By Ryan M. Sutton, Executive Director, Technology Practice Group, Robert Half The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cloud computing and other technologies has created a significant gap between the skills available in the workforce and those needed by employers today. Tech teams are especially struggling to hire the talent they need to succeed. In a Robert Half survey, 95% of technology leaders at large, medium and small businesses in the U.S. said it’s challenging to find skilled candidates. Also, nearly two-thirds (65%) reported a skills gap within their department, and a nearly equal percentage (62%) said the impact of the skills gap is more apparent now than a year ago. These are just a few findings featured in Building Future-Forward Tech Teams, a new e-book from Robert Half. It examines how persistent and pervasive skills gaps can jeopardize a tech team’s ability to support critical business initiatives — from IT security to AI projects to cloud migrations. The e-book offers technology leaders solutions to help overcome skills gaps and assemble teams that can quickly respond to changing business needs and technological advancement. Because the technology skills gap is such a significant challenge for companies, let’s delve a bit more into why and how to step up efforts to nurture current staff and create a pipeline of up-and-coming tech talent.
Companies that proactively develop their tech workforce are effectively helping to future-proof their operations against technological disruption. This foresight will be crucial for riding the next wave of digital transformation, which likely will involve everything from AI to virtual reality to quantum computing. Maintaining a highly skilled technology team allows businesses to move faster to meet changing market demands and customer expectations. This agility is also crucial for building a competitive advantage. It can also help you stand out as an employer of choice. Talented professionals in the tech field are eager to work with new technologies and be part of innovative projects. If your organization offers these opportunities, it can give you an edge in hiring and retention. However, make sure to invest the resources necessary to turn plans for digital initiatives into reality. Employees can end up feeling frustrated and decide to leave if they don’t have access to the right technology, tools and training they need to be effective contributors to critical tech projects.
Robert Half’s recruiting specialists work with tech hiring managers around the world to help them find and hire the professionals they need to solve critical skills gaps, plan new initiatives and keep projects moving forward. However, when it comes to making the most of the technology talent they recruit, companies are in the driver’s seat. As I noted in a previous post, it’s important for employers to make the most of the strengths and potential of their current team, in addition to bringing new people on board to address skills gaps. Investing in the professional growth of technology employees can increase their job satisfaction, which can, in turn, strengthen retention. Actively cultivating existing tech talent also keeps the company’s vision for technology initiatives clearly in focus for the teams responsible for implementing them. Now, let’s take a closer look at some strategies you can use to promote development of all your technology employees and build a future-forward tech team.
Create structured learning and development programs tailored to help employees gain specific skills in technologies that support business priorities, like cybersecurity and generative AI. To engage staff at all skill levels, offer an array of options, from coding bootcamps to advanced AI and data science workshops. Some areas of focus for learning might include: Programming, including languages foundational to AI development, like Python and R
ML operations (MLOps), a set of practices that aim to automate and streamline the processes of ML model development and deployment in production environmentsBig data technologies, including technologies like Hadoop and Spark that can handle and process  large-scale datasets efficiently
As an incentive for motivating your employees to learn new skills and stretch their abilities, consider developing a system that supports and rewards innovation. This could include internal tech incubators, hackathons, contests and grants for technology projects that align with business goals. If you open these initiatives to the broader organization, you’ll not only draw out new ideas but also potentially identify talent, like data scientists and analysts, working in other functions who you could bring into your technology department to train and position for certain roles. Encourage a culture of continuous learning The importance of creating a continuous cycle of learning is emphasized in Building Future-Forward Tech Teams. An organizational culture that prizes curiosity and ongoing improvement is vital to attracting, engaging and retaining in-demand technology talent. Give your employees the flexibility to regularly set aside time for learning and experimentation. Consider using strategies like Google’s well-known “20% time” — which encourages employees to spend 20% of their time on side projects that interest them — to help inspire innovative thinking and skills growth. Establish technology mentorship programs Mentorship from more experienced professionals is a tried-and-true method for accelerating learning and skills acquisition with less-seasoned staff. These arrangements can help disseminate crucial know-how throughout your tech department, and even beyond. Reverse and peer-to-peer mentoring are also valuable tactics for increasing knowledge-sharing and skill-building among staff.
Tech leaders looking to prepare their teams for the future can benefit from implementing a variety of strategies to enhance skills and knowledge and foster adaptability and creativity. Here are some less common approaches to learning that you may want to consider using with your team. Scenario planning This process isn’t just for tech strategists and futurists. Engage your teams in creating detailed scenarios for emerging technological landscapes. This can promote agile thinking that will allow them to adapt their skills and projects as technology advances. Immersive learning Consider using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to simulate complex working environments or visualize abstract concepts in software and hardware development. VR and AR tools can be especially useful for remote teams to experience a sense of presence and realism in training sessions, making learning more engaging and effective. Gamification Turn skill acquisition and professional development into a game-like experience, complete with challenges, levels and rewards. This approach taps into the competitive spirit of your team, potentially leading to quicker and deeper absorption of new skills and concepts. Meta-skills development Encourage staff to build skills like critical thinking, adaptability and problem-solving that are crucial for keeping up with rapid technological change. These skills can be developed through specialized training sessions and stretch assignments. Crowdsourced innovation Use internal crowdsourcing to solve problems or generate new ideas. This approach democratizes the innovation process, allowing fresh ideas from unexpected sources within the tech department as well as the broader organization. Using a mix of traditional and novel approaches to learning and development can help you create a tech team that is well-positioned to meet current and future business priorities. This strategy can also turn your technology department into a center of learning that attracts in-demand and high-potential talent from inside and outside the organization. Ryan M. Sutton is an executive director at Robert Half, leading the technology practice for the firm. He joined the company in 1999 as a recruiter and has been promoted multiple times to roles of increasing visibility. Prior to joining Robert Half, he worked in public accounting. Follow Ryan on LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter).