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Building Your Tech Talent Pipeline

For anyone hiring technology talent today, it’s no secret that the market is competitive, and the pool of qualified candidates is limited. To make sure your team has the skills that your organization needs to succeed and grow, you’ll need to look at short-, medium-, and long-term opportunities and to invest in training for both current employees and future hires.
What does it mean to build your tech talent pipeline? And how can you make sure your company is indeed a competitor in the tech talent marketplace, no matter who you are?

Let’s start with the main challenge that enterprises face when it comes to building a tech talent pipeline. The shortage of skilled talent to meet the needs of companies migrating to and operating in the cloud has been well reported. The number of people lined up to attend the recent re:Invent session on Building Your Tech Talent Pipeline underscored the data anecdotally. Enterprises are feeling the pain and are struggling to find solutions.
The way I see it, there are several possible approaches to solving for the need for skilled tech talent. I’ll discuss each approach in more detail below.

  • Hire skilled, experienced candidates who can hit the ground running
  • Hire recent grads who have some skills, but little to no experience
  • Work with existing training programs to create a recruitment pipeline
  • Train existing employees in new skill sets

Hiring experienced candidates

This is the default approach for many of us, and it’s where we run into our first obstacles. The pool of candidates with cloud computing skills and experience is limited. Everyone is recruiting them, which means they’re in-demand, expensive, and can prove to be a retention challenge.
In addition to the short-term challenge of recruiting and retaining talent, keeping up with the pace of technology is a bigger problem. Without opportunities to keep up with the changes in cloud technologies, any skill set will quickly become outdated. This is an issue both for your organization, and for keeping individuals engaged with their jobs; they are, by definition interested in the newest technologies, and they will lose interest without continuous learning opportunities.

Hiring recent graduates

There are hungry young people graduating from college every year. Some of them are computer science majors with deep theoretical knowledge, which is a good foundation for what they’ll need to do in their day-to-day jobs. However, they lack hands-on, practical experience using those technologies in the real world. Some of them don’t have degrees in computer science or haven’t learned the specific set of technologies your organization may be using today.
Hiring recent graduates may be a good medium-term strategy for your company, but it is definitely future-focused. It will require you to invest in building their cloud and DevOps skills in the immediate term.

Partner with training programs

Many organizations recognize the opportunity the current technology skills gaps could mean for underserved communities. Foundations, governments, companies, and nonprofits are partnering to provide training in needed tech skills to groups seeking career opportunities, often communities of color, women, and others who would bring much-needed diversity and skills to companies around the world. Programs like these excite me because they seek to solve for two compatible challenges, and they provide opportunities to individuals and communities that are all-too-often forgotten.
Much like the recent college graduates, you’ll find yourself hiring smart, hungry, and talented people who will be an asset to your organization for a long time to come. You’ll need to invest in training them on your specific technologies and provide them with hands-on experience as they get up to speed.

Training existing employees

Companies that require cloud computing skills frequently have existing employees who have related skill sets with on-premises technologies. These employees also hold institutional knowledge, and they come with the added benefit that you don’t need to recruit, hire, or onboard them.
Retraining these teams and individuals shows an investment in your existing talent that will be noticed across the organization. Given the rate of change in technology, there will no longer be such a thing as new hires who don’t require continuous training to stay up to date. The best way to start building the programs you need to be a player in the competitive hiring market is to start with your current employees.

Training is the universal solution

Building your tech talent pipeline is an imperative for all organizations operating in the cloud today. It’s an investment in your company’s present and in your ability to grow and scale for years to come. Each of the above scenarios requires a training plan, whether to provide new skills, update existing skills, create a common language for your teams, or to offer continuous learning for rapidly changing technologies. No single scenario is likely to solve your pipeline needs on its own. You will likely be using two or more scenarios in tandem to meet short-, medium-, and long-term hiring needs.
Whether you’re training an experienced professional or someone fresh out of college, you’ll need a training program that meets each individual where they are right now and that brings them all up to speed on the technologies and practices currently in use.

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