Skills intelligence – why certification visibility is critical in your workforce planning

By Peter Olive, CEO, Vortex 6.

The world is changing – paradigms are being dismantled as we must adapt to the new environment brought about by the events of the last two years.

Whether it’s pandemics, wars, inflation, unstable government, fuel shortages, looming predictions of recessions or just the ever increasing innovation in technology – we are facing more challenges now than at any time since 1945.

Yet, amongst all of this, we are experiencing probably the greatest skills shortages in our lifetime, which seems counter intuitive when looking back on previous periods of turmoil when jobs were scarce and unemployment high.

This is the case in all industries from manufacturing, logistics, hospitality, agriculture and IT. It is affecting all countries in Europe, the US, Canada Australia and others.

There are many theories about why this is and I’m not going to repeat what others have already said, but it is real. I’ve worked in IT for nearly 40 years and this is the biggest skills gap I have seen.

I recently read an article in IT Pro that emphasized how, despite an increase in computer science students, the IT skills gap is at an all-time high. The article went on to say that tech vacancies are at a 10-year high across the globe, with a 191% year-on-year increase in the UK alone. That said, the article also outlined that the number of students taking diploma or undergraduate courses for computer science has risen year-on-year. In fact, UCAS data indicates that there were 16% more applications for undergraduate computing courses, and that 81,210 students sat the UK GCSE exams in 2022 compared to79,964 in 2021. However, despite the increase at a student level, the UK's skills gap is widening, with some employers struggling to recruit the right talent.

Until recently, many organizations would look at an employees’ skills, their age, cost or relevance to what the business needs to deliver its business plan and replace them by going to the external market. I’ve never fully understood this approach, the costs of replacing an employee can be three times their salary when you take into account management time, recruitment costs, distraction from running the business, the loss of company knowledge, training and development investments, disruption to client relationships and so on. But now that there are more jobs than people, companies must compete when recruiting, resulting in higher salaries and sometimes still not being able to find the skills, attitude and knowledge that they need.

So what should they do?

Many organizations are now looking at the talent they have today and - instead of replacing employees - are investing in developing their skills. The conversation is changing to one that is skills based. This is why it is so important for organizations to understand what skills, resources and certifications they currently have within their business and to better manage their skills intelligence. I say this because, for most organizations, acquiring more people with the skills customers need is critical for ensure growth. But with the current skills shortage facing organizations, this is clearly not an easy task and if not addressed it will hinder future expansion plans.

Overcoming talent shortages

Therefore, as organizations try to grapple with this talent shortage, what are the options that they can explore?

Companies can look at ways to move employees around, particularly where there are pockets of skills that are underutilized and less in-demand in certain areas of the business than others. They can look at programs to reskill and cross-skill employees across the organization, encouraging existing teams to develop skills where they have identified a gap. Of course, they can still try to recruit, but in my experience more senior hires are costly and hard to integrate into organizations quickly enough to bring value. Hiring at the more junior level and out of university is a slower route in terms of realizing immediate value, but on the plus side you can shape employees in line with your company culture. Organizations can also look to work with sub-contractors and consultants, but this is an expensive route, and often the knowledge gained is not transferred into the organization, leaving when the consultant does. Companies can also team up with others in strategic partnerships where there are strong synergies to tap into other resource pools, but the chances are that partners are in a similar situation with a lack of skills and resources. And finally, organizations can look to grow through acquisition and buy capacity and capability, but again this brings downsides along with its positives.

Many companies may need to adopt all of these strategies to grow or adapt their workforce. That said, regardless of where the talent is coming from, there is a need to calibrate the skills that exist within an organization and to find a way to do this that will clearly signpost these skills to customers.

Managing your workforce - Understanding what certifications and skills you have in the business

The next question most organizations are looking to answer to better understand their skills intelligence is “What certifications do we already have in our business today, who has these certifications and how utilized are our skills?” Simple questions, but often we find there is no central collection mechanism where employees or employers can go to find this single source of truth.

Certification data comes from HR systems, the vendor organizations that set the certification programs and CV’s, quite often coming from up to 30 sources in which the data is inconsistent and often incomplete. Certification data is held in spreadsheets within different departments and are inconsistently maintained. This means they are rarely up-to-date, making it hard to get a quick view on the skills within an organization.

Why is this important?

· Organizations typically only know 50% of the certifications their employees hold

· These organizations may not be bidding for business because they don’t think they have the skills.

· They may not be projecting their true capabilities to customers and partners potentially opening the door to competitors

· They are spending money on training when they already have the skills internally

So how do companies solve this underlying problem? Organizations need a single source of truth to manage their certifications that is always current and comprehensive. Such a solution also needs to get validated certification data from their employees, who know more about their qualifications than anyone.

All this sounds relatively straight forward, but when you consider the size and complexity of the data it is harder than it at first appears. There needs to be an easily configurable, on-demand way of reporting skills certification, capacity planning and strategy resource that enables companies to compare what they have versus what they think they need to grow the business. This is where our solution V6 ProFusion enables businesses to manage and track all their employees’ IT certifications across over 450 vendors in a single software platform. It uses a database of IT skills intelligence to provide a true understanding of an employees’ capabilities and how they can support new and existing projects, clients and the overall business strategy.

These insights are essential to helping organizations not only overcome the skills shortage but to grow their businesses by using a platform to efficiently and effectively manage, support, and develop vital talent resources, for both the organization and the employee’s benefit. Today, a clear and comprehensive view of the breadth and depth of the existing skills within a business is critical to its success. If businesses don’t have the right data, all they can do is guess. But do they really want to bet their business growth and future aspirations on guesswork?

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