Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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SAP Survey Finds Retailers Starving for Tech Talent 

When it comes to technology, retailers are struggling to find professionals with everything from managing analytics to simply operating basic equipment, according to a survey by SAP.

Although retailers reported that they need these tech competencies more than general business and people skills, SAP found that 84 percent of retailers worry they won’t be able to find them. To make matters worse, 93 percent of participants said that their hiring will not decrease in the next two to three years, which could lead to greater scarcity of technological skills when it comes to new hires.

“If you look at the consumerization of IT via mobile devices, it’s an interesting market for retailers,” says Mark Ledbetter, global vice president for SAP’s Retail Industry Business Unit. “They’re not the first to adopt technology—they’re being propelled into this area, which is driven heavily by Millennials.”

“When you consider the marketing and IT organizations within retail, they typically haven’t been on the front edge of engagement in things like social networking,” Ledbetter adds. “They’re there now because they have to be but they didn’t go running into the building as the flames were starting to build.”

When asked which specific skills were in such high demand, retail respondents noted that they were looking to fill management-level roles that involve understanding and applying business analytics for retail, optimizing the business for omni-channel commerce, and analyzing consumer behavior to streamline the customer experience.

Within these three areas, 97 percent of retailers expect that finding employees with these skills will be difficult, which could explain why 75 percent said that they planned to look outside the organization when hiring. But to help cover their bases, more than half plan to incorporate either internal or external education to bring existing employees up to speed.

But as far as new hires go, looking outside of the organization doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. For example, top tech companies such as Google and Facebook could snatch up IT talent before retailers can even get their attention.

To combat this, Ledbetter suggests the industry as a whole needs to makeover its image to present itself as forward-thinking.

“Retail is a great industry,” he explains. “It’s for people who are willing to be aggressive and take chances from a management and IT perspective—to be able to blaze the path and set the trail.”

“We need to get out the world that retail will reward those types of professionals.”

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