Tech layoffs are rising—why Josh Bersin says that’s an opportunity for HR

As fears over a slowing economy spread, so too does news about layoffs, particularly in the tech industry.

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According to Forbes, there have been more than 40,000 tech jobs cut in the first three weeks of the year—across more than 150 companies. Just this week, Microsoft announced it was letting go 10,000 employees, 18,000 jobs were eliminated at Amazon, and Google parent company Alphabet Inc. slashed 12,000 roles.

This could be a goldmine for HR leaders, said industry analyst Josh Bersin on a Human Resource Executive webinar this week, sponsored by ServiceNow.

According to Bersin, the layoffs being seen across the tech sector aren’t just reshaping that industry—they’re creating opportunities throughout many others. As organizations across industries undergo digital transformations in the coming years, he said, they’re going to need top tech talent—who no longer have to be relegated just to tech-specific companies. What we’re seeing in real-time, he said, is the development of a “new tech industry.”

“Those people are going to come into banking, healthcare, automotive, media, retail and hospitality,” Bersin said. “This is your chance over the next year to build the tech team that you’ve been trying to build for many years because you’re all going to go through transformations.”

Those transformations are being influenced by a number of factors: The pandemic, for instance, rapidly accelerated the need for digital-first operations, while the convergence of industries—retailers are getting into healthcare, energy companies are investing in alternate forms of energy, telecom companies are buying up media organizations—is also driving the need for new digital skills within all companies.

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Look at commercial banking, Bersin suggested. Research by the Josh Bersin Academy found significant differences in the talent models for traditional versus “trailblazer” banks (those that are more advanced and set industry standards). The former have 45% of employees in customer-facing roles and just 15% in IT operations. The standout companies, however, flip that model: 55% in IT and 20% in customer-facing jobs.

See also: Let’s talk about layoffs and how to handle them

“These are IT professionals that don’t have the same job titles or same roles as in traditional banks,” he explained, noting those organizations hired tech talent for everything from product managers to analytics to data scientists and designers.

Apart from taking advantage of the influx of skilled technologists now in the market for new jobs, Bersin said, organizations can also support their digital transformation with a focus on internal skills. Capability academies, for instance, are an emerging trend that could significantly alter an organization’s skills makeup—and its ability to be on the leading edge of transformation.

“A capability academy is a conglomeration of content, leaders, development assignments, testing to build capabilities inside of a company,” he said. “It’s a massive thing that we need to invest in in 2023.”

Because, he noted, employers are not just dealing with a labor shortage—they’re also facing a skills shortage. And the need for highly skilled tech workers—whether built internally or brought in from the outside—isn’t going to wane anytime soon.

“Technology is still getting better and better, and more and more digital transformation is taking place. But tech innovation is not just happening in the tech industry anymore.”

Hear more from Josh Bersin on HR tech trends in his keynote address at the free, online HR Tech Conference Virtual, Feb. 28-March 2.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.

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