Why IT professionals want to quit their jobs and how to change their minds

In the year ahead, over half (53%) of IT professionals are considering leaving their jobs as job satisfaction rates declined from 2021-22, according to Skillsoft’s 2022 IT Skills and Salary Report. That’s troubling for many in IT leadership, whose greatest challenge is retention.

What were the challenges faced by IT decision makers?

One of the main takeaways from the research report findings is the ongoing strain IT departments are experiencing as they try to recruit and retain employees. The Great Resignation, a turbulent labour market, and insatiable demand for digital transformation have all contributed to what many in leadership deem their most formidable challenge, retention.

Here are the top 5 challenges IT decision-makers face this year:

Talent Retention 33%
Talent Recruitment 32%
Workload 27%
Developing Stronger Teams 25%
Resource and Budget Constraints 24%

What were the insights from the survey?

Last year, talent recruitment and retention ranked highly but didn’t top the charts as they did in 2022. More firms now realise the outsized need for technical skills to scale their operation, deliver new experiences to employees and/or clients, and transform how they do business.

It adds fuel to an already hot labour market. This situation has forced many in leadership to reassess what’s possible and begin charting a new course, and there is evidence of many promising opportunities to aid firms that struggle with this challenge and others like it.

IT Pros want opportunities to grow — or else …

Majority of IT professionals (86%) took at least some training in the past year, and most of the time, it’s in support of their firm’s initiatives. The highest percentage of IT professionals (31%) say their main driver for training is to prepare their firms for a product launch, migration or an update. But they have many motivators for training. These rise to the top:

  • Increasing their salaries
  • Personal interest in learning new skills
  • Earning or maintaining a certification

What often stands in their way is management (even more than their heavy workload). In fact, 45% say management doesn’t see the value of training. Knowing this plays a big part in solving retention issues. One of the leading reasons they leave their jobs or employer is due to a lack of professional development opportunities. They want training. They want growth opportunities. They want chances to improve themselves and those around them.

Personal growth is a key aspect of employee wellbeing. Enabling employees to develop their skills through workplace training helps them feel valued, gives a greater sense of purpose. Essential to creating a culture of personal growth is ongoing training and development.

Sadly, many feel denied these opportunities, which results in their departure — a costly situation as skills benefit both the individual and their employers in more ways than one.

Skills development is the catalyst for beneficial growth for employees and employers, especially as firms struggle to retain technical talent and keep pace with innovation. Firms that create cultures of career and talent development will be most successful in recruiting and retaining ambitious individuals with the right skills and certifications to make an impact.

With this in mind, 85% of IT decision-makers say they authorised training in the last year and nearly all (97%) recognise the value certified professionals bring to the organisation. So, where’s the disconnect? It’s likely a classic case of lacking communication.

The impacts of broken communication call for more ‘power’ skills

Most IT leaders authorise training and see the benefits of IT certifications. Almost half say certified staff boost productivity, they help meet client requirements (44%), and close organisational gaps (41%). And yet, a lack of training opportunities is among the leading reasons why IT professionals quit their jobs. This begs the question. Are some leaving their jobs because they believe training isn’t available to them — when in reality, it is?

This disconnect between what’s available and what’s known is causing undue trouble for firms feeling the effects of turnover and a tough recruiting environment. Effective communication is the most critical skill for IT leaders to have, according to most (66%) survey respondents. Following are interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence, and business skills.

These soft, or power skills have become increasingly important for IT leaders to have as technology plays a vital role in modernising business, adapting to change, and scaling operations. Skills like communication and leadership will help those in IT better align with their counterparts across the organisation to drive the positive changes they hope for.

The report found that 22% of IT professionals reported their employers don’t currently offer leadership training programs and 17% simply don’t know if one exists. But of those organisations that do offer this type of training, one in four jumped at the opportunity.

