The struggle to close the widening skills gaps is a perpetual source of frustration for employers.
The problem for many is that the traditional approach to filling skills gaps has become less and less effective.
Every company on the planet seems to be on a mission to build a superstar tech team, and that means developers, cloud specialists and cybersecurity professionals are being snapped up at a rate that means it’s almost impossible for hiring managers to keep up.
There is another approach to filling organizational skills gaps: upskilling and retraining existing staff to take on more technical roles. There are two benefits to this approach: not only does it help employers patch shortages in their tech teams, but it also provides workers with the learning, development and progression opportunities that they increasingly see as a missing when weighing up their career options.
According to Pluralsight’s State of Upskilling 2022 Report, 40% of technologists cite a lack of room for career growth as a motivator for leaving their jobs, and cite a lack of opportunities to develop new skills. And yet, 87% of the 7,000 respondents surveyed said they wanted to improve their tech skills – highlighting a massive opportunity for both employers and employees.
“Skills help people stay,” the report reads. “They help them thrive in their roles. And they enable you to deliver on your objectives.”
The problem for employees – and by extension, employers – is that other demands often prevent employees from upskilling. Pluralsight’s report found that 61% of tech workers felt too busy to dedicate time to upskilling – the biggest barrier to development identified by survey respondents.
This could be seen as another effect of the skills shortage: if teams are short-staffed, their resources are already going to be stretched trying to cover the day-to-day running of the department. On top of this, companies often claim they lack the budget and resources to properly invest in skills. Whether this argument holds water is debatable when you consider how much money employers are willing to throw at new hires, and the cost that comes with onboarding new staff and replacing those who quit.
Respondents to Pluralsight’s survey echoed this sentiment: 18% said that their employer emphasized hiring rather than upskilling existing talent, and the same amount cited a lack of support from their employer. Interestingly, leaders said they are even more likely to feel unsupported by their managers (27%).
The bottom line is that tech workers feel more comfortable than ever about changing employers, and rightly so: demand for their skills has skyrocketed in the two years since the business world embraced remote working, leaving their financial, professional and personal prospects in better shape than ever.
Employers can and should continue keep hiring for the skills they need, but they also need to accept that this isn’t the only solution available. If leaders aren’t actively assigning time for their staff to train, upskill, and get better at what they do then they’re really only making a half-hearted effort to fill the gaps they so often complain about.
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ZDNet’s Monday Opener is our opening take on the week in tech, written by members of our editorial team.