L&D Strategies for Addressing the Tech Skills Gap

The technology world changes fast: new platforms and devices are constantly being introduced, new tech companies become superstars overnight, and new cyberthreats are always making headlines.  

One thing that doesn’t change? The tech skills shortage.  

Finding and retaining tech talent has been an ongoing challenge for several years. According to a poll from MIT Technology Review Insights, 64% of respondents said candidates for their IT and tech jobs lack necessary skills or experience, while 56% cited an overall shortage of candidates as a concern. A recent Robert Half survey found that 95%of technology managers face challenges finding skilled talent. Sixty-nine percent are hiring for new positions, and 29% say that they are recruiting talent for vacated roles.  

Why does it seem impossible to close the tech skills gap? 

The breakneck speed of technology itself is to blame for the tech skills gap. New technologies are automating old jobs, creating new jobs, and changing existing roles. The World Economic Forum estimates that 44% of core job skills will be disrupted by 2028, and the half-life of a technical skill is now estimated to be two and a half years or less 

In other words, hiring for a current technical skill set is a huge challenge. In the time it takes to discover the need for a new skill, create a curriculum around it, and train or onboard for that skill, it may already have become obsolete. So how can you train new technical workers to stay current with tech trends?  

The first step may be changing your organization’s mindset about workplace skills.   

Embracing a skills-based tech workforce 

Instead of simply hiring for technical skills, or even developing a traditional L&D program to teach tech skills, consider taking a continuous reskilling approach within the workforce 

The rise of the skills-based organization — according to several reports from groups like the WEF and McKinsey — is the sign of a fundamental shift in the nature of jobs and work. Deloitte, for example, predicts the “end of jobs,” saying skills have become more important than roles, while McKinsey’s most recent Future of Work report defines job sectors not by industry, but how physically close workers must be to co-workers and clients. 

Hire for soft skills, train for hard skills 

Hiring for the latest hard skills, such as AI or programming, is no longer a strategy likely to work for the technology sector. While, yes, you want your workforce to be familiar with the basics of networks, cybersecurity, or AI, hiring for any combination of specific skills may not be possible.  

This may be why the WEF reports that the most sought-after skills in the workplace are soft skills. Here are the top five core skills that global organizations are looking for:   

  1. Analytical thinking 
  2. Creative thinking  
  3. Resilience, flexibility and agility  
  4. Motivation and self-awareness  
  5. Curiosity and lifelong learning 

The sixth skill on the list is technological literacy, which is a given for anyone taking on a tech role, while the rest can and should be continuously trained for.   

Hiring for skill number five on the list above is a good way to ensure that your workforce is full of lifelong learners who can be trained on any of the other soft or technical skills your organization needs.  

Know which tech skills you need to train for

AI is shaping everything right now, and that includes learning. LinkedIn’s latest Workplace Learning Report shows that a desire for AI skills is dominating L&D in 2024. Four out of five people want to learn how to use AI in their profession, something that wasn’t really on the radar of the average jobseeker before ChatGPT became a big hit in 2022. Other in-demand tech skills include: 

  • Proficiency in programming languages, such as Python and Javascript 
  • Cloud computing 
  • Database administration 
  • Data analysis 
  • Risk analysis

This list is obviously not exhaustive, nor will it necessarily reflect the specific needs and goals of your organization. Make sure to talk to your managers about what skills they need right now on the ground. They are on the front lines and know best which tools, languages, and skills their team needs training in.   

Develop quick content for the skills you need now 

Technology skills change fast, so you may not have a lot of time to create long, involved training modules. Identify the skills essential to your organization, and train your employees on those first.   

Consider microlearning — short bursts of information that help your team understand a single topic quickly, usually just before they have to use that information. According to LinkedIn, about half of L&D professionals are considering using microlearning to deploy information.  

Another option for keeping skills fresh is providing just-in-time learningtime-sensitive training that gives employees access to relevant resources the moment they need them. An example of just-in-time learning for software companies is the continuous security testing embedded in many company applications. Features like these are a form of just-in-time support because they give newly-hired developers (who may not have formal security training) instant feedback on the vulnerabilities in their code. Such feedback can help them improve security in the moment and avoid making the same security mistakes in the future. 

Coaching is key 

Managers are your best allies when it comes to L&D.   

They see your learners every day, and have the power to both help set learning pathways for their teams as well as to reinforce learning. They also know where your learners struggle and what skills are most needed. 

Use managers’ strengths to your advantage by implementing coaching programs, and working closely with them. Learners are also likely to appreciate more individualized input from their bosses.  

Make a plan to continuously reskill

Technology is always growing and changing. You can’t simply reskill once and be done with it. Know that reskilling and upskilling is an ongoing process; you will constantly be rolling out new training for technical skills to keep your team up to date with the latest advances in tech.  

Keep your eye on the horizon for the newest technology, trends, and skills. If there’s anything you can be certain of in the tech sector, it’s that a change is probably on the way.  

Taking a lean approach to L&D is especially important for organizations that require adaptability in the face of continuous change. Looking to maximize the impact of your L&D program? See how your team can hire and train for the right skills, without wasting time or resources. Check out Litmos’ free eBook, “L&D Made Easy: Your Guide to Impactful Lean L&D” today!