Just Because it Functions, Doesn’t Mean It Is Good… How Can Leaders Identify Gaps and Upskill Their Teams?
As restrictions finally lift and we begin to return to ‘normality’, many of us are finding that normal life does not quite look like it used to. Leaders are having to find solutions to issues that either did not previously exist or that they were hitherto unaware of. More teams are working remotely, with roles and tasks that may have dramatically changed, and the demand for digital solutions is higher than it has ever been.
On top of this, businesses are finding that these new technology developments need to be delivered to tight timescales. The rates of technology adoption have increased so much that for many organisations, missing a delivery window could mean entirely missing the market with a product. With new technology take up being so fast, the implications of this are huge, and could mean losing market share.
But whilst technology is continuously evolving, for teams, many working practices have remained the same. The result of this is that organisations are finding their operations encumbered with outdated processes, and teams that are in many cases unfamiliar with the new technology. When implementing new tech solutions, businesses are finding that they cannot rely on the technology alone to provide efficiency gains, rather they need to ensure their teams are appropriately trained and skilled in the right areas. Back in 2020, a report found that 43% of global businesses were experiencing a skills gap, with this figure only set to increase. Firms are looking to their internal processes to understand the levels of efficiency and to identify areas where their teams can grow and evolve.
The question to ask is whether the current teams meet the internal skills needs. And this does not have to mean recruiting like mad to fill any gaps! The recruitment landscape is under a significant amount of pressure at the moment: a 2021 report showed that the demand for digital skills is outpacing supply. A side effect then, is that technical skills are more highly sought after than ever, which means that good employees will look for better opportunities, increased development and improved conditions. Staff retention is a key priority, and leaders should be looking to fill skills gaps internally with training.
So, what does this mean for business leaders? It might be that there is a clear discrepancy between the skills within your team, and the skills the business needs to evolve and develop. In this scenario leaders can take the straightforward approach of identifying the specifics of any skills gaps, and devise a strategy to close these, whether it be recruitment or internal training. But what about if your teams are delivering, and things seem ‘fine’.? Do you need to review their skills? How do you monitor progress, and how do you know if your team can improve? And most importantly, how do you ensure that you will not have skills gaps in the future?
The old adage “adapt or die” can be a little overused and it is an impossibility for businesses to continually expect to be able to react to every new tech or trend. Instead, leaders should take a holistic view of their clients, strategy, and delivery model. This will allow them to understand how to remain stable, while also building the ability to pivot when required and utilise emerging technologies to enhance client experience.
On top of any specific business needs, the high demand for technical skills means that anyone possessing those skills can essentially pick and choose their employer. Long gone are the days of remaining with a business out of loyalty or hope of a good pension. Leaders need to ensure that they understand what employees deem important. Not surprisingly, people who feel valued are much more likely to want to be at work, and this includes everything from team relationships to financial remuneration and benefits packages. Companies are now having to place a focus on internal culture and company values to ensure they create an enticing workplace environment that not only draws the best people but retains them longer-term.
So, if the skills gap is widening and the rate of technology development and adoption increasing, how can leaders begin to address the multitude of issues at play? The first key question to ask is this: although our delivery teams work, are they actually good? Is work being delivered in the most efficient way, or are teams struggling with manual workarounds or outdated technical knowhow? Are the products that teams are delivering in line with the vision and strategy of the business? And do these products enable that strategy? To answer this, organisations first need to understand what good means, before they give a resounding ‘yes’!
First: Understand your customer
What does your customer want? How do they want to access it? What is currently stopping them from doing this? This is a useful exercise for all businesses, but when assessing team skills, the answers to these questions can help to drive delivery strategy over the short and medium term. Once this is clearly defined, it can help leaders identify where solutions might need to be invested in or developed. This can also eb a trigger for businesses to become innovators.
Next: Understand your capabilities
Now that future developments and potential innovations have been identified, it is time to review the current internal landscape. What is the makeup of your delivery teams? What skills will you need to achieve objectives, and therefore what skills gaps does this unearth? And, what might be the impact of not filling these gaps? This is where planning can begin, and businesses can start to develop a roadmap to ensure that the organisation can respond to skills demand.
Then: Close the gaps
Once potential gaps have been identified, leaders should be looking at how to fill these with relevant skills. Are there any in-house resources who can be re-skilled or up-skilled? Are there skill sets within the current teams which will no longer be required? Will you need to hire, or can you provide training? Can the teams be fully cross functional? And importantly, how quickly do these plans need to be implemented? These are the key questions to be answered, in order to ensure organisations are building teams for the future that are aligned with organisational objectives. These answers will provide the roadmap and the timeline for the business to fill any skills gaps.
Finally: Make it a continuous process
This is a common thread whenever we talk about transformation – it is never a ‘one and done’ type process. It is not enough to carry out a single piece of work to fill skills gaps. It is critical to the success of process to build a feedback loop that connects customer requirements to delivery teams skills. In doing this leaders can ensure that skills gaps are accounted for before they become business critical, and allows organisations to leverage emerging technology for the benefit of their customers.
Organisations have now come to realise that it is impossible to overstate the importance of having the right people, carrying out the right work at the right time. Just because your teams work and are delivering it doesn’t mean they are as efficient and productive as they can be. This is not a failure on their part but a failure of leadership and planning. It is crucial to remember that having good teams is not just about hiring and firing skills and picking people who are already a perfect technical fit. Creating an environment that facilitates good relationships and culture is just as important as having the right skills in place. An organisation with a culture of investing in training and learning may find themselves with more costly overheads, and yet failing to do so could be devastating for the longer-term goals of the business.