Finding IT talent with the right skills mix for the digital age

Finding IT talent with the right skills mix for the digital age
Traditionally, IT departments have been seen as a support service. Their role involved helping businesses achieve their objectives in a practical sense – by supplying devices and troubleshooting, acquiring and installing the systems that allow processes to function.

However, the IT department of today is evolving. No longer is it simply a technical back-office function for the business. As technology develops, the IT department’s function and mode of operating has changed from a service provision role to one of strategic involvement. In other words, the IT team is now expected to drive business growth, facilitate technological transformation and ensure digital is firmly at the heart of the organisation.

As a result, businesses are increasingly recognising the need to reshape their IT departments and position them as more integral parts of the organisation. The old approach of hiring an IT professional to fill a specific operational need is no longer enough. To ensure the tech function contributes positively, more thought must be put into finding talent with the right skills mix.

According to ManpowerGroup’s recent research – Robots Need Not Apply: Human Solutions in the Skills Revolution – the best blend is a combination of soft skills with technical and digital know-how. Based on results from organisations around the world, there are three soft skills in particular that organisations should focus on when hiring IT professionals. We’ve summarised them below in order of importance:

1. Problem Solving – It comes as little surprise that problem solving is one of the most essential skills that IT professionals need to have. However, as organisations strive to deliver more value from their digital assets, the demands on this skill are changing. These days, organisations face an ever-changing and intensifying threat from cyber breaches, which can cause both financial and reputational damage if they fall victim to an attack. As a result, organisations can no longer just look for IT professionals who can solve existing system issues. Instead, businesses need IT professionals who can predict, anticipate and eliminate issues, before they emerge. And whilst organisations can never be fully protected against ever-evolving security threats, this will give them the best opportunity.

2. Communication – Businesses leaders recognise that they can drive more value and better results if they put digital at the heart of all projects. More than ever before, other business functions will need to get involved in the discussions and decision-making process – such as the leadership team, other departments within the organisation, external stakeholders and end users. To get the necessary buy-in and support from key individuals involved in a project or initiative, IT professionals must be prepared to have difficult conversations with these stakeholders. They need to be able to clearly communicate technical matters to non-technical individuals, ensuring they can grasp the value that can be delivered.

3. Collaboration – With the rapid pace of change happening both in and outside of organisations, IT professionals need to be able to partner with other departments or suppliers to ensure projects are completed efficiently. For example, with the much anticipated GDPR coming into place this May, the IT department must collaborate with other departments within the business – including marketing, legal, sales, finance and HR. By working together, an organisational roadmap can be developed and consensus achieved on the route to compliance, ahead of the deadline.

Technology is now one of the most important contributors to economic growth. As a result, IT can no longer function as a siloed, standalone department. Instead, it must be a cross-functional, core element of business transformation, contributing to strategy, wider change initiatives and influencing what the company will look like in five to 10 years’ time.

With this in mind, it’s important that organisations don’t just focus on finding talent that understand new technology and systems. They also need the soft skills required to solve problems, communicate and collaborate, which will be increasingly valuable to organisations going forward. With the right blend of hard and soft skills, organisations can provide better client service and add value where customers want it most.

To find out more, download our whitepaper Robots Need Not Apply: Human Solutions in the Skills Revolution.