Randstad’s latest report on the battle for emerging tech talent reveals that businesses in the emerging tech sector are grappling with a shortage of talent. For an industry that has experienced a boom in demand overnight due to huge changes in our economy and the way we work, it’s concerning to see the threat that the talent shortage poses.
Not only are leaders afraid that without the right talent available, but they will also be unable to meet future demand and grow, some are worried that they may lose their competitive advantage altogether.
But what is very clear is that the talent shortage can’t continue if Australia’s emerging tech sector wants to grow at the pace it is needed to.
One industry leader in the space has first-hand experience of what it’s like to be challenged with the problem of talent supply.
Shan Shan Wang is the founder and CEO of Roam Technologies, an innovative new Australian medical health technology company creating the next generation of oxygen technology.
Like many businesses in the technology space, she’s seen a huge surge in demand for her innovative ideas but is struggling to find the right talent to propel the company to the next step.
“It’s been a huge issue for us. We’ve been looking to hire a few different people in the background, particularly engineers and coders but the talent pool is so small that it’s very challenging,” Shan says.
“What we’ve found is obviously that not everyone has the right skill set for what you need, it’s certainly possible to find a candidate which is brilliant in one area but they aren’t willing to learn outside of that space.”
Shan has also found that recruitment of university graduates, unfortunately, doesn’t solve the problem either.
“The talent coming out of university is great except sometimes they don’t have the right experience of necessary industry training for us to actually onboard them. I would love to hire straight out of university but unfortunately for us, the skills just aren’t in the right place,” she says.
winning the tech battleread the report
upskilling is a time-consuming task
Randstad’s report suggests that a mid-term strategy to combat the talent shortage issue could be for businesses to either hire potential talent which is able to step up and train or identify talent elsewhere in the industry which has the potential to cross-train and upskill.
But Shan points out that, while this is a great alternative to hiring talent suited for the role, upskilling is often a time-consuming and expensive route to go down.
“We have had to upskill a lot of people we have brought on board and we have had good experiences though. The people we have brought on so far have been amazing, but it took us forever just to find the right person for that skillset,” she says.
“For any startup, there is a balance between time and capital. The less time you have, the more capital you burn and vice versa, so you end up running around trying to fill in the gaps. It takes time to upskill people, it takes time to expand the current knowledge skillset to the point that they can do the work themselves.”
retaining talent is essential
It’s clear then that if business leaders, such as Shan, spend much time and effort training talent to get them up to the right level, then retaining that talent is vital.
Because if you have premium talent in the space, whether that is because you have hired, trained or upskilled, then they’re at risk of being poached by a competitor.
According to Shan, the trick to ensure talent retention focuses on three things: culture, vision and purpose.
“If you can provide an employee with a good company culture which promotes learning, entrusts honesty and allows them to fail and learn from mistakes, then they will be more willing to upskill themselves and they would be more likely to stay with your company,” she says.
“Many Australian businesses underestimate the power of culture. If you have a good culture, vision, purpose and that person feels fulfilled they’ll want to stay.”
education is the future
And it’s not just businesses and tech leaders themselves who need to undergo change and development in order to help bridge the gap in the emerging tech skills shortage. Shan says changes could and should be made at the university level to help build a quality talent pool for the future.
“It comes down to the curriculum,” Shan says. ”Students need to be encouraged to not just learn their own degree but branch out to other areas. This certainly unskilled them while they’re still in a learning environment.”
“Because yes, you want [to hire] someone who understands the specific area, but you also want talent which is able and willing to uptake other key areas. Business dynamics are constantly changing and you need to be willing to adapt and this will sometimes entail learning something which is outside your normal degree.”
She explains how, in her experience, it wouldn’t be uncommon to come across talent who is exceptionally good in their field, but doesn’t possess the skills needed to adapt as and when both the business and industry needs it.
Ultimately, the coronavirus pandemic over the past year, especially in the technology space, has accelerated things so quickly that businesses no longer have the time to hire a university graduate and train them in all the aspects they are missing. They need to be able to hit the ground running.
And with improved university curriculums, Shan believes universities can be instrumental in reshaping and growing the future pool of emerging tech talent.
the future of emerging tech talent
The unfortunate reality is that business leaders who are slow to adopt trends in technology, risk losing out to competitors.
For leaders like Shan, the emerging tech skills shortage is repressive to business development, costing money and causing a lot of unnecessary delays.
But the good news is that there are solutions to help overcome this hurdle and invest in the industry to help widen the pool of talent for our future emerging tech industry.