Why you don’t need to replace staff to upgrade them

Written by Michael Green on 28 August 2019 in Features
Features

Before thinking about a flashy LMS think about your staff, or they might leave, says Michael Green.

Reading time: 4m 30s.

The digital revolution has moved at such a pace that it can be difficult to judge trends affecting the technology industry. Platforms evolve and different solutions emerge so quickly that there’s only ever one thing that’s remained constant throughout all this upheaval—the professionals working within the sector.

When your staff are the one persistent presence in your organisation, combined with the worsening skills shortage, there’s no doubt that in-house talent requires more attention than ever before. Implementing a new CRM may save you money or enable you to grow your business, but having the individuals to do that is arguably more important than the solution itself.

Tech suffers from the highest turnover rate of any industry, meaning that an effective hiring strategy is key to better performance. Many employers have noted this and have made conscious efforts to develop the way that they recruit.

Improving diversity, offering a wider range of benefits, and raising salaries are just some of the ways the working world is getting better for tech professionals.

What else can be done

Getting under the hood and looking at why people are leaving is equally critical. The hiring cycle is expensive and time-consuming and if you’re making a big effort to attract staff, the same resources should go into retaining them.

High value candidates naturally want to challenge themselves and broaden their skillset; it’s an unteachable trait that makes them so desirable. 

Of course the market is candidate-driven, and many will leave simply because they can command a better package elsewhere. But for others, development is just as important and can drastically improve employee engagement.

A recent survey found that while respondents had an average of 19 years’ experience working in tech, over half of them had been working on their current platform for less than six years. This suggests that a large number of tech workers are cross-training into new areas as they look to make their next career move.

Getting to work with something new is extremely appealing to a lot of techies. High value candidates naturally want to challenge themselves and broaden their skillset; it’s an unteachable trait that makes them so desirable.

One look at the average lunch break will give you further validation on this—it’s not an uncommon sight to see heads buried in side projects, or hands getting dirtied with something new to play with.

How to accommodate it

You may not be in a position to adopt bleeding-edge new technologies immediately, and in an ideal world there should be no need to do that either, but there’s still much that can be done to keep minds stimulated and eyes pointing in a direction other than the exit.

 

For instance, certifications are becoming an integral part of any technology’s ecosystem. They’re increasingly essential to tech professionals, who are working with a wider range of platforms than ever before.

Employers demand them from new recruits (85% of all IT employees now hold at least one) and 44% of those in charge also say that it results in faster work, as well as better efficiency and fewer errors across a range of tasks.

This improved performance is advantageous on many levels. The most obvious benefit is to your own organisation’s bottom line, but any employee who’s getting through their workload (and avoiding the dreaded backlog and the stress that brings) will naturally be happier.

And when your workforce is relaxed and not waking up through the night, worrying about coming in the next day, the chances of them spending their spare time looking through job boards are greatly reduced.

Some may see their increased value and leave anyway, but quitters will always quit, regardless of the investment you make in their development. Spending time and money on your employees’ progression will more often than not be rewarded with greater loyalty.

They may look to renegotiate terms further down the line, but their improved performance will merit that discussion. And when it comes to adopting new technologies in the business, you may have a team already trained and willing to work with it, which makes for a far more seamless implementation.



Even if you’re unsure of the best path to take when looking to upskill your tech department, there’s a very easy way to find out: communicate with them and get their opinions.

A switched-on professional will know exactly how they wish to progress, as well as the trends and products likely to affect both them and your business, and if you’re willing to invest in their development then they’ll tell you.

It may sound simple, but it’s alarming how often that can be overlooked, with workers instead sent on irrelevant courses that become little more than box-checking exercises.

The digital age is changing the way we all work. Advancements in AI mean that many tasks can be automated to improve processes and make businesses leaner than ever before. Far from taking away from the job market, the increased adoption of machine learning will result in more vacancies, with skilled tech workers in great demand and creating a critical shortage of talent.

While you need to make sure you’re positioned to attract the best of these workers, keeping them under your roof is another great challenge facing the tech sector. But it’s not as insurmountable a task as it might sound.

The process is fundamentally the same as in any other highly skilled vocation; invest in professional development and you’ll engender a sense of loyalty that will be rewarded for years to come.

 

About the author

Michael Green is vice president of Nelson Frank.

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