back to article Employers in denial over success of digital skills training, say exasperated staffers

Digital transformation projects are being held back by a lack of skills, according to a new survey, which finds that while many employers believe they are doing well at training up existing staff to meet the requirements, their employees beg to differ. Skills shortages are nothing new, but the Talent Transformation Global …

  1. jmch Silver badge


    "...although digital transformation initiatives are stalling due to a lack of digital talent, enterprises are becoming increasingly out of touch with what their employees need to fill the skills gap"

    In my experience there is no lack of digital talent, there IS a lack of digital talent willing to take on the roles offered at the rates offered. If you want an experienced techie onsite or 'near-remote', and are willing to pay the local going rates there are plenty of people available. If you wish to take advantage of the remote working revolution and hire someone 100% remote halfway around the globe, there are plenty of freelancers available who are a damn sight cheaper than an outsourcing body-factory (and quite likely as good or better technically).

    If companies want to cut costs, the place to start is having multiple middle management layers full of paper-pushers vying for their fiefdoms and with stronger allegiance to their department than to the company as a whole. I've worked in places where there were 7 to 11 layers between CEO and most junior employees, for an organisation of just over 5k people - absolute nuts!!

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Misalignment

      I absolutely agree. Capability exists, but is not valued according to even market median - at least not by large employers.

      I've seen our data science teams decimated and de-moted in the last three re-organisations; and unsurprisingly, the value added by de-skilling is equally decimated.

      This was exacerbated by a senior manager that viewed data as a necessary evil at best. Thankfully, recently retired.

      One of the biggest challenges in my opinion is merging data science with asset specialisms. People with both skillsets together are rare.

    2. ShadowSystems

      Re: Misalignment

      It's not just misaligned, it's completely fekkin' skewed sideways with a twist & a spacewarp or two thrown in for good measure.

      I second your suggestion to get rid of extra layers of management, but think it should go a step (or two) farther: get rid of all but a single layer of management between CEO & those in the trenches doing the actual work.

      The more management deadwood you prune from the corporate tree, the healthier it'll be & the longer it might survive.

      1. Martin Gregorie

        Re: Misalignment

        This applies in spades to HM Civil Service. I've seen the results of not periodically culling the middle ranks in two major departments when on contract there: in both cases the resulting failures of middle management caused multi-year delays in implementing much-needed new systems.

        Lord Agnew quoted very similar failings on the part of the Treasury, the British Business Bank and the National Audit Office in his resignation speech in the Lords yesterday, i.e. a total inability to understand or do their jobs.

        By contrast, I've also worked in a major IT consultancy that used the opposite approach, with minimal bureaucracy between Galactic HQ and the business units, which were structured as small, independent companies that could easily be restructured and/or re-targeted as business needs changed. This resulted in a nice working environment and one that worked well until the founders retired and the new boss proved inadequate for the job.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: one that worked well until the founders retired

          While I certainly do not want to advocate having many layers of demonstrably unnecessary management, your experience seems to me to display one possible drawback of not enough levels --- i.e. the potential fragility of a management system that is so flat that the departure of one (or a few) key managers causes such upset. It may be that (e.g.) a few middle managers that know how the business functions could ease a transition at the top.

          Mind you, perhaps the new boss in your case was an internal promotion. In which case just ignore everything I just wrote :-)

          1. Martin Gregorie

            Re: one that worked well until the founders retired

            Mind you, perhaps the new boss in your case was an internal promotion.

            Nope - just an uncharacteristically bad choice made when hiring a new CEO.

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Misalignment

      A good manager can handle (properly) up to four direct reports. A truly exceptional one may be able to handle five, but it's not safe to rely on that. Beyond this, no-one can maintain the required intimate level of knowledge of their colleagues' work, and their team inevitably devolves into factionalism and politicking.

      Failure to adhere to this rule is what gives rise to all those disgruntled-employee stories about glory hounds, seagull management and self-anointed rock stars. Show me a disgruntled employee, and 19 times out of 20, there's an overloaded manager above them.

