The old way to bring in talented people and keep them happy was to throw money and the promise of stability at them. If you’re still doing that, you’ll probably want to tweak your playbook.
To attract and keep top talent in the era of hybrid work, employers have to scrap old ways of thinking. Money and the promise of stability and pension and stock options? That won’t cut it anymore. This is especially true for public sector organizations, who generally don’t have the deep pockets of private sector businesses.
At a recent online ITWC briefing, Pluralsight Director Tony Holmes outlined what that new playbook for securing and keeping talent looks like. He stressed the importance of continuous learning – not only for companies that want cutting-edge talent but also for workers themselves, who never want to end up in the torturous daily grind of a position in which they’re doing the same thing every day, and never growing.
Holmes’ company, Pluralsight, which helps organizations advance their technology workforce, surveyed more than 1,200 technologists, tech leaders, as well as HR and learning and development directors across industries globally to understand the current state of upskilling, and the skills gaps, barriers, and challenges they are facing in 2023.
Perks no longer entice, said Holmes – not in the public sector particularly, and not in any sector generally. Rather, people want and need to feel invested in by companies.
“If I’m a technologist, and a company is telling me they offer a pension scheme and benefits and days off, but they’re not talking about how they’re going to invest in my career … that there’s potential [and a future in this role], I’m going to atrophy,” he said. “I may come out of my job at more of a disadvantage than when I went in, [particularly if] my colleagues were continuously learning at their companies.”
Holmes drew a clear line between investing in people and paying lip service to the idea. The force behind this investment was come from the very top levels.
“Learning and [carving out time for people to upgrade their skills] is very much something that has to come from the top. It has to come from the top down, and it has to be something everybody buys into – [all the way] down the line.”
Holmes said training is something that must happen in step with the times. That means it must happen continuously but, more importantly, at speed.
“You talk to the people that run departments and they say they can’t give [their people] more than half an hour a week. If you’re giving your people [minutes] each week of learning time, but [they’re on] a 100-hour learning path … it’s going to be two years before they even get close to being fully built out in their role,” said Holmes.
While many companies remain attached to the idea that they can get all the skill and talent they need from the post-secondary pipeline, Holmes said a much better method is for organizations to become creators of talent rather than just consumers of it.
To support his idea, Holmes pointed to the widening talent gap in technology.
“If everybody [currently working on] a tech degree graduated tomorrow, we would still have a shortfall in heads to fill the [open] technology roles. So if you’re relying on the university pipeline, you’re going to be out of luck.”
“[Organizations] need to … look at [their] people … see where they have a particular interest, [and whenever possible] give them a path [forward] – like an apprenticeship. Provide them with the learning they need, the hands-on experience, and [when they’ve advanced their skills enough], buddy them up … integrate them into the department.”
Holmes said making the case inside an organization for investing in people’s skills is in large part a matter of culture.
“If all companies [including those in the public sector] are technology organizations … then [learning becomes] a tactical ability,” he said. “It should be as easy for people to sit down and learn new skills as it is for them to create a meeting or to have a strategic conversation with people in other departments. It should be a part of the day-to-day.”