The HR director and the CIO: partners in growing skills

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By Sonia Tshabalala, Regional People Director, Sage AMEA

With the demand for skills such as cloud computing, machine learning, data science, software, and cybersecurity on the rise, many enterprises are grappling with significant skills gaps in their IT departments. As a result, hiring, retaining, and developing talented professionals has become an even more urgent imperative for the Chief Information Officer (CIO).

Given the speed of change in the technology industry, this is more easily said than done. The skills an organisation will need tomorrow are not necessarily the same as the ones it has in place today. It can be difficult to hire, train or reskill people fast enough to keep pace with the business’s emerging needs.

Here are six ways CIOs and HR directors can address their skills gaps:

  1. Conduct ongoing skills audits

To close the skills gap, enterprises should conduct regular skills audits of skills they have on-call, skills they lack, and skills they will need in the future. This enables the CIO and HR director to understand which skills are available and create a viable training pathway for each employee to build the skills they will need.

  1. Be nimble and embrace innovative strategies and tactics

Formal training and certification are not enough to keep up with the demands of future skills and fast-changing IT trends. Forward-thinking CIOs will supplement traditional training programmes with strategies such as microlearning, internal job mobility, peer-to-peer learning, mentoring, and coaching to upskill and reskill their teams. Letting people get their hands dirty with new technologies and experiment with new ideas can also pay off in the longer run.

  1. Nurture a culture of continuous learning

One of the keys to remaining future-ready is to have a culture that encourages people to continue learning and developing their skills. CIOs should foster an environment of continuous learning, enabling their people to constantly upgrade their skills and create a culture where learning is aligned with business goals and individual goals within the business.

  1. Soft skills are important too

CIOs should look beyond technical skills and certifications towards building business acumen in their teams. Hiring people from diverse backgrounds can create depth in the IT function, which includes considering some professionals from finance, HR or marketing to gain a more complete view on digital transformation.

A common mistake is to focus on work-specific and technical skills. A well-rounded IT team should also focus on developing adaptability and interpersonal and innovation capabilities to offer a more holistic service to the business. A learning and growth mindset will help people navigate an ever-changing world.

  1. Customise learning

Leading companies today design personalised training and development programmes for their teams. These programmes should be aligned with business needs, employees’ strengths, interests, and career goals. A self-directed and personalised approach gives the employee more agency in developing their career, in turn, improving employee engagement and retention.

  1. Tap into HR’s expertise

The CIO understands the enterprise’s digital strategy as well as the skills and talent that will be required to execute it. At the same time, the HR director has expertise in workforce planning, nurturing the right culture and environment to attract top talent, and creating the right structures to incentivise teams, help them perform at their best and retain talent. CIOs should regularly join HR to discuss strategy and how the people function and IT can collaborate to attract, retain, and develop the best people.