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Hiring Tech Talent? How to Close Your Company's Cloud Skills Gap

Business.com / technology / Last Modified: May 24, 2018
Image credit: winui/Shutterstock

Most companies recognize the cloud skills gap, but aren't sure what to do about it. Here's what you can do to bridge that gap.

If you're hiring technology talent right now, you know that the market is highly competitive, and the pool of qualified candidates is small. The capabilities unlocked by cloud computing — AI, machine learning, IoT — are reshaping the skills required to perform today’s jobs rapidly. Companies and employees alike are struggling to keep up.

The skills gap is not just an HR problem. It’s a real business problem that holds organizations back when it comes to productivity, embracing innovation, and progression along the digital transformation curve. A report by Capgemini and LinkedIn showed that more than half of organizations believe their talent shortage has made them less competitive. Moreover, 70 percent of companies recognize the skills gap, but aren't sure what to do about it.

Acquiring the skills companies need to compete will require thinking beyond the normal mechanisms of simply “hiring talent” or “sending staff to training.” The cloud skills gap is an existential risk to your business. Here are some ways to address it. 

1. Start from within.

It’s important to consider how much more cost effective and impactful it can be to enable existing staff with new skills.

There are several reasons why existing employees may be a solid option. They understand your legacy technology, existing processes and the players involved internally. While there will be a ramp time associated with re-training for new technologies and methodologies, current employees’ institutional knowledge positions them to make a meaningful contribution, faster.

Costs and time to value are other factors. The U.C. Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that the average cost of hiring — beyond salary and wages — is up to $7,000 for managerial and professional employees. If 81 percent of new hires fail, hiring may be the riskier option, especially if you need staff to hit the ground running.

Upskilling existing staff won’t solve problems overnight, but it can be more cost effective, and you’ll be better prepared if your existing teams are operating at their full potential.

Start the re-skilling process by assessing which employees have transferable skills and which could step up with the right long-term corporate training program. 

2. Make sure training is highly relevant.

Don’t lose sight of the time it will take to make new learners — existing employees or new hires — operational.

Hiring “new collar” is one way that companies are plugging the gaps for the specific, even niche skills that are required for new, in-demand roles in data analytics, cloud computing and cybersecurity. However, even specialists and tech professionals will need training in the context of your environment to be successful. Technology- or platform-specific credentials can be useful for validating a specific skill set but they may not address how skills will be applied in your business.

In cloud computing, for example, an AWS certification is an industry-recognized benchmark for skills. However, being able to lead a migration strategy or to architect security across all of your platforms is much more complex and will require more organization-specific training.

To yield greater operational benefits faster, training programs must be highly relevant in the context of the employee’s role, the environment where they’ll be working, and the technology stack they’ll be using. 

3. Design training for all the ways that people learn.

Driving engagement in training is especially important when the skills determine the competitiveness of your organization. Make sure your training program incorporates techniques that have been proven to drive results.

The most effective training combines a variety of ways for users to acquire skills (video, quizzes, hands-on, mobile delivery), and is designed to be consumed on demand. Structuring learning content into shorter formats — coffee break-sized chunks versus hours-long modules — makes it easier for employees to incorporate learning into their day. Experiential learning where users can work hands-on to solve real problems can result in up to 90 percent of knowledge retention compared to traditional learning. Sandboxes that mimic your setup are a risk-free way to build both practical skills and confidence working in a new environment. Gamification, achievement badges, and competitive leaderboards have also been shown to keep users motivated while reinforcing learning objectives.

Utilizing real-world scenarios and actual use cases as much as possible helps keep the training meaningful in the context of your tech stack and what you’re specifically asking employees to accomplish. 

4. Future-proof your team’s skills.

Without a long term, strategic plan to keep up with the changes in your industry and the technologies that will disrupt it, your organization will find itself disrupted. According to LinkedIn Learning, the average shelf life of skills is fewer than five years; some professions, such as software engineers, should expect to upskill every 12 to 18 months. In cloud computing, the pace of new releases — services, technologies, competitive pricing — that teams have to work with is staggering. The leading provider, AWS, launched 1,430 new releases in 2017 alone.

Your organization’s commitment to staying current with the latest technologies and trends will be essential for retaining top talent over time. Most top performers are by definition interested in staying on top, and will already be experimenting with new applications and technologies. 

Building a culture of continuous learning is a competitive necessity and an investment in your company’s present and in your ability to grow and scale for years to come. Make training strategic by creating training plans that are role-specific and oriented for required skill sets in the future. Build training into each manager’s objectives and set business goals around skill acquisition. Manage the cloud skills gap as you would any other short, medium and long-term risk to your business. Your organization depends on it.

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