Open Minds Can Open Doors to New Sources of Tech Talent

Image credit: iStockphoto/IR_Stone

Search “tech talent crunch”, scroll through the archives, and the same story rolls around every few years. Employers were hunting for tech talent as far back as the early 1980s.

Except this time, it’s a different story.

The COVID-19 crisis has entirely upended the talent demand and supply balance. Business leaders who connected the dots between their digital maturity and ability to weather unprecedented disruption are now focused on filling capability gaps. The key constraint on the next generation of data and analytics is the skills shortage — both within the technology function and increasingly across the entire workforce. This challenge is compounded by migration freezes, border closures, and the Great Resignation. It has never been so important for enterprises to keep employees — particularly the digitally skilled — engaged and fulfilled.

Companies across the Asia-Pacific region are now scrambling to source the right skills, as the latest  EY Tech Horizon report shows. EY survey of 394 C-suite leaders across 16 sectors in Asia-Pacific found high compensation requirements (28%), successful upskilling (27%), and the struggle to retain existing skilled talent (26%) are preventing businesses from acquiring the digital skills they need to grow.

The Tech Horizon research also finds the companies delivering the most successful digital transformations are moving beyond tried-and-true talent strategies to take a multi-faceted approach. Here’s how:

  1. Train your people in hot new technologies

Coding is a valuable skill, but it is just one of many tech jobs required to deliver successful transformation projects. What is more important than learning to code is having a deep interest in technology and how it can solve problems. Members of the EY tech team started their careers in product design, finance, operations, or project management. By providing appropriate training and role variety, they have often progressed into senior leadership positions. We now see that other companies are shifting their talent focus. Two years ago, 46% of companies were upskilling existing employees rather than hunting down tech talent. Today, this figure has risen to 70%.

It is crucial for companies to cultivate employees’ mindsets, as well as the skillsets that are ahead on the tech horizon. At EY, one way we do this is through the EY Tech MBA, offered in association with Hult International Business School. This virtual learning model allows people to develop technology, leadership, and business skills from anywhere in the world, to learn at their own pace, and build a personal curriculum from a broad range of subject areas.

  1. Look beyond the bright lights of the big cities

Digital capability is not limited to certain cities. Companies should consider expanding their tech capability by establishing regional service delivery centers that are located near the likes of universities, for example, as they provide a unique opportunity to access untapped digital talent. The EY member firms are in Penang, Fukuoka, and Ballarat to accelerate and facilitate job generation. This strategy meets EY clients’ needs and is welcomed by governments looking to attract quality employers to regional areas. It is important to foster long-term employee loyalty among people looking for career growth without having to move to a big city.

  1. Use diversity as a business-building strategy

Setting diversity targets as part of a transformation strategy delivers clear dividends. Tech Horizons finds that 76% of transformation projects exceed expectations when diversity targets are a critical measure of success. When they are not, 54% fall short.

Great minds don’t always think alike. Around 560 million people worldwide are neurodiverse, and they may think differently from the neurotypical person due to Dyslexia, Asperger’s, Autism, ADHD, or a variety of conditions. We discovered this often-overlooked population could excel in four core capabilities: AI and automation; blockchain; cyber and cloud computing; and data analytics. After launching the first EY Neuro-Diverse Centre of Excellence in May 2016, we found neurodivergent employees outstrip their neurotypical peers in innovation, efficiency, and productivity. Since then, we have employed more than 200 people who have helped deliver digital services and around USD650 million in value.

  1. Always keep one eye on the tech horizon

Women are under-represented in the tech sector, and the work to expand the pool of female talent is a long-term task. Globally, women make up around 8% of university-level engineering students, 5% of mathematics and statistics students, and just 3% of those studying IT. Giving women and young girls equal opportunities to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) can help solve the tech talent crunch but engaging young women to consider careers in technology stretches back to high school. The EY STEM App is a gamified mobile platform designed to inspire and empower high school girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. More than 100,000 girls globally are already using the EY STEM App, but our goal is to influence one billion lives by 2030.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to think differently about how and where we work. Opening our minds to new ways of working also opens the door to new sources of tech talent. Enterprises that embrace a range of strategies will not only fill their tech talent gaps but bring new ideas into their businesses, strengthen loyalty among their existing employees and build a better working world.

Steve Bingham, EY Asia-Pacific Technology Consulting Leader, wrote this article.

The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms and DigitalWorkforceTrends.

Image credit: iStockphoto/IR_Stone