As IT leaders encourage their teams to develop new skills in support of tech investments, it’s vital to also consider how power skills can help aid in efforts to improve collaboration, communicate use cases or the impact of projects, and better illustrate their strategic visions.

Skills drive salary increases in high-demand areas

Developing new skills often increase an employee’s value to organisations. For example, 46% of IT decision-makers estimate that certified staff add $20,000 or more in value over non-certified staff. Many see investments in technical skills as unlocking opportunities for their organisations, whether it’s better utilisation of data or improved efficiency, but leaders have recognised that their teams don’t always have the skills to work with these technologies.

Nearly half of IT decision-makers say their team’s skills in AI and machine learning, as an example, are low (25%) or somewhat low (24%). The highest percentage (37%) say their team’s skills in cloud computing are somewhere in the middle, leaving room for growth.

One of the key reasons why IT decision-makers struggle with skills gaps is that they can’t find talent with the skills they need (or can’t pay what candidates demand). Due to this shortage, skills come at a premium — especially today as competition grows more intense. Given these circumstances, most leaders say they plan to invest in training their teams to close gaps, which is consistent with what we saw last year. Thankfully, that has paid off.

How can IT decision makers retain more employees?

Talent retention isn’t unique to any one industry. This challenge impacts organisations of all kinds globally. However, some organisations are finding ways to overcome this issue.

Many IT leaders recognise that to overcome challenges like these, they must nurture staff with time or resource investments in professional development that unlock opportunities to grow. Take these steps to develop stronger teams and help retain more employees:

Measure Your Team’s Capabilities

Some IT leaders are in the dark about their skills gaps. This leaves room for gaps to threaten operations or elevate risk within the firm. Start by assessing your team’s capabilities to identify both gaps and areas to grow. Skillsoft offers objective assessments to help leaders gauge their team’s competencies in areas like cloud, cybersecurity, networking, and far more.

Alternatively, many firms are choosing to adopt the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA), a global framework to help firms map skills and competencies in the digital world.

SFIA enables firms to identify skills gaps quickly. Once identified, leaders can help employees to upskill in those areas with a tailored learning and development program. As a SFIA-certified business, Skillsoft can provide support that integrates with your SFIA framework.

Cross-Collaborate to Launch Better Training Programs

IT leaders must collaborate with their counterparts in learning and development to hone training curricula that target key skill areas. The benefits of this partnership can manifest in many ways, including better adoption of training programs.

As you identify skills gaps, invest in new technologies, or support the strategic goals of the organisation, work with your partners and stakeholders to design training programs. The programs should be highly relevant, applicable, and accessible to your team.

Personalise Training and Career Development

While many IT professionals agree they want opportunities for hands-on practice, learning preferences vary from person to person. What’s more, their ambitions are unique. Some want to build new skills, others want to earn a certification or take on different responsibilities at work. Bring up career development in your meetings with staff, talk to them about their goals and how you can support them. Then, provide training that’s tailored to them.

Track Progress Over Time

As you develop these programs, how will you know whether or not they work? Define what success looks like with your partners and stakeholders. Track your team’s progress to understand how training impacts their careers but also projects, initiatives, and resources.

Continue to iterate over time to adapt training to the needs of your team and that of the greater organisation. And remember, don’t forget your partners who can lead the design of programs, help measure performance, and advocate for solutions.

Conclusion

The IT industry in 2022 remains a strong, growing, evolving industry. Nearly 85% of our survey-takers reported that they felt good about their job security and nearly three-quarters reported having job satisfaction. But there’s no time to rest on laurels. To continue moving forward, IT professionals also need to advance through training, skilling, and upskilling.

Firms need to invest as much energy in communication training opportunities as they do in building the training programs. They need to take stock of the skills employees lack, and make sure that training plans are effective, on target and meet employee expectations. Continued learning needs to become part of the corporate culture and employees must see a clear career path or, as we’ve reported this year and in years past, they’ll look elsewhere.

Kath Greenhough, Vice President APAC at Skillsoft.