Why technology skills training and employee retention are closely linked

In 2022, the global workforce has been fraught with change, attrition, and reshuffling. Massive amounts of attrition has caused organisations, especially within the tech industry, to become locked in a fierce battle for talented workers. Because of this, developing strategies for retaining and attracting talent has been an essential concern for many organisations.

According to new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), almost 8 in 10 businesses (79%) report not having enough applicants on job ads. And of whoever does apply, 59% of businesses report applicants lacking the appropriate skills or qualifications. In the face of this widespread attrition, what can firms do to retain their valuable employees?

How does skills training and employee retention relate?

Pluralsight’s 2022 State of Upskilling Report, which surveyed about 760 technologists and tech leaders about the latest trends in skills development, showed that opportunities for career development, specifically in the realm of technology skills, is a key factor in employee retention. In fact, 36% of Australian technologists surveyed have considered changing their jobs because they aren’t given adequate opportunities to develop technology skills.

Tech skills gaps and employee turnover

“The Great Resignation” has been a major concern for business leaders since 2021. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed 10% of the Aussie workforce quit their jobs in 2021 – 1.3 million people, the largest number of Aussies changing jobs since 2012.

The tumultuous nature of the job market in the wake of the Great Resignation has also revealed another key challenge for individuals and organisations – skills gaps among workers that leave many companies with limited resources to deliver value to customers. Technology skills gaps in particular have been exacerbated by high turnover rates. Pluralsight’s State of Upskilling Report found that a few key technology skills gaps exist among respondents.

38% ranked cybersecurity as a top personal skills gap. Other skills gaps were cloud computing (33%) and data storage (31%). All three skills have great impact on businesses. As digital transformations continue at lightning speeds, information and cybersecurity, cloud transformation, and data maintenance are all crucial for technologists to master.

Knowing that tech talent is getting more difficult to hire, and that skills gaps in key proficiency areas are a growing threat, organisations must begin to invest in upskilling and future-proofing their existing tech teams. Doing so will set the organisations who create and cultivate talent from within apart from the organisations that simply consume talent.

The upskilling/retention relationship

The State of Upskilling report highlights the fact that employee retention and skills development programs are intimately connected. According to the report, 87% of Australian technologists surveyed consider leaving their jobs every month. Additionally, 36% of those workers are moving on from their current jobs due to lack of career growth opportunities.

This means that, for a massive chunk of the tech workforce, upskilling and personal growth opportunities are a make-or-break factor when it comes to staying with an organisation.

However, there is good news. Technologists are eager to learn and develop their skills – for their own benefit as well as the benefit of their organisation. According to the State of Upskilling Report, 92% want to improve their tech skills to fulfill personal goals, while 87% of respondents want their tech skills to align with their organisation’s overall strategy.

Not only are workers eager to seize upskilling opportunities, but they are demanding that their firms support them in these efforts. 73% agreed that their firm’s willingness to dedicate resources to developing their tech skills affects their plans to stay with the organisation.

Rather than looking at the stats associated with potential attrition rates, firms should see this study as an opportunity to invest in their employees’ tech skills, thus creating stronger, more agile teams. Investing in tech upskilling and reskilling can mitigate the risk of cybersecurity breaches, productivity inefficiencies, and overburdened teams. Realising the benefits of a skilled tech workforce begins with programmatic and cultural commitments to upskilling.

Boosting your skills development programs

With this knowledge in hand, how can you successfully upskill your workforce at scale?  There are many myths that come to mind when embarking on an organisational upskilling journey.

For example, you may believe that upskilling your tech teams will take too many resources and too much time. Indeed, 59% of Australian respondents in the State of Upskilling report agreed that being too busy was a key barrier to upskilling, while 43% of Aussie respondents believed that budget constraints and cost were hindering their upskilling initiatives. In reality, it is often more expensive not to upskill your employees than it is to invest in upskilling.

Creating a strong culture of learning takes time. I believe that many firms will see this as time well spent in the long run. Technologists don’t just need continuing education courses.

They need flexible, tailored training that allows them to learn in the modalities that resonate with them most. Beginning an upskilling program can be as simple as investing in a training platform, identifying executive sponsorship for upskilling initiatives, and enabling direct managers with the tools they need to help their employees carve out time for upskilling.

Whatever level of commitment an organisation is willing to give to upskilling will pay dividends, both by helping to retain valuable talent and by creating a workforce that keeps pace with the constantly evolving tech landscape. Organisations must dive into their upskilling journeys now, or watch as their employees seek out other places to grow their skills.

Josephine Lanzarone is APAC Vice President of Marketing at Pluralsight.