      It follows that you need at least six layers of management in a company of 5000.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Misalignment

        "It follows that you need at least six layers of management in a company of 5000"

        Granted, but given it increases exponentially, 7 levels is already more than enough. 10 levels with a branching factor of 2.5 (ie each manager managing 2 or 3 direct reports) goes to over 6k total headcount.

        Also, regarding managers only being able to competently handle X direct reports, I am a strongbeliever that managers should spend no more than 40-50% of their time managing direct reports, and still need to have actual productive work that theyare doing. This also keeps the managerial class in touch with the actual work being done.

    4. smittyreff

      Re: Misalignment

      I think that the restructuring of the economy cannot happen quickly if we are talking about employees who work remotely. The main thing is to learn more effective management in the current situation.

  2. Santa from Exeter

    Training Gap

    From the Article -

    "Most employees believe that employers should invest in their future by providing skills training, and younger employees have higher expectations, according to the report. In Germany, 69 per cent of employees aged 18 to 29 agreed with this, while in the UK, the age category agreeing most was those aged 30 to 49, at 65 per cent."

    You might well find the difference in the age band between the UK and Germany is down to the training available to the differing age groups.

    In the UK, it's not uncommon for companies to invest in early years training, which then tapers off significantly by the time you reach 30.

    I don't know the situation in Germany, but its possible that the reverse is the case there.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "on behalf of online learning provider"

    Rice-Davies applies.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So basically senior management is out of touch with the employees actually doing the work.

    I just see that as "Business As Usual".

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Work is held back by fekkin' manglement

    We occasionally take on interns, who work a couple of hours per week to do lab work.

    Manglement thinks that they do not need to be provided a company email-account, because of the few hours they work. So the poor sods are forced to fall back onto their private or university email accounts if the need to communicate.

    One would think feudalism ended somewhere way back in time, but not in corporate's mind. There it is going strong. What a pubic display of feces.

  6. HildyJ Silver badge

    Employee skills

    When most employees in a large organization talk of tech skills, they are probably thinking of understanding MS Office (especially Outlook), whatever virtual meeting software they use, whatever specialized applications they use, and the phone system (which I gave up trying to master). They aren't trying to learn the IT aspects, just how to do their job.

    When it comes to IT, training a first level help desk operator is relatively easy but all other aspects of IT are extremely difficult and different roles often have not just different skills but different mindsets. In an earlier life, I was a senior programmer and team lead whose job was moving to another city. I tried to move to network support which was not. I washed out (fortunately without appearing in Who Me?) because it was a totally different mindset.

    The problem is threefold. First, management views people as fungible pawns to be moved as needed. Second, they view 'tech' as a single thing with a single set of training needs which, once satisfied, make the people fungible tech pawns. Third, they don't want to invest the time or money to train up and retain IT professionals.

    Ergo consultants.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is fine!

    And may it last until I retire in a few years!

    The effect it's had on rates where I live and work has been beautiful to behold. I name a number and they don't even quibble. Just "here's the contract, when can you start?"

    Do I selfishly disagree with what other commenters wrote? Absolutely not, but grizzled and cynical, 3 years from giving the lot of it the finger, I no longer care, it's Someone Else's Problem as Saint Doug wrote!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Digital Transformation

    In my company it may as well be called "The War on Productivity".

    And they're winning.


  9. swm Silver badge

    Where I worked the digital skills classes were generally taught by some representative pushing their companies tools. A total waste of time.

    I did attend a 2-week optics course from a local university taught by all of their top professors. I had a ball - it was great. The person sitting next to me (also from my company) complained that quantum mechanics etc. weren't mentioned as a prerequisite. I told him that "every one knows that."

  10. spireite Silver badge

    Training? What's that?

    Outside of the availability of people they could hire, and the salaries they should (but aren't) paid, training is always an issue.

    Even now, perception seems to be

    "We could train you, but..."

    This is based on several assumptions.

    1. They train you, but you leave because someone else will pay you your market worth

    2. They train you using a corporate Udemy (or another one of that ilk)account. but actually don't direct you to the decent courses.

    Number 2 seems to be the way it's going everywhere. If you need to be trained in cloud security, then that should be trained properly. Not just shuffled to some 'pick your own' anonymous course you find in Udemy. There are some shocking coirses on there, there are some very good ones.

