7 min read

Here’s the bad news: the technology skills gap is seriously harming many businesses. Without people who can help drive innovation, companies are going to struggle to compete on the global stage.

Fortunately, there’s also some good news: we can all do something about it.

Although it might seem that the tech skills gap is an issue that’s too big for employers to properly tackle on their own, by investing time and energy in technology training, employers can ensure that they have the skills and knowledge within their team to continue to innovate and build solutions to the conveyor belt of problems.

Businesses ignore technology training at their peril. Sure, a great recruitment team is important, as are industry and academic connections. But without a serious focus on upskilling employees – software developers or otherwise – many companies won’t be able to compete.

It’s not just about specific skills; it’s also about building a culture that is forward thinking and curious. A working environment that is committed to exploring new ways to solve problems.

If companies aren’t serious about building this type of culture through technology training, they’re likely to run in a number of critical problems. These could have a long term impact on growth and business success.

If you don’t invest in training and resources it’s harder to retain employees

Something that I find amusing is seeing business leaders complain about the dearth of talent in their industry or region, while also failing to engage or develop the talent they already have at their disposal.

It sounds obvious, but it’s something that is often missed in conversations about the skills gap. If it’s so hard to find the talent you need, make sure you train to retain.

The consequences could be significant. If you have talented employees that are willing and eager to learn but you’re not prepared to support them, with either resources or time, you can bet that they’ll be looking for other jobs. For employees, a company that doesn’t invest in their skills and knowledge is demoralising in multiple ways – on the one hand it signals that the company doesn’t trust or value them, while on the other it leaves them doing work that doesn’t push or engage them.

If someone can’t do something, your first thought shouldn’t be to turn to a recruitment manager – you should instead be asking if someone in your team can do it. If they can’t, then ask yourself if they could with some training. This doesn’t mean that your HR problems can always be solved internally, but it does mean that if you take technology training seriously you can solve it much faster, and maybe even cheaper.

Indeed, there’s another important point here. There’s sometimes an assumption that the right person is out there who can do the job you need. Someone with a perfect background, all the skills, all the knowledge and expertise you need. This person almost certainly doesn’t exist. And, while you were dreaming of this perfect employee, your other developers all got jobs elsewhere. That leaves you in a tricky position. All the initiatives you wanted to achieve in the second half of the year now have to be pushed back.

Good technology training and team-based resources can attract talent

Although it’s important to invest in tech training and resources to develop and retain employees, a considered approach to technology training can also be useful in attracting people to your company.

Think of companies like Google and Facebook. One of the reasons they’re so attractive to many talented tech professionals (as well as the impressive salaries…) is that they offer so much scope to solve interesting problems and work on complex projects.

Now, you probably can’t offer either the inflated salaries or the possibility of working on industry defining technology, but by making technology training a critical part of your ‘employer brand’, you’ll find it much easier to make talented tech professionals pay attention to you. It’s also a way of showing prospective employees that you’re serious about their personal development, and that you understand just how important learning is in tech.

There are a number of ways that this could play out – from highlighting the resources you make available and give software engineering teams access to, to qualifications, and even just the opportunity to learn for a set period every week.

Ultimately, by having a clear and concerted tech learning initiative, you can both motivate and develop your existing employees while also attracting new ones. This means that you’ll have a healthy developer culture, and be viewed as a developer and tech-focused organization.

Read next: 5 barriers to learning and technology training for small software development teams

Organizations that invest in tech training and resources encourage employee flexibility and curiosity

To follow on from the point above, to successfully leverage technology, you need to build a culture where change is embraced. You need to value curiosity as a means of uncovering innovative solutions to problems.

The way to encourage this is through technology training. Failing to provide even a basic level of support is not only unhelpful in a practical sense, it also sends a negative message to your employees: change doesn’t really matter, we always do things this way, so why does anyone need to spend time learning new things?

By showing your engineering employees that yes, their curiosity is important, you can ensure that you have people who are taking full ownership of problems.

Instead of people saying that’s how things have always been done, employees will be asking if there’s another way. Ultimately that should lead to improved productivity and better outcomes.

In turn, this means that your tech employees will become more flexible and adaptable without even realising it.

Without technology training and high-quality resources, businesses can’t evolve quickly

This brings us neatly to the next point. If your employees aren’t flexible and haven’t been encouraged to explore and learn new technologies and topics the business will suffer. The speed at which it can adapt to changes in the market and deliver new products will harm the bottom line.

All too often we think about business agility in an abstract way. But if you aren’t able to support your employees in embracing change and learning new skills, you simply can’t have business agility.

Of course, you might imagine a counterargument popping up here – couldn’t individual development harm business goals? True, most offices aren’t study spaces. But while business objectives and deadlines should always be the priority, if learning is constantly pushed to the bottom of the pile, you will find that the business, and your team, are going to hit a brick wall. The status quo is rarely sustainable. There will always be a point at which something won’t work, or something becomes out of date. If everyone is looking at immediate problems and tasks, they’ll never see the bigger picture.

Technology training and learning resources can help to remove silos and improve collaboration

Silos are an inevitable reality in many modern businesses. This is particularly true in tech teams.

Often they arise because of good intentions. Splitting people up and getting them to focus on different things isn’t exactly the worst idea in the world, right?

Today, however, silos are significant barriers to innovation and change. Change happens when people break out of their silos and share knowledge. It happens when people develop new ways of working that are free from traditional constraints.

This isn’t something that’s easy to accomplish. It requires a lot of work on the culture and processes of a team. But one element that’s often overlooked when it comes to tackling silos is training and resources.

If silos exist because people feel comfortable with specialization and focus, by offering wide-reaching resources and training materials you will be going a long way to helping your employees to get outside of their comfort zone.

Indeed, in some respects we’re not talking about sustained training courses. Instead, it’s just as valuable – and more cost-effective – to provide people with resources that allow them to share their frame of reference. That might feel insignificant in the face of technological change beyond the business, and strategic visions inside it. However, it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of a shared language or understanding.

It’s a critical part of getting people to work together, and getting people to think with more clarity about how they work, and the tools they use.

Make sure your team has the resources they need to solve problems quickly and keep their skills up to date. Learn more about Packt for Teams here.

Co-editor of the Packt Hub. Interested in politics, tech culture, and how software and business are changing each other.