When it comes to tackling the skills shortage, employers are obsessing over the wrong thing

Hiring woes will continue unless employers focus on a key demand from staff that is regularly overlooked.
Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor
Image: Getty

As companies continue to vie for digital talent, the incentive for technology professionals to consider new career options remains high, particularly as employers increase salaries and flexible-working benefits to attract and retain staff.

However, job satisfaction often boils down to more than just pay and the option to work from home. In fact, data increasingly shows that the likelihood of an employee leaving or staying put is often determined by what an organization is not doing, as opposed to what it is doing.

One thing that's become clear is that workers are more willing than ever to leave employers that don't offer mentorship and learning opportunities.

Take recent polling from Enterprise DB (EDB), for example, which surveyed 1,400 technology professionals in July and found that 43% would consider a new job opportunity that offered greater career path options. The survey found that 46% of workers are satisfied with their current job, while 44% were satisfied but open to new opportunities – meaning a significant proportion of the tech workforce presents a flight risk to organizations.

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Tech workers are particularly keen on mentorship opportunities (38%) and greater access to training and certifications (30%), EDB found. For many workers, the pandemic brought career advancement to a standstill, and now that organizations are beginning to rebound, employees are clearly eager to make up for lost time.

Unfortunately for workers, employers are underdelivering when it comes to providing opportunities for growth. A recent survey by Pluralsight found that 40% of tech workers cite a lack of room for career development as one of the primary motivators to leave their employer – taking priority even over compensation.

Given that just 24% of tech workers plan to stay with their employer for the next 12 months, and with 52% of IT workers thinking of quitting at least once a month, according to Pluralsight, it is clear that development opportunities are key in the battle for talent.

Action, not words

It is not enough for companies to simply tell staff that they have learning and development programs in place – they must practice what they preach. 

All too often, organizations will tell staff that they are committed to their ongoing development while failing to give them time out of their day-to-day schedules to participate in training. Pluralsight's survey found that 61% of workers felt they were too busy with other demands to participate in learning, suggesting that leaders either need to reduce workloads or otherwise get better at communicating the importance of learning and development.

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EDB's survey found that respondents who were most satisfied with their current employer said their organization rolled out a mentoring program in the past 12 months (21%), whereas those who were dissatisfied (43%) said their employer had not introduced any training and mentoring in 2022. In all, 46% of participants said they were satisfied with their jobs, while 10% were unsatisfied and 44% said they were satisfied, but open to new opportunities. 

Training and development have an even more significant role to play beyond attracting and retaining talent. As the number of tech job vacancies continues to outstrip the supply of new talent into the workforce, providing career progression and growth opportunities are key to supporting employee mobility.

A recent report by the UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that a lack of development opportunities was keeping people trapped in low-paid, low-skilled roles. Just 39% of workers earning up to £20,000 ($24,000) per year said their job offered good skill development opportunities, compared with 72% of those earning earners £60,000 ($72,000) or above. Likewise, just 25% of lower earners said their job offered good career advancement prospects, compared with 51% of higher earners.

Budget restraints will always be one argument companies will offer for not investing more in employee training and upskilling. But when you consider US employers are predicted to spend an extra $50bn on hiring in 2022, it begs the question of whether this money would be better spent investing in the growth of existing staff – particularly those that organizations cannot afford to lose.

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