    As I see it, if an employer directs me to Udemy, and says 'pick one', rthen that tells me they don't actually care about the subject matter. They are paying lip-service to it.

  11. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Keeping current

    Yeah, without either paid courses, or at least some time set aside now and then for skills training (online tutorials or at least reading up on the current tech), one's skills are going to get out of date. If I were working somewhere that used, say, Python, Oracle and SAP, I enjoy Python and would probably read up on new developments on my own, but I would not be spending time outside work looking into any recent developments in Oracle and SAP.

  12. milos_r

    No bribe - no project

    In my experience with ERP projects in big organizations I have found that only two types of projects get accepted:

    1. The free ones - meaning nobody needs to sign an invoice

    2. The very expensive ones - meaning there were plenty of paid for and expensive lunches

    This toxic environment is the last place a talented and ambitious IT expert should be in.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Training tends to consist of week long QA courses for several grand where someone reads a badly written textbook to you.

    I'm just glad I don't pay for it. I find it fucking useless though. Really need better and longer access to labs for a course to be any use.

  14. Zanzibar Rastapopulous

    Younger employees have higher expectations...

    The difference is called "experience"..

  15. Sanguma

    Work-shy bosses

    Actually pulling finger and getting staff trained is too much like hard work, so the manglement don't do it. Training someone and then upgrading their wages/salary/whathaveyou is again, much too much like actually working, so manglement won't do it and that can be deduced from the oft-times heard complaint that you train someone and then they skive off to greener fields / some louse from some other company poaches them ...

    Of course, the person who shows some initiative and goes and arranges some sort of course him/herself, will never get it credited in any worthwhile manner, because, again, that is too too much like work.

    From which we may hereby deduce that To Boss is To Bludge. The Boss is just a fancier, much better paid Dole Bludger. Disprove that who can.

  16. Douchus McBagg

    the last training i had was nearly a decade ago. That was SCCM 2012, so i got a week out the office to drink free, but average coffee and eat those expensive biscuits - you had to be quick as all the chocolate chip ones were gone by 8:45.

    it promised so much it almost felt like one of those infomercial things "it slices! it dices!, it can cook a perfect roast dinner!"

    we were all so fired up for it when we went back to the office that the inevitable happened.

    the project was tinned.

    since then i've done n amount of things. mobile iron to intune migration, local AD to azure hybrid deployment, thin to fat clients, fat to virtuals, blah blah blah. with no "training".

    if you have a brain, and internet access, "don't panic(tm)". someone somewhere else has probably done the exact same thing you're trying to do, and logged a support ticket on a vendor forum somewhere or in spiceworks.

    so now to the point, same deal. the PA's and Office service teams won't touch the conferencing kit in our event spaces, unless i've hosted "training sessions". this effs me off as i've specced it up and had it programmed so the damn thing would have a single button interface of "if your having a meeting, press this button" - with no training myself.

    thats the difference between us and 'norms'. is how much you panic, or just get on with it when presented with a new situation.

    i've still got my Solaris Admin 1&2 books on the shelf as a reminder of better times, and all my microsoft training manuals gathering dust and making sure the bookshelf doesn't float away. i really should throw them out, but we're thinking of getting a log burner soon....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glass half full

    > Although four in five employers that offer development programmes classified these as being at least moderately successful, only 45 per cent of employees said they found the programmes satisfactory.

    So they're in agreement, give or take 35 percentage points.

  18. imanidiot Silver badge

    Narrow versus broader skill training

    In my experience what most employers tend to offer "of their own free will" is not actually training that really advances knowledge or skill, it's just button pushing in their latest bit of software. The PHBs and other manglement feel great because they're "training staff" but in the it is usually training with a very narrow focus only applicable to the software stack and methods used by that particular company. Employees (rightly) feel that this is not proper training and time wasting.

    What employees expect is (broader) training in technical skills that they can then develop and apply in that job and any later jobs (within our outside the company currently employing them). That is ofcourse the opposite of what PHBs desire, because they want wage-slaves chained to their desks forever, too afraid to leave the company for greener pastures.

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