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Perspectives in Leadership: Tech Talent 2022

September 07, 2022

On a recent episode of Pluralsight’s Perspectives in Leadership podcast, Travis Wickesberg, a Senior Solutions and Services Director, discussed what it means to attract, hire, and retain top talent in the industry. He’s a big believer in investing in your people through psychological safety, product-driven marketing data, and transparency. 

Travis has supported some of the world’s most iconic brands with their learning strategies and programs, including Apple and Dell. His deep expertise in workforce transformation makes him the ideal person to talk to about helping organizations shift from being consumers of talent to being creators of talent. 

On the podcast, Travis shares one of his favorite pieces of advice: “Reward the behavior you want to see. Within our data with Skill IQ, we have the ability to identify top talent. They should be rewarded and turned into influencers of your program. Include them in town halls and road shows, put them into newsletters, and let everybody know that it's cool to participate.”

Listen to the full episode of Perspectives in Leadership:

In this episode, Travis touches on the most actionable insights from Pluralsight’s Tech Talent report. Let’s take a closer look at hiring tech talent, workforce transformation, and where the two intersect. 


What does “empowering tech talent” mean?

Ultimately, achieving the greatest results in your organization comes down to enabling and empowering your employees to make decisions for themselves and for the good of the company at all levels. In many cases, this change takes shape as not only a type of workforce transformation but also a cultural transformation. That’s where psychological safety comes into play. Travis notes, “The admission of having to grow a skill can be a bit humbling and exposing. The creation of psychological safety is incredibly important to any upskilling or reskilling program.”

People need to feel safe consuming Skill IQs or even taking a foundational level course that is in a new capability area for them. To break down barriers, Travis suggests tapping into a leader who's willing to be vulnerable. This leader should be willing to raise their hand and not only complete a Skill IQ, but also post that Skill IQ publicly for everyone in the business to see. This action typically sends a tidal wave of security throughout the organization. 

Keeping Top Tech Talent in a Volatile Industry

Leaders within organizations often find themselves working to acquire top talent coming out of college, striving to train skilled labor, and trying to tackle rising attrition rates. Travis notes that the younger talent coming out of college is still very hungry. “Five years ago, we did a pilot for Skill IQ and the pilot was all recently graduated software engineers. And as part of the pilot, [we] asked them to take two Skill IQs and provide feedback. After the first week, the software engineers had already completed their first two and many of them were on three and four and five. They were just very hungry to grow and to prove themselves to their leaders.” 

This experience drove Travis and his team to embed Pluralsight into the intern program as means of building up skilled labor and getting tech talent acclimated with work. The feedback turned out really great and the interns loved it.

Concerning the Great Resignation

There are people who leave because they don't feel like they have an opportunity. There are also people leaving over their salaries. Travis explains, “Those two things you have to think about and how they work together. Are we paying people what they deserve to be paid against the industry? And secondly, if we are, how do we create opportunity in our own business so that we don't have people walking away for another opportunity?”

How can organizations tap into existing internal tech talent?

Travis recommends starting with the discovery process and determining the “why” behind your workforce transformation initiative. 

“It often comes down to build versus buy. People have realized that unless you're Google or Apple, you can no longer continue to afford to keep buying your talent,” he explains. “There is a talent deficit somewhere in the business that they need to solve for. By looking at the business strategy and figuring out what that deficit is, we can either build multiple programs or a single program to eliminate that deficit.”

Instead of having to allocate funds to hire dozens if not hundreds of net-new employees, organizations can begin by reviewing their inventory and insights to tap into existing skilled labor. That might look like identifying necessary capabilities for desired roles and having employees take Skill IQs to create an inventory of skilled labor capabilities. This inventory reveals the proficiency level of people within the organization, who can then be put into a related academy to skill up and fill roles. 


How Does Cloud Transformation Affect Workforce Transformation?

Cloud transformation is complex and involves multiple players with a lot of complimentary things happening at once. Most people don't go to the cloud unless they're working in Agile. Typically they don't go to the cloud unless they've stood up DevOps. The journey will naturally be longer and more complex if you’re building foundational pieces versus if you already have them in place. Regardless of where you are in your cloud transformation journey, Travis emphasizes the importance of having an executive sponsor when launching initiatives to attract and retain skilled labor. Going one step further, be sure to align the launch of workforce transformation programs with the availability of your executive sponsor to reduce potential blockers. 

How to build psychological safety during workforce transformation

Going back to psychological safety, people often have a hard time speaking up and sharing ideas that differ from their manager, director, or senior director. To overcome this common challenge, Travis recommends that leaders be as transparent as possible in regard to how they’ll use skills-related data. Even before releasing a learning and development-related program, organizations should prioritize communications and marketing around why they’re doing this and what they’re going to do with the data. 

“Transparency and skills lead to talent mobility. If you tell that story the right way, it not only creates calmness, but it also creates this hunger because people want to participate. People want to grow and people want to find opportunities. And when you have transparency and skills, then you're able to do that,” expands Travis. 

To hear the full discussion about attracting top tech talent with Travis Wickesberg, be sure to subscribe to Pluralsight’s Perspectives in Leadership podcast