How distance learning can help close the digital skills gap

Hays’ Harry Gooding hears from two tech leaders on how remote learning not only helps close the skills gap, but can also benefit business bottom lines.

We are currently witnessing an unprecedented growth in the role that technology plays, not only in the world of work but also in our daily lives. As a result, more and more jobs are being created that require digital skills. However, the number of qualified candidates required to fill these roles is simply not high enough.

John AdvantagesGlobal Lead Architect of the NextGen Professionals Program at ServiceNow, and Simon MaskreySenior Global Partner Manager at Salesforce for Trailhead, discuss how their organizations are tackling the issue and their thoughts on why companies will benefit from help closing the digital skills gap.

Why do you reach people and how?

Regarding the need for digital skills in the modern world of work, Maskrey points to a World Economic Forum reportin which he found that 50% of all employees will need to retrain by 2025 in order to keep up with changing technology.

Likewise, it also refers to a recent report commissioned by Salesforce from International Data Corporationwhere he identified that by 2026, there will be 9.3 million new jobs that will require Salesforce skills.

Who can fill these positions? Through its NextGen program, Perks explains how ServiceNow is looking at what some might see as alternative sources of talent. “We recognize that the people we now want to start employing aren’t looking at LinkedIn and aren’t visible to existing talent agencies.” He points out that non-profit organizations have provided excellent candidates.

There’s no right way to approach this, but Perks and Maskrey see the benefit of readily available online content. The former notes that, at ServiceNow, “training is somewhat traditional in that we still use a virtual classroom, but we also took these courses online to create an on-demand experience, with a combination of videos , simulators and classic screen writing.

Maskrey comments on how the pandemic has forced a change in attitude towards teaching methods. “Outside of the United States, there was a huge degree of resistance to distance learning and virtual classrooms until about two years ago… Until then, many people thought that you couldn’t learn online and that for the best premium learning you had to be in a room with people I think the reality is that just isn’t true.

Due to lack of access to classrooms, as well as travel restrictions, there has been a greater emphasis on remote learning. Maskrey continues, “It made it more affordable, flexible and justifiable and there were a lot of positives.

“Our approach is to provide access to learning regardless of location, financial status, etc. Trailhead was launched to be free, flexible, and to provide a solution for people to learn and grow at their own pace…learning is delivered in bite-sized chunks, so if you need to know how to do a certain task or action, you can just go learn how to do it.

How to bridge the digital skills gap?

“The only way to close the digital skills gap is to teach people digital skills,” says Perks. However, he acknowledges that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is not finding people who can learn, but people who can teach.

“One of the problems is that all the people who are good at training digital skills are already extremely busy practicing their digital skills. We have to accept that we have to train these teachers – we have to involve them, develop the lessons they are going to teach and give them the opportunity to teach it.

Maskrey expands on the idea of ​​education and training, but again through online resources rather than less flexible courses. He praises the “dual approach of providing information and teaching you what to do, but then you do it in a safe environment where you won’t bring down your entire business system!”

Furthermore, he stresses the importance of “helping employers understand that they have to have a strategy and that they are going to have to try to ensure that they invest in the growth and development of their staff”.

Click here for more on the Hays Technology blog.

Getting Business Behind Employee Learning

It is one thing to say that organizations have the potential to close the skills gap, but quite another to persuade them to do so. What can be done to convince companies that are hesitant to offer training opportunities to their workforce?

“A company needs to understand that when they invest in development, yes, there is a financial cost, but they are investing in that person and their position in the company,” Maskrey explains.

“It’s a waste of that investment if you lose that person by failing to develop or grow them…ultimately, if you’re going to invest millions and millions in technology but you don’t don’t have the people and the learning strategy with this, you’re going to waste that investment.

Perks laments that companies are slow to realize this. He suggests a solution, that 20% of an employee’s time be spent on learning, and offers an interesting example of why this approach benefits the business.

“If you have a consultant and train them to become a senior consultant, you can charge more for their services. Charging them at 100pc won’t pay as much as charging them at 80pc, giving them time to train, then charging 80pc at a higher rate. »

Perks adds that this increases the likelihood of retaining top talent. “When you already have employees within a company, it says a lot about their loyalty, but you have to give them something to build loyalty. Improving their opportunities, prospects and value to us is one way to do this.

Maskrey agrees, citing a LinkedIn Workplace Report this revealed that 94% of individuals would stay with their company if it invested in their personal development.

In addition to skills enhancement, Perks also examines how companies can leverage transferable skills by adding a wide range of perspectives and experiences to their workforce.

“If you take someone from the service industry and put them in the IT industry, they have a completely different view of the world that adds enormous value. Transferable skills, as well as upskilling, are always of great value. »

When is the right time to level up?

When it comes to when to hone, Maskrey and Perks are unanimous in their verdict.

“Anytime, 16 to 66.” Says Perks. “There is no bad time to improve. As a senior myself, I learn something new every day – there’s always an opportunity.

Maskrey adds: “It should be an ongoing activity. There will never be a time when there will not be more opportunities to learn.

By Harry Gooding

Harry Gooding is Hays Enterprise Technology Practice Director for the UK and Ireland. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Technology Blog.

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