Coming out of the pandemic, organizations need to prioritize reskilling and upskilling to attract and retain talent needed to grow business, reports an article in the Harvard Business Review. Organizations that invest in their workforce will boost motivation of existing workers and gain the attention of the brightest recruits.
At a recent webinar hosted by Genesis10 and SIM—Austin, “Navigating the Tech Talent Shortage: Reskilling and Upskilling,” three industry leaders shared their first-hand experience with building reskilling/upskilling programs. On the discussion panel were:
- Tracy Haver, AT&T Technology Leadership Development Program Lead
- Chris Hightower, Senior Manager at Southwest Airlines
- Tara Wyborny, Director – Emerging Talent Programs at Genesis10
About eight years ago, AT&T launched a college-hire program as a means to bring in raw talent to reskill into specific roles. Around the same time, the company began to upskill its existing workforce. “With the pace of technology changing as rapidly as it does, you have to do both,” Haver said.
Southwest Airlines established a college-hire program as well as a warrior-hire program which focused on hiring people separating from the military. Southwest also works with key professional services partners to bring in talent. “One unique program we found is Genesis10’s Dev10 Program,” Hightower said. “Bringing in junior technical talent that has gone through a boot camp and can start producing quickly, but at a lower cost.”
For the past 11 years, Genesis10’s Wyborny has been responsible for delivering a pipeline of talent from colleges and universities to clients as a solution to the tech talent shortage. Genesis10’s College-Hire Program, G10 Associates, includes a training component that aims to fill the gaps between the individual’s educational experience and the skills needed to be successful at enterprise clients.
As the demand for software development continued to outstrip supply, Wyborny’s team developed Dev10, a program that creates new tech talent for clients by recruiting individuals who are recent college graduates or professionals looking to move into tech and training them in high-demand technologies.
“Through Dev10, Genesis10 helps our client partners have access to a more predictable, scalable pipeline of talent that's going to have not only the relevant technical skills but also the soft skills that have really been a challenge in the technical space,” Wyborny said.
So, what are the keys to success, according to our panelists?
Feeling productive quickly matters to new employees. Having functioning equipment and access to the necessary systems is critical. And with most onboarding happening remotely, logistics have become more difficult and even more important to making new hires feel welcome and included on day one.
The pandemic has also stoked a desire for building and nurturing relationships with colleagues. At Southwest, Hightower established a culture in which his managers and leads intentionally ensure everyone on the team has regular professional and personal interactions with leaders. “I've heard from my leads that this has made a huge difference on our teams for people to just know that somebody cares about them,” he said.
With work-from-home comes some loneliness, no matter the years of experience. At Dev10, Wyborny implemented “Donut Calls” for her team, which is much like getting coffee and a donut with a teammate. These calls are a purely social interaction—time to get to know your teammates, talk about family, hobbies, and vacations.
Having a support system for recent grads, as well as individuals who are reskilling, is critical to the success of any program. AT&T’s program has dedicated mentors around the country who are laser-focused on getting these individuals acclimated and helping them excel in their new role.
At Genesis10, Dev10 incorporates not only an ongoing continuing education program but also a dedicated Dev10 mentor. These mentors serve as a safety net that our Dev10 Associates can rely on, someone with the experience to offer guidance, and help to navigate a new career.
Although not foolproof, success starts with the right hire. The panelists weighed in on strategies to support success.
For Haver, that’s “knowing your corporate values and, even more specifically, your individual team values, and making sure everyone on your team knows those values as well. So that way, when you're looking for new talent, you're really comparing the people you're interviewing with those values.”
With that in mind, her team recently reviewed every job description, defining the exact competencies required to be successful at the job on day one. From there, they rebuilt the entire interview process, incorporating tests and interview questions around the values and competencies.
At Dev10, Wyborny incorporated group interviews into the hiring process, acknowledging that much of the hiring process is one-on-one between candidate and recruiter. Group interviewing provides a window into how individuals collaborate and work together. Said Wyborny: “This is an invaluable step in truly identifying candidates that will succeed in client environments.”
With the tech talent shortage, reskilled experienced individuals are re-entering the job market as “entry-level.” Sometimes referred to as non-traditional hires, organizations need to understand the needs of these new hires differ from those who have just come from a computer science degree. Wyborny has seen non-traditional hires struggle with “imposter syndrome”—where one doubts their skills and abilities. Non-traditional hires may also not want the same things from an office space or team culture. They may have different personal needs such as having to drop off kids at daycare; they may not be interested in in joining in the ping pong tournament. “Leaders need to make it okay for non-traditional hires to feel comfortable making choices that best fit their personal situation.”
With the above in mind, the panelists all emphasized how important it is to “build your future leaders” from within.
There are amazing benefits to being open to reskilling and upskilling. “From my perspective there are a lot of benefits to building your talent base as opposed to consistently going out to market to find the needle in the haystack,” Wyborny said. “You can spend six or eight months looking for the right person. But if you can bring in a new fresh face excited to learn, that person could make shocking and significant value adds in that time…. There are situations where you need the experience, but there are also amazing benefits that come with being open to new talent and being willing to invest in them.”
Hightower agrees, using images of a lake and a pond to make his point. “If your team is like a pond, there is no movement in or out. If you replace a person on the team with the exact same kind of person. the team stagnates. There is not a lot of growth. I like to make sure there is always movement on my team, with more experienced tech leads focused on building up newer talent. We want movement like in a lake, where a river flows in and out.
“That is a huge benefit to everyone on the team. The junior talent gets the experience. The senior talent is mentoring, which is a skill they need to have when they move up to the next level. The building is hugely important for your team.”