Breaking down bridges, bridging the gap

In his Autumn 2017 budget, Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced the Government would invest £84 million (€95.29 million) to train new GCSE teachers for computer science. He also said the government will work with industry to create a National Computing Centre.

The initiative is a great way to help close the skills gap in the IT and technology sector. However, skills are not the only problem. Here, Graham Smith, head of marketing at Microsoft recruitment partner, Curo Talent explains how remote working could close the IT skills gap.

Something that isn’t talked about nearly enough is the fact that the IT sector, which, by nature, should enable remote working, hasn’t moved away from the inflexible office environment. Therefore, unless IT students are already living in areas like London, Birmingham, Bristol or Edinburgh, they are usually forced to relocate to find a position where they can put their skills to use. It’s time to change that.

Changing the IT workplace

Employers need to change how they think about workspaces. They should consider investing in technology such as tablets or laptops for staff to use instead of desktop computers as well as software such as Microsoft’s Remote Desktop, to configure laptops to remotely access company servers. Any central office spaces should also be set out to support hot desking rather than having set workspaces for individuals.

If the industry doesn’t embrace a more mobile working environment that incorporates remote working, we might still miss out on this new talent.

Future workplace for future employees

The future employee must be less confined to a strict office-based work model. The expectations of our workforce will change as Millennials and Generation Z start to outnumber the baby boomers and Generation X.

These newcomers are used to experiencing the world at the swipe of a finger, constantly on the move with mobile technology. So, we should anticipate a future workforce that is more mobile and geographically spread, making use of cloud systems, apps and wearable technology.

By creating an environment that enables employees to work at times that suit them, from wherever suits them, you automatically become more capable of meeting the needs of the 21st Century workforce.

Millennials and Generation Z value a healthy work/life balance and by giving them the freedom to be at home when they are needed and working when they are capable of being productive, staff satisfaction will dramatically increase.

Infrastructure for remote working

If you have staff working from home, or coming and going at hours to suit them, you need to be confident that they can use technology, such as project management software or accessing servers remotely, in an effective and secure way. Employees unfamiliar with cybersecurity basics can quickly become a threat to your business when they are on the move.

With remote working, system security can become harder to maintain. If staff working remotely are using their own devices, systems they log into can become compromised if their laptop is not fully protected with appropriate anti-virus software. If they are using devices provided by the business, monitoring to make sure they do not leave it logged in where others could access systems, or simply lose the device on public transport is a threat that is hard to manage.

Any IT manager or chief information officer (CIO) has to be prepared to incorporate tools that will help teams that are spread geographically to work effectively. This includes documentation, storing materials or notes in a place where everyone can access them and project management tools that can be used remotely.

Maintain trust remotely

Graham Smith

It’s also important to consider how to build trust between you and your staff when they are working remotely. Setting clear objectives or key performance indicators (KPIs) will be vital to keep remote workers on track.

You should also look at the benefits you offer your staff. Knowing that the next generation places a higher value on purpose and values instead of financial incentives means you can structure a more meaningful benefits scheme. For example, unlimited holiday time similar to what Netflix and LinkedIn provide or offering a certain number of hours per month to be used to support a charity.

The future of work is getting a lot of airtime from experts and vendors alike. This covers personalised workspaces, changing working practices and the increasingly important role of mobility remote working. This model also allows businesses to hire and retain the best people. They are not limited to candidates that are close geographically or only those that are prepared to relocate — enabling businesses to select the best candidates.

The author of this blog is Graham Smith, head of marketing at Curo Talent

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow

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