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A critical strategy for every organization

Aaron Skonnard

You can’t hire your way out of a skills shortage. Your team can’t Google their way to proficiency. If you held in-person training before every new project, you’d never deliver anything.

The methods companies have traditionally relied on to build technology skills just don’t cut it anymore. They’re not sustainable. They’re not scalable. They don’t keep up with technological change. In fact, they’re a first-class ticket to digital extinction. 

But a new strategy has emerged called technology skill development, and it’s the difference between thriving, surviving and falling behind. Technology skill development is the most efficient way to continually upskill technology teams, representing an organization’s ability to use technology skills as a competitive advantage and driver of business outcomes. Just as sales leaders rely on CRM and product leaders on CX, the most strategic CIOs and CTOs are relying on technology skill development (or TSD) to continuously outperform and outpace their competition.

What's at stake

To better understand how organizations approach technology skill development today, Pluralsight recently surveyed more than 900 tech leaders, directors and above. Of these, 70% believed success in the next three years depended on their ability to use technology to drive business outcomes and having the right people with the right skills to quickly deliver innovations to market. 

If that seems like a tall order, that’s because it is. Unless your organization can make tech skill development a priority, the pace and complexity of new technology will outpace your ability to capitalize on it. Look at the illustrious Fortune 500. Since 2000, 52% of the companies have fallen off the list. Those that have held strong, like IBM, have continually transformed their businesses and their workforce to keep pace with technology. 

But it’s not just about longevity. Building the right skills is the difference between surviving and thriving. According to IDC, a lack of tech skill development will burden 90% of all organizations with adjusted project plans, delayed product/service releases, incurred costs or lost revenue totalling $390 billion annually, worldwide. 

The good news: It’s not too late to rethink how your organization makes tech skill development a core competency.

Your success depends on skills (and how you think about them)

I’ve spent the last 16 years working with companies of all sizes, across industries and at varying stages of digital transformation. 

The organizations seeing the most success are being intentional and proactive about their skills strategy and prioritizing what their employees need to continually grow and deliver.

The good news

It’s not too late to rethink how your organization makes tech skill development a core competency.

In our survey, 69% of leaders agreed that providing their technologists with robust upskilling opportunities was essential to survival but only 36% believed they have the skill development tools and programs in place to succeed today. That means many organizations feel like they’re falling behind.

How to build a tech skill development strategy

After years of research and thousands of discussions with our customers, we noticed patterns around the people, processes and technologies being used to facilitate tech skill development—some highly strategic and thoughtful, some reactive and disorganized. We developed a maturity matrix based on these findings to help organizations evaluate where their strategy stands today and recognize the characteristics of a more advanced approach.

The best practices we’ve seen among the most strategic orgs include:

Leadership needs to lead the charge 
Technology skill development has to evolve from a fringe effort to the forefront of an organization’s strategic initiatives. And that happens only when CIOs and CTOs get involved. You have to champion it. You have to embrace continual skill development as a competitive advantage and the key to driving business outcomes. 

Hiring a tech skill development leader  
Gone are the days of leaving skill development decisions up to a person or team who doesn’t understand your technology strategy or business needs. A new role is emerging that should be at the top of your hiring list: the director of technology skills. They have a deep understanding of the organization’s business and technology strategy combined with best practices to execute a skills strategy aligned to your goals. 

Indexing skills across your teams 
First things first: You need to know what you’re working with. You can’t organize your teams to be efficient without indexing the skills you have, identifying the skills you need and shining a light on the gaps.

Aligning skill development to your goals
Your technology skills director should work with your tech leaders to map skill development to your business and technology needs. With the help of a technology skills platform, each team member can have a custom skill development plan based on their proficiency level, so they can focus on the skills they need and not waste time on what they already know.

Upskilling employees into modern tech roles 
With skills mapped to your strategic initiatives, you can begin to upskill your teams into the roles you need. Personalized recommendations based on knowledge gaps help employees streamline their skill development and build skills efficiently and confidently. 

Tracking progress and planning for tomorrow  
As expertise grows, business needs change and the market continues to evolve, your tech skills director will continually evolve and improve your skills strategy. They’ll leverage skills insights to measure progress and deliver quantified impact on the business. It’s their job to ensure employees are always prepared for what’s coming next and building the capabilities to capitalize on it. 

Your journey starts here

In this anthology, you’ll hear from leaders on the strategic end of the matrix practicing these tactics to create a company-wide shift toward continual technology skill development. To succeed at your organization, you can’t afford to ignore their advice. Read through their stories, learn from their successes and failures, and get tactical tips on how to build a strategy that helps you keep up, move faster and achieve more.

Technology teams are only as successful as their skills are relevant. This book will expose you to the perspectives and ideas you need to make technology skill development your competitive advantage and a source of reliable, predictable success.

upskilling employees into modern tech roles

Aaron Skonnard cofounded Pluralsight in 2004 and has since grown the company to more than 1,600 employees and more than 1,500 expert authors. As CEO, Aaron focuses on business strategy, future direction, product development and strategic partnerships. Through his leadership, the company has flourished and made its public market debut on May 17, 2018 (NASDAQ: PS).