Five tips on how to overcome the digital skills gap

By Daniel Bachofner, Country Manager Switzerland at NetApp

Many companies, especially in the IT and technology industry, are currently in a so-called battle for talent. Here are five practical tips to combat the digital skills gap:

Make continuing education a strategic priority
Due to demographic change, the shortage of skilled workers is becoming even more acute. As a result, the war for talent is also getting tougher. This makes it all the more important to exploit existing potential and develop employees further. Training and continuing education should be firmly anchored in the corporate strategy.

To achieve this, companies need clear goals and an agenda. As a rule, the HR department is responsible for the training programs and works closely with the specialist departments, in this case with the CIO.

At NetApp, for example, there is the NetApp University with a mixture of mandatory and elective courses. In addition, employees can use the LinkedIn learning program to build up skills on their own.

Create free space for development
Every employee should have the chance to discover their own potential and shape their own career. It is therefore important to enable self-determined learning and to offer a wide range of training and courses. Further development should be integrated into everyday working life and be perceived as something quite natural. In practice, this often fails due to busy schedules: Employees simply do not have the time to concentrate on learning.

To counteract this and create more freedom, NetApp has introduced a meeting-free day once a month. CIOs should also give employees the opportunity to swap roles with a colleague. This broadens horizons and creates understanding for other perspectives.

Offer “training on the job” programs
In addition to further training measures, companies need a strategy for attracting young, well-trained talent. Effective measures include graduate programs and “training on the job” models that integrate junior staff early on and make it easier for them to get started. By bringing digital natives together with older employees in mixed teams, the different generations can learn from each other.

The young learn about leadership and what makes the company tick, while the older employees benefit from the agility of the junior staff. It’s also important to have networking opportunities to share and grow with other experts. To this end, employees should have the opportunity to attend tech events, conferences, partner events and customer meetings.

Promote junior executives
The next generation of IT leaders needs digital skills and must be agile, open and solution-oriented. To build these skills, companies should nurture young talent so they can grow into leaders over time. To that end, NetApp launched the S3 Academy three years ago, a two-year global development program for emerging talent.

The program balances technical training with soft skills development. In addition, companies should create an attractive environment in which employees can work flexibly, agilely and independently.

Make it easier for women to enter and advance
Women are still underrepresented in IT professions. There is a lot of potential lying dormant here for the labor market. By positioning themselves as attractive employers for women, companies can attract new talent. Flexible working and parental leave models, mentoring programs and individual coaching, for example, play an important role in this.

Companies should also focus more on women in recruiting and employer branding and make it clear that they live a culture of equality. Special employee groups such as “Women in Technology” also enable women to build strong, overarching networks and support each other.

Conclusion: Exploit all possibilities
The increasing shortage of skilled workers on the one hand and the growing need for IT and data expertise on the other mean that the digital skills gap is widening. In order to remain competitive, companies should exhaust all possibilities to counteract this development.

Those who place greater emphasis on further training, promote junior staff and live a culture of equality and further development can build up and expand valuable skills. In this way, the shortage of skilled workers will not become a showstopper for digitization.

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