Software Development Resources - Hiring New Vs. In-House Training?

Today, business organizations, from enterprises to SMEs, are all competing to hire skilled IT professionals in cloud computing and other key emerging technologies such as AI/ML, cyber security, blockchain, etc. for their software development projects and this trend is expected to heighten in both magnitude and geography in the near future. 

In fact, due to the urgent needs and acceleration of digital transformation, business organizations may find that the lack of software development resources, including qualified developers, and IT technical gaps are actually growing more and more, especially in 2022. And the lack of IT resources is increasing due to companies struggling to hire capable software engineers and other IT professionals for their projects.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the spread of geographical competition, forcing companies to hire software developers from external sources like outsourced employees, or remote workers, allowing them to apply for permanent work from home - or some even established an off-shore development center. This new hiring strategy allows companies to increase the size of their IT employees and allow employees to work on new jobs outside of their local area.

Still, collectively, these elements make it difficult to recruit and retain high-quality IT talent. 

Look In-House for Untapped IT Talents

Yet, many of your current IT staff may have skills and knowledge that are not currently put into use in their daily jobs, which may make it easier to allow them to acquire new skills. Together, these hidden knowledge and skills offer a large pool of potential, untapped IT talents.

By leveraging the hidden and transferable skills and knowledge of their existing IT team, organizations can actually reduce hiring needs and retention problems. Additionally, hidden skills and knowledge are not actually as disguised as the name implies. It is simply not only being leveraged in the current position.

For instance, you could have a software developer working in sales systems with a bachelor's degree in applied mathematics or a Software tester/QC who has a background in computer science and programming language. Still, none of these employees is currently disclosing their background in math or computer science, and virtually no one knows they actually possess such skills in the office because they do not apply them to the person's current job.

Here, these skills are the catalyst that enables your current employees to learn and acquire other skills. 

Additionally, learning a new programming language like .NET would be easier for Java developers than it would be for someone who never programmed or coded before. This is because the Java developers already have an understanding of programming language concepts like OOP, database structures, coding best practices, and QC/software testing - knowledge that is transferable. 

Before looking to hire from external sources for the projects, IT leaders may want to look internally for employees within the company who have the necessary background knowledge, and/or skills for the potential job roles but are not currently employed for ones.

For instance, with some training, the Python programmer with a mathematics or statistics background could effectively grow into a data scientist role.  

This approach has several benefits:

  • Hiring risk is reduced because this person is already proven to be a capable employee.
  • The cost of training and time taken for an existing team member to perform the new role is likely to be less than the cost of hiring a new employee.
  • In a competitive job market, the salary of an employee promoted into the role of a data scientist, a machine learning engineer, could be a lot less than the compensation package needed to hire someone new from another company
  • Business organizations can create a boost in morale and loyalty because employees can see that the company is willing to support people to grow and develop their career paths professionally.

How To Get Started?

Aligning skills and knowledge to a new IT job may seem simple and easy at first, but it actually requires a deep understanding of your team member’s technical skillsets and educational background. Back to the example of the Python programmer with a background in math, he or she is unlikely to step forward to apply for the role of a data scientist on their own.

This is because the employee probably doesn't know the position is open, and even if they do, they're unlikely to show up because they may think that they are not qualified. Finding out the employee's hidden skills and knowledge, IT leaders to HR can go to them and offer them the necessary training to advance to this role

On the other hand, transferable skills could be harder to utilize than hidden ones because the connection may seem less obvious at first. For example, if your organization is de-commissioning a legacy system and moving to the cloud, you may miss the transferable skills within your legacy operations team.  

And while the technologies and terminology can be very different, the operational concepts, processes, and escalation procedures are conceptually the same. 

  • The legacy systems skills example illustrates the advantages of identifying skills that are transferable and people who are willing to learn the new technology.
  • Your legacy operator employees are more likely to stay until the old system is decommissioned, thus saving businesses from a potential legacy skills shortage prior to its removal.
  • You will have an experienced and skilled team that can readily jump into the job, with a beforehand understanding, that they will have to gain experience on various new technologies.
  • Business organizations can demonstrate to IT employees working on obsolete technologies that they are willing to retrain them for new positions, not just leave them aside.

And IT leaders don't have to do it all by themselves. Human resources departments are highly capable of identifying the necessary skills and can help with competency assessments and know or already have the necessary experience to do so.