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Tackling the skill shortage 

Tackling the skill shortage 

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The ‘Great Resignation’ is a global problem and companies are struggling to retain employees. Intelligent CXO spoke to three experts about how enterprises can survive the staff and skill shortages through upskilling talent and harnessing technology. 

A new report, Tracking Trends and Predicting the Future of the Experiential Market, by global brand experience agency, FIRST, reveals more than half of marketing directors are facing a technical skills shortage. 

The report shows that with 55% of marketing directors across the UK and US saying a shortage of technical skills in recruits is one of their top challenges, some 90% are now gearing up to outsource crucial expertise in a race to achieve the competitive advantages tech offers. 

This is unsurprising, given the intensity of the ‘Great Resignation’, and as such retaining and upskilling talent has never been more crucial. Offering a solution to the problem, three leading experts from across different industries offer their insights into how to efficiently tackle the skill shortage below. 

Allen McNaughton, Systems Engineering Director for Infoblox Public Sector 

It’s no secret that the cybersecurity industry is in something of a talent crisis. The need for cybersecurity experts greatly outpaces the supply.  

These professionals underpin the security and integrity of networks and data, manage a company’s security stack and have the skills to identify, react to and remediate security risks.  

Over the past year, this talent pool has faced unprecedented demands as the pandemic forced understaffed cybersecurity teams to extend security to cover the blending of corporate and home technologies as millions of employees worked remotely – all while adjusting to the challenges of remote work themselves.  

To compound these difficulties, malicious actors have pounced, preying on these new work arrangements, hastily setting up network architectures and fears of the pandemic to launch a growing number of cyberattacks.  

All of this has culminated in a cybersecurity workforce that is stretched out, overburdened and burnt out. 

The novelty of this situation has forced organisations to rethink how they attract talent, train employees and educate those inside and outside the organisation to better understand the different threats they face. Organisations are raising pay, recruiting from underserved communities and making cybersecurity careers more accessible to students without a traditional degree. 

These solutions are helping but not filling the entire gap. This challenge did not arise overnight and will require long-term strategic thinking to overcome.  

And unfortunately, time is a luxury. Malicious actors are not good sports, waiting for the cybersecurity community to transform itself before launching an attack.  

The cybersecurity industry needs to act now and follow the lead of the fast food industry and small businesses that have addressed skill shortages by leveraging technology to help manage work, increase productivity and reduce burnout.  

Here’s how: 

First, look for technology solutions that prioritise automation. Technology that automates lower-order tasks is relatively easy to deploy, frees up workers’ valuable time and also removes the potential for any human error combing through different risks.  

Second, recognise the power of context. In cybersecurity, context can help workers better understand the threats they face and enable them to make better, more accurate and faster decisions.  

Not all threats are the same, so it’s important that context follows automation so that security teams do not waste hours chasing down the most basic of threats that can easily be remediated via technology. 

Third, look for technology solutions that leverage the expertise you already have. While context is key for understanding a single threat, it’s also valuable for cybersecurity teams who need to make decisions about which threats to prioritise. Workflow prioritisation can help identify and remediate the most dangerous, time-consuming threats instead of randomly remediating threats based on when they’re discovered.  

These and other technology solutions that leverage automation, context and the skills your team already has are not merely a bridge between now and a fully-staffed cybersecurity industry of the future.  

Don Mowbray, EMEA Lead, Technology & Development at Skillsoft 

With three out of four IT decision-makers reporting skills gaps in their departments, it’s clear that the skills shortage is having a huge impact on the technology sector. Many businesses have already responded to this crisis by increasing their recruitment spend and focusing on bringing in new talent. 

However, attempting to ‘buy’ skills, rather than build them, can be an extremely challenging and costly approach. For this reason, organisations must invest in comprehensive training and development programmes for their workforce to complement their hiring strategies. This will allow them to upskill the staff they already have to fill skills gaps, as well as improve staff satisfaction and talent retention. 

Employers should prioritise training programmes that work for the modern workplace, with hybrid, blended learning. Bite-sized learning that can be completed anywhere will be more easily integrated into the workday. The best training providers will offer personalised learning, allowing individual styles to be taken into account. Taking the time to identify the most important skills both across the business and in individual job roles will allow businesses to choose engaging and tailored learning paths that will ensure every employee is learning the skills that are paramount for success in their role. Ultimately, it comes down to creating a culture of constant learning where staff members can acquire and develop new skills in their natural flow of work. 

Nick Adams, Vice President of Sales, EMEA, Globalization Partners
The pandemic triggered a massive remote work experiment, which has subsequently caused a paradigm shift in the nature of work. Pre-pandemic companies blindly accepted the notion that location incubates talent and that you could only perform at the highest level if you showed up at the office every day. But today, companies are looking outside the office, outside the city – even outside the country, tapping into the global talent pool to find the right person for the job.  

This new working landscape benefits both the employer and the employee – companies can access the best talent and candidates have access to great jobs, which in turn elevates local economies around the world. 

In practical terms, leaders now understand that the talent pool doesn’t just exist within 50 miles of their office building, it’s about getting vital roles filled even when those best qualified for roles simply aren’t available in a commutable radius. This issue is compounded by widespread and growing skills shortages that have forced employers to adopt a global recruitment perspective. 

This is a major problem. Recent research revealed that 77% of recruitment professionals cited skills shortages as a top hiring challenge. Talent shortages in their home countries have prompted some companies to look further afield for the talent they need. 

In contrast, those organisations that are focusing on building remote, global teams can expect to see a number of important advantages. For instance, remote working helps build efficiency, while the global perspectives of a diverse team can increase overall business performance. Workers on diverse teams are happier and more engaged, and the employer benefits as a result. According to Globalization Partners’ 2020 Global Employee Survey, employees at diverse companies were three times more likely to report feeling happy at work. 

Having global team members in-country is critical for any company that hopes to successfully scale at an international level. Local perspectives provide invaluable insights into each target market. Local hires speak the language, understand the norms and customs and make partners and customers more comfortable.  

For employers prepared to invest in building these remote, diverse team cultures, the result is a win-win: they get to address their talent and recruitment challenges, minimise the impact of skill shortages and build stronger, more effective teams. Employees seek out employers and roles that embrace flexibility as part of modern workplace culture and in doing so find more engaging and fulfilling work. 

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