Giving people better chances, choices and incentives to work in a fulfilling job is crucial for any business. Whether you are on the lookout for the next generation of people to guide your business forward, today and tomorrow, or looking at your existing workforce, Matt Piddington, Commercial Director, Education Services, explains why investment in learning and development is the key to attracting and retaining today’s IT employees.

Employees today demand that workplace learning is integral to their job. For example, research by LinkedIn shows that 94% of employees say they would stay with a company longer if the company invested in their individual careers.

The latest generation entering the workforce want a different kind of relationship with their employers. It is not just about a job any more. The more career development and opportunities they have, the more they buy in to your business.

Your competitive advantage

I believe that people are often the competitive advantage for employers. Continued investment in their skills, knowledge and capabilities are key to transforming both individual and business performance.

Organisations continue to fail in their understanding of their people capability. They are not aware of what skills they have within their organisation, or those that they need to recruit or develop.

According to the BCS, almost three-quarters (72%) of large firms that employ technical specialists identified tech skills gaps within their workforce, and 49% of smaller companies are suffering from gaps between the skills held and the skills needed by their tech specialists.

New behaviours, new expectations

Digital natives, millennials and Gen Z bring new behaviours, expectations and preferences with them. They are creative and entrepreneurial. They’ve learnt how to think, learn and communicate in a sea of information. They’re used to having input, accessing information and learning at the point of need.

They’ve got an aptitude for learning and feedback, valuing opportunities for training and advancement within their careers. Familiar with new technology, expert multi-taskers and full of fresh ideas, they can be an asset to any business.

What this means for your business

Because these workers have such a different way of seeing the world and interacting with it, businesses must adjust and re-evaluate the way they do business. Firstly, it’s important to attract them to the company, before harnessing their skills and meeting their workplace expectations.

In IT, where there is such an acute skills shortage, on-the-job training and employee engagement appeals to this new generation and help to capture them at the beginning of their careers.

From job hoppers to role hoppers

In 2018, Deloitte published a reporting revealing that 43% of millennials plan to leave their current jobs within two years and only 28% have plans to stay beyond five years.

Whilst millennials have a reputation for job hopping, the younger Gen Z are more interested in role-hopping, staying with their employer and working their way up – or across – the business. So attracting them and investing in their development early makes sense.

According to Forbes, they are also keen to avoid debt, having learnt from previous generations. Despite being the most educated generation, this includes side-stepping the costs of higher education and going straight into the workforce.

Tech-savvy multitaskers

Millennials grew up in the digital age; Gen Z were born into it. And while it might be tempting to complain that they’re glued to their smartphones, it has a useful side effect – they can easily wrap their heads around new technology. For industries like ours, they can integrate effortlessly.

They’ve grown up in a world of innovation, full of evolving technology and connected to every corner of the globe. So they’re starting out with an entrepreneurial head on their shoulders. They are full of ideas – by engaging with them early, you can harness them before someone else does.

Ageing workforce

At the opposite end of the spectrum, it is important to also have a strategy for your ageing workforce. The question is, how do businesses continue to engage and develop this talent pool and maintain their competitive advantage?

According to data from the European Labour Force Survey, workers aged 55+ currently make up 16% of the total workforce in the European Union. In countries such as Germany, Finland and Sweden, the number of mature workers is closer to one in five. As a comparison, for every 10 Gen Z staff, there are 12 people aged 65 or older in the EU.

At Westcon-Comstor, we regularly see businesses with legacy technology where only a small number of employees – often fast approaching retirement – have the capability around the technology itself. This clearly represents a risk to business operations, and we often enquire if they have a defined strategy to develop additional capability or phase out the legacy infrastructure.

More than just a job

Your people today want a different kind of relationship with your business. It’s no longer just a job. The more career development and opportunities they have, the more they buy into your business.

If they can see that they can have a full and fulfilling career from the outset, more and more of them will stay. And that’s good for your people, your business and the industry.

My view is that an organisation’s ability to recognise, harness and develop their people capability will deliver the ultimate competitive advantage for organisations, allowing them to maximise revenue, profitability, growth and societal contribution.

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