From education to employment

Unlocking GenZ’s business technologist potential to plug tech skill gaps

Much has been said about the tech skills gap, but could digital natives be the solution by committee? Gert-Jan Wijman, EMEA VP at Celigo, explains why empowering them to use their digital abilities to ease IT’s workload unlocks a raft of benefits across the business – not just for tech teams.

It’s nothing new to have several generations working alongside each other. Still, as innovation and the pace of change have accelerated over the years, differences in skill sets and attitudes have become more evident. Baby boomers gradually picked up technological skills as they watched digital transformation unfold in front of them, while the Gen Z-ers who are now starting their careers have never known a world without technology.

Similarly, the pandemic’s lasting impact on working patterns and the perspective it has given many on the value of life outside of work means young people entering the workforce in the coming years will approach their jobs with an entirely different mindset than that of past generations.

Although these differences might appear to be a barrier for modern leaders, they also offer a great chance for educators and trainers to develop the next wave of business technologists or tech-savvy employees whose skills can be deployed to ease the burden placed on dedicated IT units. They have the potential to act as a conduit between IT and the wider business, mitigating the impacts of the much-discussed tech skills gap by being entrusted to automate simple everyday tasks and generate efficiencies that would normally take IT teams away from more strategic work. Organisations can enjoy many benefits as a result, as giving IT the support they need will allow them to ensure everyone is working efficiently and adding the most possible value.

Gen Z: the perfect business technologists?

It was once a common perception that success and progression were linked with how much time an employee spent behind their desk. But today’s young workforce possesses a digital-first mindset that understands how technology makes it possible to be productive no matter where they log on.

Similarly, they also think it’s crucial to strike a good balance between their personal and professional lives. Business leaders cannot expect them to put in long hours if their time is focused on monotonous, repetitive duties like manually monitoring data or logging invoices rather than a more creative or strategic task.

With the right approach, this mindset will prove invaluable in upskilling the workforce and integrating new technologies to create operational efficiencies across their organisations.

The upside of the business technologist transition

Companies that empower younger employees to become business technologists have several advantages. Low- and no-code platforms can help them manage many of the simpler duties that weigh down the IT department, even if they might not have the same depth of expertise as a specialist technical employee. Plus, generative AI has made it easier than ever for technical tasks to be handed to people with little or no coding experience.

Gen Z’s potential to reduce IT’s workload will help alleviate the effects of the gap in tech skills. Many of them are already skilled at finding new tools and streamlining manual or siloed operations, meaning they could allow IT teams to cut down the time spent on tedious jobs like sifting through API documentation to install tools and focus their energy on the right places. When day-to-day employees, who will have a more intimate understanding of business objectives, are given greater control over technical initiatives, they can better ensure that a wider context is embedded in their technical work to improve the chances that digital transformation efforts will be successful.

IT  teams can then devote their time to product development, enterprise architecture management and driving the organisation’s technical strategy. And with this extra space, IT can also upskill and interact with staff more effectively, treating them as partners rather than as ‘clients’ who only come to them with minor problems This raises the floor for the entire company, embedding a culture of digital literacy from the ground up.

Creating avenues for better compliance

Business technologists, under IT’s supervision, could also prove to be valuable assets for complying with external regulations, perhaps unexpectedly.

If IT is mired in tedious, point-to-point projects, less time is spent improving data governance through establishing data standards and managing cleanup.

Young workers will also be capable of breaking down data silos between departments by equipping them with the resources they need to integrate applications, such as low- and no-code platforms. As a result, companies can achieve greater system alignment to mitigate compliance risks, like data being left on a platform that shouldn’t be left on simply due to human error.

Grabbing hold of a tech-first future

Businesses would be remiss to overlook Gen Z’s comfort with technology and miss their potential to plug gaps in tech skills by committee. While specialist IT workers are becoming harder to find, empowering young people from around the business to contribute to IT’s work can help ease the impact this lack of available talent has.

It also ensures young employees feel valued and stay committed by giving them a sense of purpose beyond their normal responsibilities. This may represent a shift from the conventional wisdom that IT needed to be exclusively responsible for solving technical issues, but as technology advances, so too must the ways in which businesses engage with it.

By Gert-Jan Wijman, EMEA VP, Celigo

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