The shortage of tech talent is all pervasive and doesn’t seem to go away! And, the worst part is that there doesn’t seem to be a systemic solution in sight.

Why is this happening? Let’s go back to the fundamentals and look at the “Cause – Effect – Response” cycle.

Let’s start with the “cause” side. Why does it exist in the first place? The reasons are mostly evolutionary.

The third industrial revolution led to the dawn of the IT age. During the early and mainstream years, there weren’t too many tech product companies. Majority, were in the services & solutions space where unlike the product space, the “tech quotient” required for success was not very high. What was required was a “process mindset” with a light sprinkle of technology. In these companies, there was limited place/need for deep tech talent. Hence, the proportion of good tech talent was always low.

Post the first wave of e commerce ( the “Dot com” era) of the early 2000s, there was a significant rise in the demand of tech talent to develop products & platforms. And, then came the start-up wave which pushed the demand to an all time high. This was followed by the pandemic, which sky rocketed the demand as #digitalfirst became the mantra for every business.

Now, let’s look at the “response” side. So, how did the industry respond?

While the problem was “revolutionary”, the response like in the past, was “evolutionary/incremental”. More of the same “means” was expected to result in different “ends”. It’s like doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result – while, we all know that this leads us nowhere, however, the stakeholders at play continue to give this a deaf ear. Nothing, radical has been attempted.

Companies have been loud mouthing the “up/re skilling mantra” as the panacea for the problem. However, these implementations have failed. Most of the times, this has been paid lip service without any real intent or focus. No one seems to be walking the talk and putting money where their mouth is. Half-baked plans and a minimal spend approach ( provide self-paced learning materials to employees and let them learn during their free time/weekends with minimal in person support) with no real incentives and/or innovative design/methods to generate pull in the learners has resulted in sub optimal outcomes. The stakeholders forget that a large chunk of the employees getting up/re skilled are from the “Google Code” generation i.e. they summarily lift and shift patches of code from the internet without really getting into the fundamentals as they lack basic algorithmic and design thinking. Rather than addressing the systemic reasons, it’s the symptoms that get addressed. These initiatives have been mostly left to the Talent Development departments, who find minimal support from Operations or/and Finance. How do you build a sky scraper without a deep and broad foundation?

As up/re skilling hasn’t worked, the Talent Acquisition teams in tech companies are left with no choice but go all out and poach from others. Everyone is dipping in the same pond without creating new ponds. This has resulted in salaries sky rocketing to unsustainable levels! This is bound to explode.

So, unless the response changes to something more radical and disruptive, transcending organizational constraints and barriers to change, the status quo shall remain.

I welcome thoughts/ideas on how we can disrupt the status quo and solve this seemingly intractable problem.

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