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5 key strategies to upskill teams for the cloud

The demand for cloud skills continues to grow, and is outpacing the availability of fully skilled professionals.  This leaves technology leaders with a dilemma: if they can’t hire the skills they need, how do they create the skills they need?

It can seem like a daunting task. IT  leaders must comprehend a multitude of different cloud technologies, along with all the advantages and risks they offer. Now, they are also expected to understand how to develop their team’s skills to exploit and support cloud tech. Yet with the right tools and mindset, it can be manageable. To start, look for the right partners and the right approach.

First, seek out for upskilling or learning partners based on their depth of coverage. It’s relatively easy to find cloud training aligned to the major cloud vendors’ certification programs, but that training only scratches the surface. Most cloud certifications are broad but not especially deep, meaning focusing solely on certifications can create dangerous operational gaps in a team’s knowledge base. Certifications also provide no learning diagnostic, meaning they can’t determine what teams already know and what they have yet to learn. Upskilling partners who offer granular assessments can usually help teams laser-in on their weak areas, helping ensure more complete skill coverage.

“Coverage” also shouldn’t exclusively depend on first-party content released by cloud vendors. That first-party content is valuable; after all, the vendors know their platform better than anyone. But third-party learning content can reflect different perspectives, different use cases and more. Third-party content can provide valuable supplements to cloud vendor content by providing more depth in key areas, covering niche areas or filling critical gaps. And all of that content combined with an artificial intelligence-based skill assessment and diagnostics system delivers a powerful, turnkey way of building skills.

Second, look for partners that can help measure outcomes. Skill growth is fine, and being able to objectively assess a team’s skills is great.  But what really matters is putting those skills to work. Leading-edge learning partners can help analyze that by connecting to an individual team's environment and showing the change in, say, developer productivity in relation to skill uplift. That’s the ultimate measure of any learning program’s success: the ability for teams to better do their jobs.

There are two leadership-level anchors needed to make any skill-up effort successful. The first is a full, executive-level commitment to the skills development program. Learning and the subsequent upskilling it brings isn’t something that can happen “in the corners” or on learners’ own time during lunch or outside of work. Learning must be a recognized part of the production environment, with time and space set aside to make it happen. Thirty to 60 minutes a day is fine (and corresponds well to the cognitive limits of most adults), but upskilling must be just as sustained an effort as any production task. Learning must be part of team members' jobs, not a “necessary evil” that’s tolerated for a short period of time.

The second thing leaders must do -- and this is especially applicable to cloud skills -- is think carefully and deliberately about the job roles that support the organization's cloud efforts. Is the developer of yesteryear the same as the cloud developer of today? Do they execute the same job tasks, or has the list shifted with this new technology approach? Thoughtfully examining the skills needed by each job will help develop a truly role-based skills development program.

Role-based upskilling programs are effective because they help guide learners to the right learning, assess their skills as they relate to their job and ensure that the right skills wind up in the right people’s hands. Again, experienced learning partners can help assemble these roles, based on their experiences with hundreds and thousands of other organizations’ needs and alignments.

Key takeaways for technology leaders dealing with cloud skills:

  1. Work with a learning partner whose platform supports granular, diagnostic-style skill assessments.
  2. Focus on depth of coverage as well as breadth, and look for a mix of first-party and third-party learning content.
  3. Adopt a vision in which skills are best measured through their ability to positively impact production outcomes.
  4. Make upskilling and learning part of the organizational culture, in which learning happens as a daily, routine part of business, and not as a one-time extraordinary effort.
  5. Carefully define the skills needed by each job role, and ensure job roles align to the modern realities of cloud technology. 

About the Author

Nate Walkingshaw is chief experience officer at Pluralsight.


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