Mind the (Skills) Gap: Building an Effective Internal IT Training Program to Achieve a Future-Forward Business Strategy

By Jeanne Cordisco, Chief People Officer of O’Reilly

We have officially entered the age of AI. Although this presents a promising positive change for organizations, the ever-changing talent requirements have created a distinct disadvantage for business leaders as they struggle to meet the heightened demands for much-needed qualified AI-focused professionals.

Over the past year, we have seen digital transformation initiatives rapidly change how we work, driving companies to rethink their learning and development culture to survive the impending talent shortage and mitigate the AI skills disruption in the workplace. Recent data shows that within the next five years, 90% of HR leaders expect half of their workforce will need to be reskilled. The search for talent rooted in AI has become increasingly competitive, resulting in an unbalanced job market that has forced companies to overspend to claim the desired candidates.  Organizations that cannot afford to bid on the limited talent pool, meanwhile, fall further behind in their ability to capitalize on the transformative power of AI and, subsequently, their overall growth and success.

To keep pace with the evolving AI skills gap, an internal IT training program opens the door to address the technical skills needed. The need for employee training programs takes inspiration from a popular age-old saying: if you can’t hire them, train them. Reskilling current employees provides cost-saving initiatives that offset the costs of replacing or re-hiring talent during a time when HR leaders are faced with the extreme challenge of acquiring experienced individuals. With the desire to harness the power of AI around business objectives showing no signs of slowing down, it will be imperative to bridge this skills gap with internal training programs.

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Building the Foundation

The cornerstone of an effective internal IT training program is an assessment of your organization’s current needs and skill gaps against future business goals. Having conversations with decision-makers, executives, employees, and IT specialists delivers a comprehensive understanding of your organization’s pitfalls in its AI journey and the pathway to create a roadmap for success through L&D programs.

Although tech workers are eager to retool their skill set, employees are often constrained during their workday as they juggle daily tasks with their desire to grow. A blended learning approach is a key pillar to building a successful training program, encompassing flexible, planned sessions and experiential learning opportunities such as mentoring and workshops. Self-paced e-learning modules empower employees to work on their skills during times that work best for their schedule, while planned sessions offer concrete scheduled meetings with live engagement. In utilizing a diverse learning environment, employees are able to remove the barriers that previously hindered their skills development and allow organizations to truly see their return on investment.

Leading the Charge

Assembling an IT training program must be a cross-functional operation through the combined leadership of three pillars – including IT specialists, HR professionals, and executive leadership teams – if it is to succeed. Therefore, it is imperative there is a collaborative effort between IT and HR. IT specialists bring technical knowledge and expertise, ensuring content relevance and appropriate complexity. Meanwhile, HR professionals’ skills in learning and development, program design, and evaluation are essential to shaping the delivery and effectiveness of the training. Together, HR and IT specialists make the ideal match to lead the charge of an internal IT training program by integrating their expertise and knowledge to align with the company’s long-term goals and strategic direction.

Steps for Success

Success can be gauged through various methods, including technical assessments or certifications to validate the growth of skills. Feedback surveys provide an opportunity to assess perceived improvement and changes in performance metrics post-training over time. A strong feedback loop is paramount for organizations and employees to thrive. Post-training metrics help to gauge the program’s success and guarantee that the current initiatives address industry skills on the rise, such as AI. Assessing results on a regular cadence and based on your organization’s specific IT requirements helps to anticipate the future needs of employees. Furthermore, continuous monitoring through the evaluation of skill development presents opportunities to refine and tailor the training program in real-time. In regularly evaluating these success indicators, leadership teams can ensure their current strategies are relevant to timely skills that move their business forward while also addressing employees’ evolving needs, and implementing new programs to drive better business outcomes.

Now Entering: Internal IT Training Program

Investing in your organization starts with the very people within it. Building an internal IT training program creates a competitive advantage, allowing employees to remain a step ahead of trending skills and equipping them for the next stage of technical advancement through continuous training. Placing resources in training programs to improve employees’ skills supports your company’s overall growth, long-term and short-term success, and bottom line. By prioritizing a learning and development culture, business leaders can not only withstand talent shortages but also lay the foundations for a future-forward business strategy.

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