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Recruiting tech workers is getting harder. But there's another way to get the right skills

Investing in the workforce has become "non-negotiable" for businesses that want to bridge digital skills gaps and remain competitive, a new report warns.
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Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor on
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Businesses may need to radically transform their existing teams if they hope to keep up with innovation.

Image: Maskot/Getty Images

Investing in upskilling and training existing employees is now "the only option" to solve the growing shortage of digital talent, a new report warns.

The survey of more than 2,000 managers and 4,000 staff found that employers are struggling to hire and retain skilled workers, leading to project delays and a failure to meet innovation goals.

Conducted by online-learning platform Udacity and market research firm Ipsos, the survey found that 59% of organizations are seeing a "major or moderate" impact on business due to the lack of digitally skilled employees.

Meanwhile, hiring initiatives are falling short. The study found that, at the same time businesses are losing skilled employees to more high-tech rivals, the shrinking availability of "high-calibre" talent in the jobs market means that recruitment is no longer a viable option to filing organizational skills gaps.

"The talent pool has become so shallow, hiring is not the quick fix enterprises hope it will be," wrote the authors of the Talent Transformation Global Impact Report.

The researchers argue that investing in the development of existing talent is now "the one and only course of action" to solving the skills crisis. "Continuing business as usual is the most pressing threat to your business," the report warns.

Needle in a tech stack

A pressurized tech-hiring market continues to blight recruiters and employers alike as organizations frantically attempt to fill new tech and IT roles.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the demand for software, IT security and cloud professionals even more acute, and while tech workers find themselves with a seemingly infinite number of career options in 2022, heightened competition has left businesses on the back foot.

It's not just a case of getting candidates in the front door to begin with: employers are also struggling to match employees with their business needs.

More than half (56%) of employers surveyed by Udacity and Ipsos said they have difficulty hiring new employees with the level of experience they require.

SEE: Developers: Here's how much your programming skills are worth right now

The survey also found that business and associated hiring priorities vary by geography. France and Germany, for example, are focused on innovation, while US employers prioritize agility and adaptability.

UK employers, meanwhile, care most about financial performance pressures. Each of these concerns has a direct correlation with the need for talent transformation, the report says.

Show me the money or show me the door

Organizations appear to understand that investing in existing staff will play a crucial role in meeting business needs as technology advances: 46% of managers said they had experienced project delays as a direct result of lacking "job-ready" digital talent. Meanwhile, half of businesses said digital transformation progress is being held back by a lack of employee engagement.

This apathy from workers appears to be stemming from a feeling that employers aren't invested in their professional development. The report highlighted "a serious disconnect" between employers and employees when it came to learning and development (L&D) opportunities, with 80% of businesses who offer L&D programs rating them as at least moderately successful, compared to 45% of employees.

SEE: Need developers? Solving the tech skills shortage means looking beyond hiring

Similarly, 65% of enterprises said they prioritize developing employees' skills, with only 41% of employers agreeing with this. The study concluded that "existing learning and development programs are falling short", adding that employees are "frustrated and dissatisfied with the lack of commitment towards their personal career advancement."

For bosses, this ultimately means fewer staff choose to stick around, exacerbating their talent challenges even further. Christopher Moessner, senior vice president at Ipsos, said the research served as "a wake-up call for enterprises to invest in talent transformation or risk falling behind."

Moessner added: "Employees and employers are in agreement that companies have a responsibility to invest in the future of their employees… It's a win-win for employees who desire the most in-demand tech roles and for employers who are not able to hire the right people to meet current and future demand."

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