The Need for Employees Who Think Like Hackers-Or Are Hackers

Susan Hall
Slide Show

Top 15 In-demand IT Skills in Today's Market

A new CompTIA survey merely reinforces what we already knew: Tech skills are changing rapidly and with companies less likely to offer training, IT pros have to take it upon themselves to keep up.

 

In the poll of 502 U.S. IT and business managers between December and January, 93 percent of respondents reported a gap between their staff's skills and what they need to be. Fifty-six percent of respondents said their employees' skills were "moderately close" or "not even close" to where they need to be. (You've got to hand it to Wired for knowing how to write a teaser SEO headline: "Study Says Most IT Guys Are Ignorant." And we won't even go into the issue that some of those IT pros might be female.)

 

Among the other findings:

  • Rapidly changing technology was the most-cited factor contributing to the skills gap, followed by lack of resources for IT skill development (43 percent) and ineffective training for IT staff (39 percent).
  • Only 15 percent of respondents said they have a formal process in place to identify IT skill gaps. Fifty-six percent said they had no process at all.
  • At least eight in 10 companies reported this gap hurt business in areas such as staff productivity, customer service, time to market and security.
  • 64 percent of respondents with business functions said HR and management gave enough attention to the IT skill gap problem, yet 42 percent of respondents with IT functions said HR and execs are not paying enough attention to the problem.

 

The report breaks down companies' concerns by size of business - and they do differ. As InfoWorld breaks it out, larger companies are more concerned with skills for virtualization, SharePoint, ERP, Big Data, cyber security, telecom, and teleconferencing and telecommunications. Small businesses (25-99 employees), meanwhile, were more concerned with updating aging computers and software, data storage/backup, cybersecurity, disaster recovery, networking, Web presence/e-commerce, mobility and telecommunications.


 

And type of business matters, too. IT companies were more concerned with skills for Big Data, application development, Web design and development, mobile development, Linux and cloud computing. Non-IT companies, meanwhile, care more about dealing with telecom, printers and copiers, and A/V equipment.

 

You would think that if this skills gap were hurting business to the extent reported, companies would be all fired up to provide training. But no. Many companies find it easier to hire people with the new skills or outsource the work rather than provide their workers with retraining. Amid CompTIA's calls for retraining, six in 10 organizations pledged to get on the stick about that. Maybe it's just my cynical side showing, but we'll have to see whether that happens.

 

Meanwhile, IT pros would do well to heed the words of HR consultant Peter Weddle, whom I quoted in January in a post about finding free online training. (Weddle wrote this before Steve Jobs' death.):

Steve Jobs and company recognize that standing still is the single best way to fail in today's economy. Their competitors are always raising the bar in terms of design and performance, so they must too. Similarly, consumers are forever raising their expectations about what they want and need from a cell phone, so Apple must oblige. In effect, those two inexorable forces mean that the only way Apple can survive and prosper is by working continuously at getting better.
The same dynamic also now impacts all of us in the workforce. Our competitors in the U.S. and abroad-those who want our job or the job we want-are upping their game and improving their ability to contribute to an employer's success. At the same time, employers now expect higher performance and harder work from both their current employees and those applying for their open positions. As a result, the only way we can survive and prosper in today's economy is by adopting the iPhone Proposition: we must work continuously to stay ahead of both our competitor's capabilities and employers' expectations.


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