Many IT departments and IT companies around the world struggle with their employees. Mainly because they’re simply not enough. But sometimes adding new IT workers might not be the best solution.

A lot of effort goes into finding the right people with the right skills. This is the holy grail or HRs and it’s definitely not easy to attain in the IT world for now. But many problems with IT staffing actually come from bad planning. This goes for both what skills are/will be needed and how many employees are ideal.

Too late to the party

A 2016 survey by staffing and training company TEKsystems shows 68% of respondents think it’s more challenging to staff IT projects today than five years ago. Only 53% say they have a formal, strategic plan for their workforce. And 73% of them say they actually plan for the workforce for a project within 90 days of needing the staff for it.

As you can imagine, this is too little time to be able to find the right people. “There’s a desire to be more strategic, but there’s a struggle in how to actually make that happen,” says Kevin Holland, director, learning and IT transformations solutions at TEKsystems to ComputerWorld.

One way managers could go about it is by careful examination of their current workforce. What skills do they have and more important what more skills can they attain and how fast. For example, it might be easier and faster for network admins to reskill towards cloud tech than it would be to teach them Bid Data. Knowing what you have and what your current employees’ desires are will be very helpful. It will make it easier to plan better what skills you have and will need and how can you attain them for the team.

Computerworld notes that most big organizations tend to ramp up their trainings and even set up their own boot camps and training centers. This allows them to be flexible and quickly reskill employees. SMBs though have to get creative. Often they outsource some of the work while they work out whether they would need full time additional employees and where. And since outsourcing is easier and faster, it tends to be a preferred solution for SMBs rather than employee training.

Even so, training is important for the existing staff, too. Otherwise these workers could feel left out and want to leave to seek better options. Plus, a lot of IT employees actually place attaining new skills on top of the higher pay. And there’s more. The thing is, one set of skills won’t be enough for any worker. And companies can’t and don’t really need to change the entire workforce when needed skills change.

Consider all approaches

AT&T for example has an interesting solution. Managers identify the needed skills and create a plan to source them internally. Whatever skill can’t be attained this way, for whatever reason, are sought by hiring people who have them. But then, the new hires actually train the existing staff these skills, too. This way employees can and do attain a very wide an various skillsets. It makes it easier for the company to form new teams for new projects and fill in the positions with existing employees by combining their skills.

And AT&T is also encouraging its employees to increase their skills by having a “talent profile” and when new positions are opened, it also adds additional details as the rate of promotions and market salaries to further encourage workers to opt for additional trainings.  “We are transparent in how our jobs are changing, which shows employees where they should be spending their time if they want to plot their future”, says Scott Smith, senior vice president of human resources operations at AT&T.

So, there are a lot of solutions. Sadly, there’s not a one-for-all recipe that solves the problem. But there is one common detail – better planning. Don’t leave the workforce planning for the last possible moment. It should go hand in hand with the overall planning of new projects and strategies. And first take a look at your current employees and whether it would be more beneficial for them and for the company to simply hire more people or add more skills to your current workforce.

 

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