The Stack Archive

Creating an IT team that drives innovation and growth

Wed 6 Jul 2016

STEM skills

geoffGeoff Smith, MD at Experis, outlines the important steps that IT teams need to take in order to drive digital transformation across their business…

In Britain the skills shortage is a growing threat to business competitiveness and growth. In particular, for those organisations seeking Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) expertise, the challenge is huge. In its latest report, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills reveals that 43% of vacancies related to these four disciplines are hard to fill due to a shortage of applicants with the required skills. This figure is almost double the UK average of 24%. Currently, many businesses rely on the free movement of labour between countries to help fill the skills gap, but the recent Brexit vote is likely to impact this and create uncertainty in the market.

A study from The Science and Technology Committee suggests that 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills and as a result, this is predicted to cost the UK economy around £63bn a year in lost income. These findings highlight the significance of the skills shortage, which is stalling innovation and economic growth. However, according to our recent report Tomorrow’s Tech Teams, 71% of IT workers feel that their skills and knowledge are not being fully utilised by their organisations. They believe this is mainly due to a lack of up-to-date training (34%) and investment (46%).

The research suggests that IT departments have some work to do to change from being a reactive service to being at the heart of innovation and business strategy but also, much more can be done within existing teams to tap into unused talent and skills in order to overcome the shortage. So, the big question is how?

IT leaders don’t think that their teams are up to a high enough standard to drive innovation

Our report examined the purpose and structure of IT departments today and how it will change in future, speaking to both IT workers and leaders. It revealed that one of their main challenges is turning the wealth of data they now have into actionable insights that will inform business decisions and strategy.

Rather worryingly, IT leaders don’t think that their teams are up to a high enough standard to drive innovation and growth. Almost one in three IT leaders state that their teams need to be completely overhauled in order to drive digital transformation in their business, with the research finding that, on average, these teams are a massive four years behind their most innovative competitors. IT teams need to take action now.

Analyse, monitor and restructure

A business must analyse their IT teams and restructure accordingly. A thorough review can be done through a standard performance reviews or alternatively through informal weekly catch-ups with employees.  These can be used to better understand employees existing skills, future challenges and potential focus areas. Having these regular conversations can provide businesses with the required insights to assess what areas they need to improve in order to achieve their goals. Individuals will also feel responsible and involved for their development, if they are asked for their opinions on where they think the department needs to change.

Construct a creative culture

IT leaders have to understand that a long term strategy is required and that they need to alter their team’s mindset accordingly.  Embracing new technologies is pivotal to this change, whether it’s delivering cloud services or implementing and designing the latest mobile app. It is imperative that a culture of creativity is developed to support this – employees should be encouraged to question existing systems and proactively think about how they can be improved. They then need to put forward a strong business case to demonstrate how the new system, process or technology will benefit the organisation and boost productivity and turnover.

Offer specific training

Implementing a robust training schedule will go some way towards narrowing the skills gap. But, in order for your programme to be as effective as possible, it needs to be bespoke, not only in its content, but also in how it is delivered to employees. It needs to be designed to support overall business goals and requirements whilst assisting the career aspirations of the individual that it is tailored towards.

It tends to be that different employees respond to different environments and training stimuli, so providing a wide range of training exercises to meet specific preferences is key. For example, giving an employee the opportunity to work on a project in a different area of the business allows them learn on the job and gain exposure to wider operations where innovation and knowledge sharing can be embedded in their day to day processes.

Ensuring that the right structure, culture and development programmes are in place will enable tech teams to become more productive and strategic. It is crucial for this to be addressed now to overcome the skills shortage and achieve the level of transformation required for business growth and staying ahead of competitors.


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