The digital skills gap is widening. Here’s how to bridge it.

Vaco - The Digital Skills Gap is Widening - Blog Graphic

It’s a good thing we’re buckled in for the ride because the digital skills gap is widening, and we all need to be ready to make the leap. The best leaders are always poised to pivot swiftly, and right now, that means staying ahead of the talent curve. 

Business practices shift seemingly overnight as companies adapt to sudden changes in market forces. Pandemic-fueled unpredictability, climate change, supply chain turmoil, and disruptions in global supply and demand are all pulling leaders in one direction. Tugging them in the other direction are rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and automation, which are happening in shorter and shorter cycles. 

The very nature of work is changing. In some instances, these changes mean that the skills hiring managers once prized are quickly becoming yesterday’s news.

Vaco - The Big Quit Data Graphic (2)

The global economy and hiring managers’ priorities aren’t the only things in flux. In addition to the historical moment we’re living in and rapid technological advancements, the workforce itself is undergoing a metamorphosis. People — in record numbers — are choosing to leave unrewarding jobs, seeking fulfillment in entirely new lines of work. The “Big Quit” is happening across industries—we’ve seen it give rise to increasing levels of remote work with the accounting and finance industry, but it’s also contributing to a digital skills gap that spans many industries, too. 

A lot is happening, but we can say this with confidence: The changes are going to keep on coming. 

Back in October, we took a look at three ways winning companies tackle the digital skills gap and found that the companies that are most successful at it are proactive. They assess their current staff and anticipate future needs, prioritize the skill sets they need for future growth, and collaborate across all business functions.

Looking ahead is critical, but sometimes changes need to be made right now to pave the way for proactivity. To learn more about what companies are doing right now to address the skills gap, we checked in with Vaco managing partner and national technology practice leader, Steve Shoemake. He identified a few key areas where companies are already laying the foundation for their skills gap bridge-building by making themselves more attractive to in-demand, digitally-savvy talent.

“Companies are faced with several issues that often run counter to their current culture,” says Shoemake. “Businesses that are adapting their processes to the battlefield reality are tipping the scales in their favor.” 

Consider the following old-world “norms” that Shoemake says companies need to redefine to overcome the digital skills gap and hiring challenges of the moment:

On-site-only is out. Anywhere is in.

Businesses are going to have to keep finding creative ways to close the skills gap. The companies having the most success are those that aren’t afraid to make bold changes. 

  • Old world: Work in an office to build camaraderie and esprit de corps!
  • New world: Work anywhere, bag your commute.

Is remote work here to stay? Only the future will tell, but remote and flexible work arrangements are certainly here for right now. 

“Remote work may revert to more ‘local but hybrid’ models if, under scrutiny, human resources experts determine in the coming years that remote workers turn-over at a higher rate, or experience less job satisfaction. It’s a big question mark,” says Shoemake. 

“I don’t think we’ll ever return to pre-pandemic thinking, but I’m not convinced the work-anywhere model will be the new norm in three to five years, once we have extensive backward-looking data. Perhaps it will, but there are also a number of old-school hiring managers and old-world companies that need to suffer the hiring consequences of their mindset before any model is galvanized.”

Trust is everything

We can say with a high level of confidence that “business as usual” doesn’t have the same meaning it once did. So how do leaders prepare for the challenges of 2022? By embracing the new and placing trust in their teams and their technology.

  • Old world: Show up in the office so the boss can manage your attendance.
  • New world: Display a higher level of trust and keep tabs on remote workers via technology to make sure they’re engaged.

Using technology in human ways, for human reasons is one way for companies to adapt. It also helps leaders create a company culture for today’s times. Shared experiences are another way to promote teamwork and unity. 

In “6 Ways Business Leaders Should Prepare for 2022 and Beyond,” University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Professor, Lynn Isabella, compares corporate teams — whether working on-site in the same space or geographically dispersed — to a rowing crew on the water. 

“What it takes to row together with seven other people is a true manifestation of teamwork in action,” she explains. “As a member of the team, each rower must learn how to follow and lead simultaneously. Individual stars will only slow the boat down.” 

The article also notes that “Winning crews share common characteristics: Not only must every member have mastery of technique and a similar level of talent, if different strengths, but each must learn to row with the rest of the crew.”

You get what you pay for

As the economy bounces back, employers need to find more and more qualified workers—which means candidates have more and more leverage. And more leverage means greater negotiating power.

  • Old world: Pay employees a wage in line with co-workers to optimize departments for wage equity.
  • New world: Pay what you need to get the talent in the door.

It looks like companies are ready to pay more for the right talent, too. 

Both total compensation (which includes wages and benefits) and wages grew faster over the last 12 months than the previous year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that total compensation for civilian workers increased by 3.7% in the last year, while wages went up 4.2%, for the 12-month period ending in September. According to BLS data, it’s the biggest growth in compensation since the end of 2004. 

It’s not limited to compensation, either. Companies like Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, Apple, Target, and General Motors are sweetening the deal with tuition reimbursement and/or childcare reimbursement benefits.

Even more good news, Shoemake believes higher wages are here to stay. 

“As for wages, they typically don’t go down without catastrophic economic events. The wage tables will get re-written, and will stabilize at higher levels.”

Streamline the hiring process

In today’s Great Resignation culture, a streamlined hiring process is essential. “Always be closing,” as they say. 

  • Old world: Multi-step interview process, bringing in multiple perspectives to gain hiring consensus
  • New world: Hosted panel interviews with immediate debriefs and offer decisions.

“The hiring process will align itself to that part of the process that is most broken. Right now the part of the process screaming in pain the loudest is speed: candidates are falling out of the process because it’s too slow and job offers are too plentiful. So companies that take too long are losing,” notes Shoemake. 

Is this a long-lasting way to address the talent gap? Probably not.

Shoemake predicts that when companies start to believe that they’re hiring too quickly, making poor decisions, and fighting “avoidable turnover,” then they’ll go back to longer processes, more voices in the room, and more psychological and personality testing.

“The companies that are incorporating two or more of these changes are tilting the hiring scales in their favor,” says Shoemake.

Interested in discovering more ways to bridge the talent gap? Be sure to register for our Conquer the Digital Skills Gap webinar with Vaconians Lindsey Thorne, Brian Herczeg, and Brad Rowley and special guests from Eaton, HellermannTyton and Serve You RX. 

We hope you’ll join us as we discuss the ways companies are working to close the digital skills gap while navigating an increasingly competitive tech talent market with strategies ranging from innovative compensation packages, strategic recruiting practices, managed services, and more.

Register Now


Steve Shoemake - Vaco Thought Leader and Managing Partner


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