Can L&D and HR help to plug the digital skills gap?

While the UK attempts to overcome a digital skills gap, companies are crying out for more support in IT, AI and software development. Does the HR and L&D community hold the key to helping to square that circle?

02-03-2021
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Can L&D and HR help to plug the digital skills gap?


While the UK attempts to overcome a digital skills gap, companies are crying out for more support in IT, AI and software development. At the same time, the country is faced with rising unemployment created by the pandemic. Does the HR and L&D community hold the key to helping to square that circle?

We believe they do - and all they need in order to act is to acquire a basic knowledge of the technology.

By upskilling internal talent acquisition and development professionals, the process of funnelling candidates into tech roles can, at least partially, be unblocked.

At the same time, these extra skills will enable HR and training managers to do what they do best, which is supporting the business’s other functions with their expertise, whether that is through talent acquisition (for HR) or sourcing the right sort of technology training (L&D). Moreover, with the prospect of AI and bots beginning to replace the L&D and HR functions, these extra skills could just help them hang on to their own jobs.

Our MD Ian Watson picks up the story.

“We have a digital skills gap and COVID has only accelerated this, because we need tech now more than ever. At the same time the pandemic has left thousands of people out of work, and many of them skilled professionals. By educating HR, L&D and talent acquisition managers in the basics of technology - by demystifying it, in other words – they can take an intelligent approach to plugging those gaps,” said Ian.

“Unfortunately, what is happening now is that when there are vacancies to be filled or training to be sourced, the average tech lead will write down a list of basic skills, platforms and technologies they require and just tell the HR or L&D team to go off and source it.

“By empowering HR and L&D with knowledge of technology, they can conduct that search more broadly and intelligently. Those upskilled, now more tech savvy HR professionals, who know the market, will think ‘OK so you are looking for this type of person with these skills, but I know you can actually look for this alternative who will be just as able, which means we can widen the net a bit more’.”

Ian, who co-founded Framework Training in 2010 with Tom Walker, has a background in recruitment but has always been a techy.

He said: “I worked in recruitment for five years around the time of Y2K. I was fortunate that I joined in a technical recruiting role and already had some software development skills. This gave me a huge advantage both in terms of performing the function of trying to find people and also in talking to the candidates and asking them questions, working out if they were the right type of person with the right skills. It also helped me communicate with the clients themselves.”

Building trust between Tech teams and HR / L&D

Can L&D and HR help to plug the digital skills gap?

Ian believes tech directors and managers can sometimes have unrealistic expectations of their ideal hires, which only exacerbates the recruitment issue.

“People are trying to recruit for unicorns. By looking more broadly, they could find a rough diamond – perhaps someone who has ten years’ worth of sector experience in finance tech, running teams, managing budgets. They might be perfect.”

This empowerment and upskilling will also help to build trust between the tech teams on the one hand and HR/L&D on the other. Any perception by technology teams that all HR does is carry out a word search filter for candidates, or that L&D just run a quick search for training providers using key words, will be overcome. HR/L&D will be able to demonstrate they add value to the process, and trust will be built within the organisation.

Tom agrees. “You might be struggling to find someone with Power BI experience, but not realise that another candidate with a strong SQL Server background could bring more to the role with a little cross-training. Or an analyst armed with less well-known skills such as R or Julia might be the perfect fit if they are a domain expert in data – where knowledge of Python might not actually be the most important factor. There are lots of proprietary and parallel technologies that are very similar under the bonnet, but if you are in HR and L&D and nobody has explained this, then you might end up missing your next star performer.”

Demystifying Tech Lunchbreaks

We're an accredited B Corporation, balancing purpose and profit, and want to do our bit to help plug the digital skills gap via upskilling HR/L&D functions in basic technology.

We have launched a series of ‘demystifying tech’ lunchbreaks which are free for clients and indeed any other businesses with inhouse HR, talent acquisition and L&D teams who want to get up to speed on tech. Designed to last an hour (hence the lunchbreak title) they are live, interactive and bespoke for each organisation. There’s no catch. This is part of our B Corp ethos.

Ian said: “The ones we have run so far have been really well received. As a big element is Q&A, we are being asked all sorts of information like ‘I am recruiting for XYZ what would you suggest?’ This is our way of adding value to the service we provide our clients, as well as acting on our B Corp credentials.”


Would you like to know more?

If you found this article interesting and you'd be interested in our Demystify Tech lunchbreak sessions please get in touch.

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