Overcoming the skills challenge by providing a great place to work

Companies in the technology industry have a responsibility to provide desirable places to work

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With the IT industry skills shortage a perennial talking point, many organisations are hungry for ideas regarding how to attract and retain top talent. A recent CompTIA report found that 45 per cent of Australian teenagers would consider a career in technology but 35 per cent believe they lack the preparation and exposure to technology in high school or university.

In the same report, teens were asked about specific career opportunities and the most popular choices were designing video games, working in emerging technologies such as robotics, running a tech business, and working in cybersecurity.

Each of these options is viable and exciting yet they don’t encompass the sheer range of opportunities out there for people who are willing to grab them. It’s important for everyone, regardless of age or experience, to take full responsibility for their own careers, pursuing the training and education required to prepare them for the roles they want.

Companies in the technology industry have a responsibility to provide desirable places to work. This basically comes down to making people feel safe, comfortable, trusted, and valued at work. While most companies pay fairly convincing lip service to these ideals, bringing them to life takes a conscious and proactive approach, which is uncompromising in terms of fidelity to the organisation’s vision.

When people leave companies, they tend to do so because of a troublesome manager or a negative culture, not necessarily because the career progression was limited. Therefore, senior leaders need to ensure that they create a strong and positive culture in which workers can thrive; the business performance will take care of itself as long as the people are happy, safe, and inspired. At Insentra, we have built an organisation with a strong culture that has led to the company being ranked 8th, 4th, 2nd and 3rd in Australia's Great Place to Work study.

One of the most important things organisations need to do is live their values in very specific and explicit ways. For example, if one of the key values is honesty, then it’s important to demonstrate there is no room for movement. If someone acts dishonestly, the organisation needs to address the issue immediately and decisively.

When everyone in an organisation realises that they’re working in a safe place with zero tolerance for politics, undermining or dishonesty, they can relax and actually do their best work; after all, that’s why we hired them in the first place. It’s the senior leadership’s responsibility to embody, exhibit and reinforce these values.

Consistency and openness are essential for businesses to consciously create a strong culture. It’s crucial to be upfront about what’s expected from workers as well as what they can expect in return from the company. No one person is individually responsible for this although the ultimate responsibility must lie with the CEO. That said, it’s incumbent upon every member of the organisation to actively reinforce the culture and demonstrate the agreed-upon values. Culture starts at the top, percolates from the bottom and permeates within.

If a vision statement is just a paragraph on a website, in a business plan and on a poster on the wall, then the organisation won’t live up to it. It’s important to continually refer back to the vision explicitly and remind the team of the organisation’s direction and their role in helping it get there. This helps ensure everyone is on the same train, striving together to achieve the same goals.

A company’s ability to do this comes down to culture. And a strong, positive culture must be deliberately created, carefully nurtured, and proactively managed. When an organisation has a reputation for being outstanding culturally, it will become easier to attract excellent people to join the crew.

Ronnie Altit is CEO at Insentra and executive council member, ANZ channel community, CompTIA.

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