Qualifications and skills at the forefront
01 November, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic caught the world by surprise. All of a sudden, we started to live our personal and professional lives differently. In the business context, these changes made companies quickly realize the need for greater digitalization, to streamline processes and achieve business continuity.
As a result of this need, new IT-specialized jobs are growing at a challenging pace, now more than ever, and in this sense, the training market must keep up with the trends originating from this new reality, allowing for greater capacity to optimize tasks and even adapt to new functions.
Technological development and the increasing digitalization of businesses have been accentuating the gap between the needs of organizations and the digital skills of their employees, highlighting the importance of retraining. Identifying the training needs of each individual organization is an essential process to achieve successful team training in organizations. In fact, creating a culture of learning is a critical choice and an excellent business decision, especially in financially challenging times.
In addition to the advantages that training brings to companies, the employees also benefit in a multitude of ways: greater confidence in using technology and implementing change, greater contribution of ideas to process design, greater ease and creativity in solving problems, and greater satisfaction with work and one’s employer. Overall, training makes employees more specialized, versatile, and satisfied.
As previously mentioned, the digital revolution sets an extremely demanding path. As new technologies emerge, more professionals will need to master new tools, hence the need for companies to anticipate these changes and prepare themselves for the future.
In this context, Portuguese companies report the following tech areas as top priorities for 2021: Programming, Big Data, Networks and Systems, areas related to Cloud Computing, and above all, there is the need to develop skills in Cybersecurity.
Even though information technologies are currently the main focus of most companies, continually investing in more and better technology is of little value if organizations do not know how to take advantage of it. Therefore, it is necessary to continuously commit to technological innovation, while also continuously committing to developing the skills of IT teams, as a means to ensure the effective use of such technologies.
Technical certifications are crucial in the IT field. To obtain one, a candidate has to demonstrate both an understanding of technical theoretical concepts and, in most cases, the ability to apply his skills and knowledge in real or simulated environments.
Moreover, these certifications are instrumental as they are a guarantee of one’s professional qualifications, which, most of the time, recruiters consider to be one of the most important aspects when assessing potential candidates, as certifications provide impartial proof of a candidate’s technical skills and reflect his commitment to his own professional development.
The value of certification goes beyond individual benefits or easier recruiting and hiring; it extends to the organizations in which certified professionals work, as these particular professionals are able to respond to the qualification and skill needs of companies, are more productive and more effective in meeting customer requirements, take less time to solve problems, and complete projects faster. In addition to adding value and credibility to the employee, certification, when used in conjunction with training, promotes better results, helps close training gaps, retains knowledge, and improves the overall training effectiveness.
Consequently, the continuous development of skills is the best way to ensure persistent improvement in IT operations performance, helping professionals address some of the biggest challenges of their organizations: efficiency, risk mitigation, agility, and productivity.
Analysis and Implementation of training plans
It is essential to analyze the current state of an organization in order to implement a training plan and identify the needs of both the organization and its employees. When companies are looking for specific skills that their employees lack, it is up to Human Resources or those responsible for Learning and Development (L&D) to conduct a skills analysis. The latter should take into account not only the skills gap, but also the company’s goals, the future of work trends, and the existing skills in the organization; by identifying the skills gap, it is possible to define strategies and structure continuous feedback aimed at improving the team's capabilities.
In tandem with the results of the study “How will the development of professional skills be like in 2021?” conducted by Rumos, we can conclude the following: in most cases (57%), the Training Plan of a company is developed based on previous training needs assessment. However, the recommendation for employees to develop their skills is also largely based on the suggestion of managers (48%) and of the professionals themselves (45%).
All in all, a highly qualified, skilled, and functional team is the key to successfully meeting the challenges of the digital revolution.
Investment in training
The current awareness of the importance of employees’ skills and qualifications has led to increased efforts by companies to align training plans with their strategy and investment decisions.
Although investment in training fell in 2020 due to the economic impact of the pandemic and the uncertainty about the future in 2021, there was some recovery and willingness to invest by companies. In Portugal, the study conducted by Rumos showed that 63% of inquired people intend to maintain or increase their investment in training in 2021, while 20% confirm their intention to reduce their investment in training compared to the previous year. However, most employers expect to see a return on their investment in employee skilling within a year, and this goal is often achieved.
Challenges and Future of Training
The main objectives of training can be divided into two main areas, the first is directly related to business, which results in reducing the skills gap and promoting the growth of the organization, and the second is related to employee well-being, namely improving employee engagement and job satisfaction.
On the business side, training can serve other purposes besides filling skills gaps, such as helping to achieve business goals, generate revenue, and reduce costs – although training is not always given credit for these results. Nevertheless, even in a period of economic crisis such as the one we are experiencing, most organizations recognize the benefits of investing in their human capital.
On the employee side, training is positively perceived, and its impact is reflected in improved quality of work, faster task completion, increased motivation, and greater adaptability. In addition, these investments in training and development increase talent retention and job satisfaction.
But if the importance and impact of professional training and development are so widely recognized, both by organizations and by individual professionals, why is it still so difficult to design and implement effective training plans? The main obstacle is lack of time: the daily workload does not allow an employee to be available to participate in training activities on a regular basis. In 2020, even with the boost of new training formats (remote, asynchronous, or synchronous) and the consequent and obvious savings in travel time, lack of time was still the reason for not participating in training. Other very relevant topics arise when talking about training, such as budget issues and the difficulty for those responsible for training to demonstrate its benefits and ROI to their superiors.
However, one thing is certain: the return on investment in training is neither abstract nor theoretical: training has a real and far-reaching impact on the productivity of the various teams and, consequently, on the ability of organizations to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to business and market needs.
In this context, the training market has to continue to follow the trends of the "new normal" - digitalization, flexibility of schedules, geographical decentralization, and, consequently, the democratization of access to learning.
More than a year after the start of the pandemic, it is evident that there is no going back: Many of the changes are here to stay, and the importance of employee training in ensuring individual and organizational resilience and prosperity has become clear. It is and will become increasingly important that investment in human capital is at the forefront of organizations’ strategic vision.
Article published on Building The Future 2022, in November 2021