Home > Human First: Talent Strategies for the Next 25 Years

Human First: Talent Strategies for the Next 25 Years

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This year, we at SolarWinds mark our 25th anniversary. Our longevity is due in no small part to our company’s attitude toward people, whether they are our customers, shareholders, partners, communities, or, of course, our employees.

The talent landscape has seen plenty of ups and downs since SolarWinds was founded in 1999, when the dot-com boom was fueling demand for IT professionals. By 2010, the millennial generation had entered the workforce, and perks like flexible hours and wellness programs became commonplace. In 2020, as we navigated the pandemic, remote work emerged as a standard offering that has since stuck around, increasing the need for IT talent to help keep network infrastructures secure. Employee expectations continue to evolve, and tech companies must keep up to compete for talent in the market. Today, data analytics and digital transformation call for ever more data scientists and analysts, while increasingly sophisticated threat actors drive demand for cybersecurity experts.

As SolarWinds marks a quarter century in business, let’s examine the human capital landscape to explore how we can remain a successful employer and industry leader for the next 25 years.

“Every company is a technology company, no matter what product or service it provides.”

The phrase has proved so accurate that it has become cliché. But as organizations continue to embrace this outlook, the talent market is lagging, unable to provide enough skilled IT workers to fulfill growing demand. A recent Harvard Business Review study revealed that only 13% of employers feel confident hiring and retaining the tech talent they need.

The gap in the market is noticeable. Across the IT industry and beyond, there is a shortage of software developers, artificial intelligence (AI) specialists, data engineers, cloud technology experts, cybersecurity specialists, and a whole host of other roles. While innovation in data analytics, cloud computing, and AI have the potential to ease challenges by automating a range of mundane and time-consuming tasks, they have also added to the talent crisis, given that these skills are among some of the most scarce in the market.

So, what can enterprises do to ensure that current human capital trends don’t devastate business outcomes?

When talent is scarce, start by maximizing the potential of your existing workforce.

Upskilling workers is a good place to start when it comes to ensuring companies have the talent they need. Firstly, clarity on how AI and automation will likely affect specific roles is paramount. With this information, leadership can identify where to invest in internal and external training programs for employees to add new skills to their resume. This serves a dual purpose, helping the company bridge critical talent gaps while demonstrating a commitment to investment in their employees’ development.

Measures like these reflect a deeper philosophy around how organizations invest in and engage their people. First in 2023 and again in 2024, Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Report cited “human sustainability” as a principle to help companies drive business success by nurturing individuals. Instilling a culture of continual skill development is critical.

A report by McKinsey suggests rotating high performers across different domains to prevent stagnation while cultivating a broader range of expertise. Additionally, providing opportunities for employees to connect with in-house industry thought leaders is a proven strategy. At SolarWinds, our Career Mentoring Program facilitates one-on-one mentoring relationships, connecting mentees with company leaders for learning and development. Leadership Journeys are offered quarterly and cater to both aspiring and seasoned leaders. We also provide several leadership coaching programs that equip leaders with advanced coaching skills to foster growth and connection among professionals.

Programs like these are only the beginning. As business needs shift and new technologies create new imperatives, companies who are proactive about channeling their resources toward skills development will find that, over time, they consistently have the talent they need to achieve their business goals.

Upskilling from within is crucial. But with competition so fierce, companies are also finding ever more creative ways to attract the employees they need. Bringing in external talent with diverse backgrounds and experience is critical to a well-balanced organization.

Proactively sourcing early-career talent is a potential solution.

We are going through a turbulent period for human capital. The Great Resignation was followed by the Great Reshuffle as companies adapted to a changing macroeconomic environment. Some tech giants laid off over 20,000 employees in just under a year. For a short time, the talent pool was flooded with highly skilled talent, giving smaller savvy tech companies a strategic new pipeline of talent.

At SolarWinds, we source both experienced hires and early-career talent as part of our recruitment strategy. One of the components of this is our Global Intern Program, which secures high-potential talent early in their careers.

Historically, apprenticeships were pivotal in molding skilled professionals. Think of carpenters, stonemasons, and shipbuilders honing their craft through hands-on experience. Today, it stands to reason that our youth should learn skills like software development, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity—the contemporary counterparts to those traditional trades. A recent report by MIT cites precedents for sourcing talent from a pre-graduate stage. Companies can customize the training their candidates or employees receive to match their specific needs. The study also indicates that candidates who come through early-career programs are more likely to remain with the company for more than five years, helping offset the cost of education with the resources saved on rehiring.

Inclusion and belonging are central to a sustainable human capital strategy.

According to Deloitte, Gen Z and millennial workers who are satisfied with their employers' efforts to foster diversity and inclusion are more inclined to remain with their employers for more than five years. One McKinsey report found that companies with gender diversity are 25% more likely to be profitable, and those with ethnic diversity are 36% more likely to be profitable than their peers. Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum suggests that organizations with diverse staff experience a potential increase of up to 20% in innovation rates and 19% higher revenues from innovation.

Last year, SolarWinds established an Inclusion and Belonging Committee. This committee collaborates to celebrate diversity and foster cultural awareness across all levels of our organization. We continuously work to create an environment where everyone feels valued and empowered through initiatives such as learning paths, inclusive leadership sessions, annual pay equity reviews, and promoting correct pronouns in communications. Our Inclusion and Belonging Community-led fireside chats feature leaders from diverse communities within SolarWinds and beyond.

The benefits of initiatives like these are evident, not only from an ethical standpoint but also from a business perspective. By cultivating a vibrant and inclusive culture, we create an environment where every individual can flourish in their work. In the process, we ensure that our organization reflects the values of the emerging generation of professionals who will drive our enterprise into the next quarter-century.

The Talent Continuum: A Path to Human Sustainability

Since 1999, we have seen countless changes in how companies attract, develop, and retain the individuals they need to drive business success. Every era brings unique trials, and today, we are witnessing significant human capital disruption as technological change transforms workflows while the labor market struggles to catch up. A positive response to these challenges is critical. Forward-thinking companies that proactively channel their resources to address shortfalls can establish structures to ensure long-term human sustainability. As we mark our 25th anniversary, SolarWinds is determined to adopt innovative approaches to help source valuable talent, and we are committed to seeing that the individuals who have contributed to our success emerge from this transition more skilled, adaptable, and confident in their work. If we get it right, we can make sure we have the people we need to propel the company to another 25 years of growth and innovation.

Emily Wilsford
Emily is a seasoned HR leader and human capital consultant with over 13 years of experience across various industries, including tech, e-commerce, and consumer packaged…
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