning a number of IT proficiencies. But across the landscape of levy payers, many are barely tapping into the potential to drive internal development, fill skills gaps and grow their organisation for a new digital age.

Benefits of developing tech talent within

Your people are your company’s most valuable asset, so the benefits of developing tech talent within are plentiful. 

Developing your people’s skills stops them from feeling stuck in their role. Development is a key part of any person’s career, so by championing development internally you’ll retain your staff for longer as they don’t need to change company to advance. This boost to retention goes hand in hand with company morale – the impact of high workforce turnover is well documented. An established Learning and Development function is also an enticing benefit to any potential new hires – again because it demonstrates the potential for growth without having to change roles. 

The impact of staff completing tasks they have limited training in is pronounced on productivity. Fundamentally, if a staff member is spending time on a task they aren’t fully equipped to complete, it will take them longer to do, and will prevent them from completing other tasks. By driving the addition of skills, tasks will get completed more efficiently, to a higher standard, and leave more time for other tasks.

Besides the cost of the recruitment process itself, the biggest financial implication of hiring new staff is the time it takes to onboard them. This refers to the loss of productivity as an employee becomes familiar with a new company’s working culture and practices, as well as the time it takes to get a full grasp on all facets of the role. Not only does developing an existing staff member mitigate this, your organisation would also save money on recruitment costs and higher salary expectations from an experienced hire.

The return on investment for developing staff can be difficult to measure, owing to the number of ways it can manifest. The most apparent is increased sales, but often employers find that ROI can come from money saved by eliminating inefficient processes. There are tools available to measure your current ROI for training, but it’s important to outline the goals of any upskilling programme before deployment.

The Department for Business Innovation & Skills found that for every pound invested in Level 3 apprenticeships, £28 was returned. A large employer reported that teams with apprentices saw 20% more sales, 37% lower absence rates and a 10% boost in customer satisfaction. Discover Financial Services found 144% ROI on upskilling staff. The benefits of upskilling your team are plentiful, but when viewed in terms of ROI, can manifest in a number of different ways.

Meeting the tech skills demand

Even with thousands of people deciding on a career in Tech, the talent deficit for specialist Tech roles is still enormous. A recent report surveying HR leaders found that 64% believed there was a skills gap in their company, up from 52% the previous year.

Creating a culture of learning is an important step for any company. Deloitte has argued that essential skills only last 5 years – meaning that if you are going to keep up with the rapidly changing world, a continued cycle of internal staff development is needed. 

But for some specialised roles across IT & Tech, upskilling won’t meet all the requirements. Highly specialised jobs in areas like Cyber Security require a level of on the job experience that wouldn’t be solved with upskilling. This is where specialist recruitment services can support, with sector knowledge and insight into where to find the best talent. By utilising their services, you’ll be able to find the right talent your organisation needs, and focus your upskilling efforts on more fitting internal opportunities.