Investing in digital skills for the future
Many organisations have fallen behind in the digital race. They’ve been unable to keep up with the pace of change and therefore need to buy a digital transformation to catch up. Unfortunately the digital skills required for such a change are expensive and in limited supply, and buying such a transformation wholesale is expensive, slow and risky too.
Couldn’t this whole transformation business have been avoided? It’s not like users, customers and IT are new concepts. I recently read that user-centred design was a concept the UK government was thinking about in 1999.
I see digital transformation as a wake up call for organisations that allowed the world to continue evolving without them. The organisations failed to learn new skills required to keep up with the pace of change rapidly occurring around them. That’s okay, all is forgiven, we’ve always been trying our best, but now is the time to embrace change!
The IT crowd is a thing of the past
The antiquated view of the IT geeks in the basement is disappearing. Technology is cool, developers work directly with users to understand their needs, and hundreds of technology startup office listicles attest to the fact coding no longer happens in the basement.
That said, some IT functions haven’t kept up with this changing image. For whatever reason technology evolved faster than some kept up with. While IT teams continued to capacity plan their data centres with their “new” hypervisors, technology startups had stopped thinking about servers – what a
FaaS farce! Most IT departments are now looking at cloud technologies but they are quite behind the curve on that journey.
What do disruptive technology startups have that traditional IT functions lack? Besides foosball machines, my personal view is that they fear, or regularly oppose for whatever reason, change.
Hiring for the skills of today will hold you back from tomorrow
This is further perpetuated by traditional HR processes that haven’t kept up either. CV sifting relies on technology buzzword bingo and is often optimising for technologies currently in use with a preference to senior hires having extensive experience with a particular technology.
Unfortunately by focussing on experience for technologies in use today, rather than trying to hire people keen to learn current or future technologies, you may be attracting the wrong kind of folk to your organisation. You might just be hiring folk who are happy and in fact fixated with what they know now and are averse to change.
The other mistake is requiring senior hires to have extensive experience in a particular technology. Some of the best seniors consider themselves polyglots, able to work across many programming languages and technology stacks. These seniors may not have the most extensive experience in your current range of technologies but are the kind to help you adapt to changing times – true technology leaders.
What would happen if instead we hired for people who love to learn, keep up with technology trends and embrace change?
If we hire folk who love to learn, and seniors who have a track record of keeping up to date, we can begin to create cultures that adapt and evolve with the times. We can’t just hire learners though, we need to invest in learning as first class work. We need to shift our view to seeing the employers as educators.
Sure school and university might be current enough to give you the technology chops for a modern technology practice for today. Technology changes though, and so we can’t expect folk to go back to education every time a new programming language is released. Instead employers need to create space in the work day to keep current, trial new technologies in throwaway experiments, and provide strong onboarding processes to help new joiners be productive as quickly as possible.
There are great examples in the wild of organisations already taking this approach:
- GDS run an Academy for civil servants to get up to speed with digital skills
- ThoughtWorks runs their ThoughtWorks University
- Made Tech run a 12 week onboarding programme and invest 10% of the week (Friday afternoons) for all staff to spend learning skills
Is your organisation investing in learning and optimising for change? Get in touch and let me know!
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