Three years ago we launched Momentum to help people invest in high-demand professional skills and build a more inclusive tech workforce. Part of how we stay ahead is making the time to personally meet with large enterprises to understand the evolving talent challenges they are facing year over year.
At the end of 2020, with the aim to better plan student programs for the next year, we set an ambitious goal for our team: Meet with 50 companies in 50 days. We spoke with chief technology officers, chief people officers, and other technology and HR leaders at Fortune 500 companies to understand the gaps in their current workforce and what they needed for long-term success.
Here’s what we heard.
1. Bridge the Tech Gap
Big corporations need talent that can bridge the gap between legacy systems and integrating new solutions. Digital technologies are helping companies save money, increase efficiencies and enhance security, but legacy systems don’t always cooperate when you want to integrate a new system or solution. What’s more, the generation that built these systems is retiring and only makes up 25 percent of the current workforce.
If everyone could start with a clean slate by building a brand new platform — they would. But many companies have spent decades and often millions (or billions) of dollars building customized platforms, hence the legacy systems.
In order to effectively compete in the next decade, companies need to be able to securely integrate new IT solutions that fit with the digital economy. This includes replacing hardware, documenting older systems and migrating software to the cloud. To do this successfully, they need technologists who understand older servers and legacy systems, but who can help to vet and integrate new systems. This is why it’s essential to not only invest in recruitment and new talent but to build programs that upskill your current workforce. The institutional knowledge of older workers is often invaluable.
2. Offense Is the Best Defense
In research that came out well over a decade ago, the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering concluded that hackers, on average, attack every 39 seconds. Today, it’s estimated that the number of passwords used by humans and machines worldwide is now 300 billion. According to a study by IBM, the average time to identify and contain a data breach is 280 days, and the average cost to a company in the event of a breach is $3.86 million.
And yet, 63 percent of businesses in North America say they have a shortage of cybersecurity-savvy IT professionals, according to a 2018 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study. Companies need to quickly upskill their existing talent while hiring the best and brightest developers and information security experts, truly helping their tech operations to pivot from defense to offense.
3. Diverse Teams Are the Strongest Teams
Every single company we met with is prioritizing diversity and inclusion efforts, from the boardroom to the hiring teams. Why? There are so many reasons, including that diverse teams perform better and are an overall indicator of success.
McKinsey’s 2019 analysis found that companies whose executive teams ranked in the top quartile for gender diversity “were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.” And, clearly, gender diversity is becoming even more vital over time: These companies were also 21 percent more likely to achieve this profitability in 2017, up from 15 percent in 2014.
The good news is that there is continued recognition for this trend. The bad news is we have yet to see a significant shift in the tech sector. Women technologists make up 28.8 percent of the tech workforce today, which is an increase from past years. But data from AnitaB.org shows that, if numbers continue to grow at the current pace, it could take 12 years before women see equal representation in tech.
What’s making it harder is that, due to “culture,” 50 percent of women in tech leave by age 35, according to a new study by Accenture and Girls Who Code. And 37 percent cite issues related to “inclusivity” as their primary reason for leaving. Unfortunately, the numbers only get worse when surveying lesbian, bisexual, transgender women and women of color. For instance, according to the study, “just 67 percent of women of color see a clear pathway from studying tech, engineering or math to a related career.” And in companies that are “less inclusive,” only 35 percent of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are likely to “say they love their jobs.”
Companies need to address this by not only actively recruiting diverse talent but building an inclusive workforce where diverse talent comes — and stays.
So What’s the Takeaway?
While integrating legacy systems, thwarting hackers and increasing diversity may seem like a daunting to-do list. But investing in the right talent, upskilling your workforce and fostering a truly inclusive culture that invites everyone to bring their “real selves” to work each day are all goals that everyone at an organization can work toward achieving.
Companies can do this by:
- Upskilling their current workforce with an emphasis on programs for older workers.
- Adopting new technologies to enhance cybersecurity.
- Investing in experts who have deep expertise with personalized cybersecurity programs.
- Placing an emphasis on retaining managers who lead with humanity and empathy.
- Empowering workers to take greater control of their careers while balancing their personal lives.
While several executives shared that these are challenges that keep them up at night, the good news is, leaders who take these steps are well positioned to build a workforce that is happy, productive and ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.