Using data analytics to build strategic workforce development plans

With limited resources to compete for young IT talent, agencies should look to skills development partners to help them invest in their current workforce.
IT skills
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Government agencies continue to face a shortage of the IT skills they increasingly need to serve the public and safeguard government data. And with the ongoing pandemic, it is critical that agencies give longer term thought to their IT skills development strategies.

In a recent FedScoop survey, 8 in 10 federal CIOs, budget officials and human capital managers surveyed said they are moderately or highly concerned about being able to replenish their IT staffs with a younger generation of talent that is trained in these modern technologies. And 46% indicated that a key opportunity to improve IT workforce development lies in prioritizing funding to support upskilling or reskilling opportunities.

That’s one reason agencies should lean on data analytics tools to establish more proactive skills development programs, says Brandon Peay, executive vice president of skills at Pluralsight, a company that provides online skill development training. A former team leader at Bain & Company, Peay espouses the need for “democratizing tech skills.” He shared his perspective with FedScoop on how data-driven tools can help agencies meet their most urgent IT skills needs.

FedScoop: What steps can agencies take to properly gauge, and not merely guess, what skills they have, and what skills they need, for workforce planning?

Brandon Peay, Executive VP, Skills, Pluralsight

Peay: Those organizations which find the most success with talent development take a strategic approach that includes mechanisms to precisely measure the skills of individuals within the organization. From a measurement perspective, the use of smart, dynamic assessments — such as Pluralsight’s Skill IQ assessments — is critical to not only measure their knowledge base, but also to provide a customized learning path to help the individual accelerate their development plans.

By working with skills development partners, organizations can deliver data-driven insights that track individual assessments, provide analytics on where skills gaps may exist and show how skillsets align to the team’s larger goals. In our experience, as organizations take this strategic data-driven approach they are able to get better results out of their upskilling efforts and deliver services to customers and team members faster.

What makes “skilling up” teams an essential component of workforce planning, versus trying to acquire and retain skills?

One of the biggest challenges facing any enterprise organization today is keeping pace with the rapidly changing innovations in technology. As innovation accelerates and demand for more mobile and distributed services increases, skills gaps can arise pretty quickly. It’s extremely difficult for organizations to hire their way out of a skills gap. Oftentimes it’s expensive to attract and retain top talent with the requisite skills — especially for emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning, data science, cloud computing, or cybersecurity. And that’s assuming that you can find candidates that have the skills you’re looking for.

By taking a wider approach with a focus on building the skill sets for current team members, organizations are able to close skills gaps in a more cost effective and strategic manner. Providing a standardized and strategic upskilling program from technology teams can lead to significant improvements in outcomes down the line.

How has the pandemic and the push to remote work potentially created a new opportunity to rethink workforce planning?

The pandemic has accelerated a number of digital transformation efforts, including the push to remote work. We have seen a number of customers take advantage of this dynamic by focusing more efforts on upskilling — especially when it comes to ensuring that technology organizations can deliver the business-critical services demanded by a distributed workforce.

We are working with a number of forward-thinking organizations to help them implement remote, on-demand upskilling solutions that map to current projects and help them accomplish more despite the constraints that remote working can place on technology teams.

What should agencies consider as they look to bolster support for online skill development?

Agencies should consider a number of factors to support skills development efforts. First, it’s essential to choose a program that is scalable and virtual. With remote work now becoming routine, upskilling efforts need to be on-demand, self-paced, and accessible from anywhere. Agencies should also consider the need to provide hands-on learning opportunities — especially for large critical projects such as cloud computing implementations. Hands-on learning in sandbox environments can dramatically accelerate skill development in the areas that can carry the most impact to the organization.

Finally, agencies should ensure that all upskilling efforts are able to meet the specific demands inherent in individual learning, team learning and wide-scale organizational strategic learning efforts. Whether it’s individuals looking to expand their skill sets in specific programming languages like Python or JavaScript, teams looking for virtual instructor-led classroom training time that aligns to specific projects, or large programs that align to massive multi-year initiatives such as digital transformation, agencies should look for skill development partners can meet all of those needs — and do it at scale.

Learn more about building more robust IT skills plans to better equip the agency to meet modernizations goals.

This article was produced by FedScoop and WorkScoop, and underwritten by Pluralsight.

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