Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why it’s time to be upskilling and retraining your employees in tech

By Alvaro Rojas, Head of Ironhack Remote

It’s been a tough few months for many brands, companies and agencies. Enterprises of all types and sizes have been forced into a digital arena that may once have been well outside their comfort zone.

The shock and uncertainty that lockdown generated led to a hiring freeze from March to June, even in tech. However, there are no macroeconomic nor structural reasons that would explain a low hiring rate or freeze in tech for months ahead. Actually, quite the opposite: as the second coronavirus wave progresses and a long and difficult winter looms on the horizon, brands will need to focus even more strongly on their digital offering, which will require a huge investment in tech talent. 

The jump to digital

Education companies were forced to make decisions quickly and only those who were able to adapt to a new approach to learning in a remote environment have been able to keep up. At Ironhack, we had previously offered intensive on-campus-only tech classes in our international schools; suddenly we found ourselves having to quickly reinvent ourselves, rolling out our remote bootcamps – which had been sitting in the planning pipeline for a while – in record time. 

Quickly, we noticed new audiences interested in our training; parents with small kids to take care of at home, white-collar employees with difficult working schedules looking to transition into a part-time format, emigrants looking to return to their country of origin with a successful career change and young people becoming increasingly aware that more businesses are moving to digital.

We needed to shift our focus fast to suit their needs, and now our courses can happen in a live virtual environment as well as in-person on campus, allowing students to join wherever and whenever works best for them, in a flexible way. We also quickly adapted our curriculum with tools to enable our alumni to work even better remotely (using tools such as Miro, Figma, Google Colab, Visual Studio Code or Mural).

The point is, we had to move swiftly to be accessible in a more digital space and to stay relevant, useful and practical for our users whilst maintaining the same level of content and quality of teaching. Once our on-campus courses are able to return safely, we’ll continue to be able to offer the remote course as a useful alternative to students around the world.

Boosting the tech talent pool

Recent data from Tech Nation highlighted that, pre-Covid-19, the tech sector was already growing six times faster than the rest of the economy, and predictions suggest that by 2030, 50% of the UK economy will be digital, tech and creative industries. With over 13,000 technology jobs posted on in the past fortnight alone, many companies are looking to employ in this area, and require people with the relevant skillset to fit this new virtual and remote digital era. We also recently discovered that Google searches for tech courses and remote learning have jumped up 40%, including areas such as data analytics and web development.

Meanwhile, there are countless examples of companies struggling to keep up with this quick and sudden shift in focus – the extremely successful clothing retailer Primark lost around £800 million during the Covid19 lockdowns, with a 75% drop in revenue as a result of not being digitally ready when its stores were forced to close. 

So, while the need and the drive are both there to invest in tech (from both a consumer and business perspective) there’s really never been a better time to upskill your current employees.

Why upskill rather than employ from scratch?

  1. It’s cheaper and easier than firing and re-hiring new talent. There’s talent there within your existing employee base, and it makes sense to make the most of that before fishing around in the hiring pool
  2. Uplifting and rewarding current staff adds to staff loyalty and boosts their sense of value within your company. If you have furloughed employees with the capacity, now’s the perfect time to be training and upskilling them ready for their return to the ever more digital workforce come October
  3. As more companies realise the importance of a strong digital taskforce, talent could become scarce and you could find yourself fighting to attract talent
  4. It helps with more positive branding for your company. Even if you can’t keep your employees after furlough, helping them in the next step of their career journey is a much better look than simply letting them go

Next steps for upskilling

There are some simple steps you can take for effectively upskilling your workforce, and it starts with working out how your company’s digital needs can work alongside the current skills and interests of your employee base. Perhaps more design and audience-focused employees might consider a step into UX, or someone more focused on figures and stats could shift towards data analytics. Not only are you making the most of their current abilities, but you’re using them as the foundation for a stronger and more versatile company.

Recent events have led to the digital future being forced onto us now – are you, your company and your employees ready? Now’s the time to invest in upskilling and ensure you don’t get left behind.