Britain’s technology companies are inspiring record highs in venture capital investment, raising $2.2 billion since the beginning of the year. Innovation in the sector is contributing exciting levels of growth to the British economy.
Yet the pace of growth is creating an increasing skills gap, as demand for skilled technology workers continues to outstrip supply. It is clear that the gap already presents a significant constraint for companies, who are feeling its impact on their business. A CompTIA report released in May revealed that 44% of UK businesses worry staff productivity is negatively affected by the gap in digital skills. More than a quarter (26%) of these respondents also reported that the shortage is impeding innovation and implementation of new ideas. Indeed, almost eight out of 10 large businesses (turnovers of £5m to £300m) warn that their activities are damaged by an inability to source workers with the relevant skills.
As demand looks set to intensify, we are seeing companies forced to adapt. Promisingly, many are investing in current employees. 51% of the 2,000+ companies included in the 2015 Tech Nation survey said that they trained staff in-house, as many companies are up-skilling existing employees. Cross-training is also on the rise as businesses seek to create the workforce they need. Strategies like these, combined with new government initiatives such industry-focused Degree Apprenticeships, are certainly movements in the right direction as the UK digital sector develops.
However, as a response to the IT and STEM staffing problem, up-skilling alone is inadequate to provide companies with the workforces they need. Training workers takes time and money, making it an inflexible tool in a constantly evolving market. The IT skills gap instead provides an opportunity to explore more thorough-going innovations in workforce management.
Companies, in reconceiving the make-up of a workforce, can embrace a more fluid approach. Many of the projects that businesses implement do not require a fixed number of employees for the entire duration. Instead, projects tend to ramp up and scale down. Companies should look to create a scalable, agile and flexible workforce that allows them to simultaneously cope with a shortage of qualified IT staff and the changing needs of projects. This approach relies upon hiring ‘Skills-a-as-Service’ to meet demand, and it provides an essential tool for companies struggling to find talent in the under-staffed technical industries, whilst also minimising resource usage and maximising the quality of out-put.
The ‘Skills-as-a-Service’ innovation forms part of the hybrid approach to workforce solutions, which fits well with current thinking on successful project management. Recent PMI (Project Management Institute) research shows that of projects that are fully aligned to organisational strategy, 71% succeed, compared to only 48% of projects which are not integrated in this way. A successful approach to workforce management must respond directly to the changing demands of a project, and it should also recognise the tripartite connections between project management, staffing and business change. It is through reconceptualisation of this kind that businesses will develop the agility they need in the fast-changing technical sector.