The Tech Talent Gap

Tech Talent: The Supply and Demand Problem

We are into our second decade of the third millennia, and business leaders are staring down a widening chasm of missing tech talent.  The need continues to rise, but the availability rate of people to help is flattening out or falling.  It has simply become a supply and demand problem.

There is an immediate and monstrous appetite for incoming technology talent to innovate, maintain, and rebuild sites, systems, experiences, and connectivity across every facet of the business.  This is the Demand Problem.

There is also a growing gap in the production of talented individuals, young or old, university educated or not, top-of-their-class or social-reject-savant.  The humans that are required to build the next generation of technology value or maintain mission critical systems are simply not to be found.  The universities, community colleges, and high schools are years behind training for the real needs of business.  The wonder kids slaving away in a loft in South San Francisco are working to hit a unicorn home run – they are not focused on the real tech needs of business, right here right now.  This is the Supply Problem.

Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.  Tom Goodwin, in a thoughtful article on The Three Ages of Digital describes that technology is becoming as ubiquitous (and as necessary) as electricity.  The businesses that ignore this reality will surely suffer – we no longer debate electricity or the need for it.  In similar manner, we will (soon) not debate the need for technology OR technology talent.  The business leaders that take charge and begin to solve this problem on their own, will prosper.

So, then, what does the savvy business leader of today do to begin solving the Tech Talent Gap?  Multiple solutions are out there to start making progress (including hiring or contracting with the right C-Level leaders).  But a few proactive measures should include:

  • Draft your own internal Tech Talent Gap Scorecard.   Create a matrix of critical functions that are growing in their dependency on technology.  Include measurable elements like “Difficulty of finding trained staff” “Cost of recruiting” “Impact to revenue” “Impact to operational costs or efficiency” “Ability to scale” and perhaps “Innovation rate”.  And above all – be brutally honest.
  • Start with one department and have it report out its findings.  Encourage out-of-the-box thinking.  Encourage acceptable risks.  Encourage lessons learned, easy and hard.  Allow this department heads voice to be a champion for solving the Technology Talent Gap for the whole of the company.  Give them free rein to reward creative recruiting, making your company an “attractor” to tech talent (ex. hackathons), and encourage them to go “hang out where the talent hangs out”.  Be relevant!
  • Create your own Apprenticeship Program within your own company.  Be intentional, and be willing to risk failure.  Embrace the new ideas of the youth and temper the ideas and energy with the wisdom of experience.  Learn from this program and adapt it to the needs of your own company.  (This is a close cousin to “Growing Your Own” talent.)
  • Collaborate and share with other professionals, within and outside of your industry.  The problem is universal – every country in the world is facing a similar Supply and Demand Problem when it comes to qualified Tech Talent.  Some countries are going to innovate and they will be the ones to win the day within one, two, perhaps three years.

Don’t wait – tomorrow is too important to ignore.