Are you investing in your employees and their professional development? Does your organization create real incentives for technology innovation? Do you encourage staff to learn new technologies and IT skills, even if they're not explicitly relevant to a person's job description?
If you answered with a shoulder shrug, you may have no one to blame but yourself for that supposed skills shortage. You're also likely leaving lots of opportunities untapped. Prioritizing and rewarding employee skills development can improve hiring and retention, for starters. It can also help build internal technical expertise, even in organizations that lack a robust centralized IT department. Take heed, small and midsize business (SMB) pros.
"I am a firm believer that technology-savvy people are always looking to improve their knowledge and work with cutting-edge technology," said Rona Borre, CEO and founder of IT recruitment firm Instant Technology, in an email interview.
[ Feeling stuck? It may be time to take things into your own hands. See 9 Tips To Avoid IT Midcareer Slump. ]
Creating that kind of environment is easy to not do. Doing so requires the right mindset and a commitment of time and, in some instances, money. But Borre said it's also a matter of scale, meaning that a 50-person company doesn't have to go punch for punch with Google's HR operations to create a culture of learning and innovation.
"A lot of times, [SMBs] think they don't have the time or resources to invest in these types of training; however, that's not the case," Borre said. "These things, as well as many other training activities, are all about scale and can be done to fit any IT department size and budget. They lead to more efficient and knowledgeable employees, making the businesses better in the process."
Read on for six ideas from Borre on how to do just that.
1. Offer Real Training Opportunities
Training's one of those dangerous words in the corporate vocabulary. It sounds boring and bureaucratic -- and it often is, which is a problem. It's also easy to drop a pile of software documentation on someone's desk and call it "training." But that won't cut it.
"It must be quality training. Don't hand them a manual and ask them to read it or make them sit in a classroom for eight hours straight," Borre said. "Actually provide them with exciting training they want to take. This should be done often and in every IT department no matter the size, as the IT environment is constantly changing." You could poll employees periodically to find out which areas they'd like to learn more about, such as security or data analytics. Borre also suggested offering serious skills development opportunities -- again, no "read the manual" approaches -- as a performance bonus for employees that meet or exceed certain goals.
2. Send Employees Back To School
"One way employers can help their employees out is by offering them some type of educational benefit," Borre said. This will usually cost money, of course, but Borre noted that you can offset some of that budget if the educational programs qualify for a pre-tax educational benefit.
"This makes the employee happy and also allows them to get a fresh take on today's IT solutions and practices from someone outside of the organization," Borre said. "They can then bring what they learned back to the workplace to share."