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Addressing the talent shortfall in technology

Anthony Webb, Vice President EMEA at A10 Networks, looks at how the modern talent pool is changing, and why building and nurturing talent is a vital part of creating a resilient industry.

Regardless of Brexit, it seems certain that the shortage of talent in the UK’s technology industry is set to continue. 89% of employers in our sector expect to struggle with a talent shortage this year and by 2022 there is a predicted Europe-wide shortfall of 350,000 skilled staff in cybersecurity alone.

As we face unprecedented disruption, every sector needs to start building resilience for the future. It’s said that the most important resource in a business is its people, and futureproofing our workforce means attracting and nurturing the best possible talent.

The modern talent pool is changing. Gone are the days where you fell into a role and stayed for life. Today’s candidates are more demanding of employers, careers and future happiness. Our sector therefore needs to look at how we present ourselves. As well as the technical skills required in engineering, programming and cybersecurity roles, the industry requires a strong cohort of business-focused candidates who are skilled at creating long-term relationships that add value for customers.

Embracing changing priorities for career entrants

Historically, we’ve recruited our sales teams from a wide pool of graduates across all disciplines, with a focus on identifying strong communication skills and the analytical ability that translates into strong account management. However, the evolution of the university sector is having an interesting effect on graduates. Having taken a major financial decision early in life, they are sharply focused on achieving a return on their career investment.

The introduction of tuition fees is increasing the number of young people deciding to leap straight into work to avoid debt and get a head-start on their careers. These candidates are a rich source of talent for employers if they can be tempted to apply.

Our sector is rich in innovation – with technologies such as 5G coming on stream and the constant challenge of countering cybersecurity threats, there is no danger of career dead-end.

Attracting talent is one thing, retaining it is another

Talent retention is key if looking to build a talent pipeline, and this is where companies need to look at the shifting working styles that now exist in the workplace. Companies need to ensure they create an environment that new entrants want to be in and stay in. The fact is that today’s workplace is multi-generational, and the industry needs to recognise and adapt to that.

It’s not surprising that Generation Z employees feel little in common with their baby boomer and even millennial colleagues – the worlds that they grew up in are vastly different. This has led to some distinct generational variations in preferred forms of communication and working styles.

Take for example this recent article looking at preferences around using phones for voice calls. Workers from younger generations show a distinct bias towards text or visual-based communications – a far cry from the “hitting the phones” sales tactics of the past. We also need to consider that, if we’re selling to customers that prefer communications through different channels, the phone might not be the best way to reach them.

As employers we need to help the generations coexist, embracing the attitude that everyone can learn from each other. This means genuinely flexible working practices enabling employees to work effectively while remote, as well as office spaces that give options supporting diverse working styles – quiet and focused, open and consultative – and hybrids of the two.

The end of the linear career

The days of the linear career are over. It’s predicted that those entering the workforce today will change careers multiple times and learn new skills throughout their working lives.

As the current workforce will work for longer than any previous generation, it is important they are looking for job roles that offer a sense of purpose, not just a salary.

As employers within the technology industry, it is important to share a vision of a career that is rewarding in all senses and that means looking beyond financial benefits to the wider ecosystem we want our employees to thrive in. Therefore, building and nurturing talent is a vital part of creating a resilient industry and all organisations should look to make this a priority for 2019 and beyond.

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