It’s not really news anymore. Gartner recently stated that the current lack of skilled IT workers is foiling the adoption of cloud, edge computing, and other technologies. Note, these are all cloud related in one way or another.
In its “2021-2023 Emerging Technology Roadmap” based on surveys of 437 global firms, Gartner discovered that IT executives see the talent shortage as the largest barrier to deploying emerging technologies, mostly cloud-based technologies such as databases, machine learning, advanced storage, and analytics, all of which are easily weaponized for strategic purposes for the business.
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For instance, a manufacturing business is seeking to digitally enable its supply chain systems to improve business outcomes. It learned from the pandemic-caused shortages that there was no easy way to work around missing components that stopped a product from being manufactured and sold. You only need to look at the acres of cars and trucks waiting for missing chips today to understand how this can kill a business.
The trouble is most other enterprises are having the same idea: leverage technology to deal with issues discovered during the pandemic. Moreover, organizations are pursuing technology as part of the business itself, such as exposing core cloud services that can be rented to other businesses.
Exciting times, so let’s get to work.
However, there is deeply bad news. While the budgets for building and deploying technology for all types of enterprises are now fat, the lack of technology talent means that for most companies it’s a nonstarter. Many are pulling back from these projects completely or slowing them down significantly, perhaps giving up before they should.
There are a few things you can do now to get some projects going, but it will take some innovation, risk acceptance, courage to try new things, and a change in attitude. Here are some pragmatic ways to attract and retain the talent that you need and move well ahead of your competition.
Use the work-at-home movement to your advantage and mean it. Many enterprises are looking forward to getting people back in the office; some are there already. If your company culture is one where those who want to work remotely find that this is a roadblock in their career, you’ll find that your talent pool is geographically limited to 50 miles around a physical office. Those who work remotely and don’t feel the respect will just leave—or never join.
You’ll have to promote remote work and mean it. This means it does not matter if a key cloud engineer sits in New York City or the middle of Montana; they are leveraged from where they sit. We’ve gotten good at remote working and collaboration technologies in the past few years. Use this as an advantage to find and retain talent, and make it a strategic differentiator.
Offer unique value to technology workers. Believe it or not, most technology workers are not as motivated by money as other professions. This does not mean that they don’t mind getting paid below market, but they consider as many qualitative attributes of a job as quantitative. Personally, I’ve said no to seven-figure salaries because I would most likely last less than a year, based on their culture and fit with my innovation expectations.
There are several things you can do to create a culture and resources to attract top-tier talent.
Delegating control is one way. This means that despite you being the leader, the organization is very flat and the ability to make core decisions is delegated more widely and lower in the organization. This has a few benefits. First, tech workers feel valued—after all, you’re having them make key decisions. Second, they are typically better able to focus on the decisions and thus make better ones, considering that they have the time to gather and consider more data points than you do.
Other approaches include creating a center of excellence and encouraging compensated time to contribute creative intellectual property for the company. Provide on-demand training for free and paid time to use this training. Hawaiian shirt Friday is always a good idea as well.
Be creative. Be innovative. Be prepared to take some risks to get the team you need. Have fun in the process. Having the best culture to promote innovation and retain key players is more important than ever before.