Online education: The new weapon in employee retention

Companies already have the right people they need to fill in-demand technology roles, writes Mohamed Elarab



“Give someone a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.”

Given its ubiquity throughout modern history, this quote has a resonant message, and part of its appeal has to do with its broad applicability—it’s relevant to so many different uses. The quote is generally interpreted as a lesson about self-sufficiency, but it’s also sage advice when thinking about short-term ‘band-aids’ vs. long-term solutions. Why solve something for a day, only to have the same problem again tomorrow? Why not embrace a long-term solution that eliminates the problem once and for all?

Hiring managers and recruiters confront this issue every day. After all, hiring is essentially an act of problem-solving—a company has a need, and the right hiring decision will solve for it. But what is the right hiring decision? If you’re a company in need of talent, the solution is often right in front of you.

According to a report last year by Glassdoor, technology ranks fifth for the highest value of unfilled jobs. And in ManpowerGroup’s 11th-annual Talent Shortage Survey, tech jobs ranked the second hardest to fill. If we take blockchain – and its recent rise to fame – as an example, we can see how the supply demand gap is very wide. For every qualified blockchain developer, there are 14 open job positions. Comparing that to qualified accountants for instance, where for every open position there are hundreds of applicants, sometimes over 1,000 in some markets. Another wide supply-demand gap is seen in cybersecurity jobs, whereby research company Cybersecurity Ventures stated that 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs are likely to go unfilled globally by 2021.

At Udacity, we think there are people at your company right now, who are just a nanodegree programme away from giving you exactly what you need. Don’t believe us? Poll your employees today. Find out whether someone at your company harbours an interest in data science or AI. Chances are, there are many who would jump at this kind of opportunity.

In a world marked by rapid technological advancement, more and more companies all across the hiring landscape are embracing digital transformation initiatives, and this is leading them to look anew at the talent within their own ranks. This is why we work directly with hundreds of different companies; both regionally and globally, who are investing in their employees by proactively offering opportunities to re-skill and up-skill through online tech education.

The new hiring landscape is defined by agility, growth mindset, adaptability, creativity, and grit.
That’s not to say that acquired skills don’t matter—they do—but the ability to learn new skills has become just as important as the skills you already possess. More importantly, there are many tangible benefits to hiring from within.

Addressing the talent gap

Today’s market is characterised by not only fierce competition, but the talent is also a limited resource. Cloud Foundry’s 2016 Developer Skills Gap report found that companies are increasingly choosing training over hiring or outsourcing as the preferred method for addressing a shortage of skills in their own companies. And why wouldn’t they? Skilling up your existing workforce is the most effective way to future-proof your organisation, and counterbalance a prevailing shortage of specialised talent. Not to mention, the time and money spent on training existing employees is far less than that of hiring new ones.

Satisfied employees work harder

A recent research by organisational scientist Timothy Judge has demonstrated that employees’ overall job satisfaction is correlated with work performance. And this comes as no surprise, if you are happy at your job, then you will work hard to keep it. Another survey by Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016 showed that 82 per cent of respondents believe that culture is a potential competitive advantage for employers.

More importantly, promoting a culture where employees know they can be promoted at any time fosters motivation and a sense of achievement, which in turn encourages them to work harder to prove themselves.

Internal hires don’t rock the boat

There is always an adjustment period with outside hires. While some sail smoothly through the transition phase, many don’t adapt well and end up leaving soon after they start. Moreover, new hires need time to adapt to the company’s culture, its best practices and management styles.

The key lesson here lies in the distinction between ‘a day’ and ‘a lifetime’. As a company, when it comes to making hiring decisions, you want to invest in a long-term solution that works for the long term, and that’s what investing in the development of existing employees is all about. When you need talent, you often don’t need to look outside the confines of your own organisation.

Mohamed Elarab is enterprise lead for MENA at Udacity