Talent shortage now the top corporate concern

Digital transformation, GDPR, cloud and artificial intelligence all need skilled people, and the shortage of talent is a leading concern, according to Gartner

The talent shortage has become the most pressing issue for customers, with staffing issues now viewed by more customers as the number one risk.

Gartner tracks the concerns of senior executives on a quarterly basis, and for most of 2018 cloud computing was seen as the main problem that customers were grappling with. But in the fourth quarter of 2018, talent shortage moved to the top of the list as firms looked to bring on fresh talent to help them digitally transform their operations.

The other risks identified by users included accelerating privacy regulation, the pace of change, lagging digitisation and digitisation misconceptions.

The problem is that to deal with those problems an organisation needs to have access to cloud, security, privacy and infrastructure skills.

“Organisations face huge challenges from the pace of business change, accelerating privacy regulations and the digitisation of their industries,” said Matt Shinkman, managing vice-president and risk practice leader at Gartner. “A common denominator here is that addressing these top business challenges involves hiring new talent that is in incredibly short supply.”

The channel has been alerted at various points over the course of 2018 that if they get skilled up, they could be the answer to a lot of user prayers. In the past week alone there have been moves by Westcon to increase the technical expertise at a reseller level, and CompTIA has indicated it is updating its A+ certifications to ensure they remain relevant to current needs.

When it comes to identifying which vertical is struggling with skills, there is a wide range to choose from, with Gartner finding that financial services, manufacturing, consumer services, public sector, retail and hospitality were all suffering.

“Organisations face this talent crunch at a time when they are already challenged by risks that are exacerbated by a lack of appropriate expertise,” said Shinkman. “Previous hiring strategies for coping with talent disruptions are insufficient in this environment, and risk managers have a key role to play in collaborating with HR in developing new approaches.”

The advice from Gartner is for firms to look more internally to train up the people they already have, rather than risking it on going into the open jobs market and fighting it out with everyone else for talent.

The analyst house warned that the impact of a talent shortage would not only slow up digital transformation plans, but could also leave users vulnerable to slipping behind in areas such as data privacy.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics, published towards the end of 2018, showed that the number of unfilled positions in the ITC sector had increased by 24.3% in the past 12 months.

Ben Lorica, chief data scientist at O’Reilly Media, said that there were justified fears that a skills shortage could stunt the growth of businesses and it was often cited as one of the reasons so many had been slow to get to grips with artificial intelligence (AI).

But he sounded a more positive note about the longer term prospects, pointing out that the industry and government had taken steps to improve the situation.

“Education companies and institutions are beginning to pay attention to this. Recently, we have seen a rise in ‘data science’ programmes and machine learning courses at many universities,” he said.

“Investment in educational programmes that target key areas such as AI, cloud computing and biotech are essential if we are to plug the technology skills gap. Traditional institutions and industry partners need to work together to teach new requirements relevant to the ever-changing job market.

“Changes to technology tools and best practices are accelerating. The rise of online training platforms has helped professionals ensure their skills are up to date, while allowing them to learn new skills from scratch,” he added.

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