Why Companies That Invest in Tech Skills Are Winning

Companies that build a culture of learning and focus on fostering employee skills see a plethora of benefits, from talent retention to better understanding their strengths and weaknesses.

Written by Gary Eimerman
Published on Aug. 24, 2022
Why Companies That Invest in Tech Skills Are Winning
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The past several years have been a tumultuous time for organizations and their employees. The Great Disruption ushered in by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and now the Great Layoff have all fundamentally changed the world of work, necessitating a proactive approach to business and talent management. This is particularly true for the tech industry, where tech workers have been both more likely to quit their jobs in the last year and have faced sweeping layoffs on the heels of the Great Resignation. 

In the midst of this changing tech job landscape, organizations need to be more attuned to the needs of their employees. One solution to cultivate thriving tech talent is investing in developing the tech skills of your employees. Pluralsight’s 2022 State of Upskilling Report showed that 48 percent of tech workers surveyed would consider leaving their job if they weren’t given sufficient time and resources for upskilling. Additionally, 75 percent of workers said that their organization’s willingness to dedicate resources to developing their tech skills affects their plans to stay with the organization.

Some of the world’s most successful companies have been actively ramping up their upskilling efforts in recent years. Here’s why companies who invest in tech skills are winning. 

What Is Upskilling?

Upskilling is the process of gaining new abilities that allow employees to perform their jobs more effectively and also take on new ones as well. From a company perspective, fostering upskilling is a great way to retain talent.

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They Become Aware of Their Strengths and Weaknesses 

Organizations who use concrete evidence in their decision-making are often the most successful ones. According to McKinsey, data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers and 19 times more likely to be profitable than organizations who don’t emphasize using data in decision making. 

A data-driven approach is crucial for aligning your team members with company objectives. One of the first steps in growing a thriving culture of learning that’s also aligned to business needs is to take a data-informed inventory of your employees’ greatest tech skills strengths and weaknesses. Your employees need to understand how skill development efforts are aligned with their current knowledge, their personal goals, and the company’s future goals. 

In my time as a leader at Pluralsight, I’ve found that organizations can tend to fall into a few different categories when it comes to tech skills development. Each of these denotes different levels of upskilling maturity. Organizations who are in their tech skills infancy often take an unstructured approach to skills development, where there is no organization-wide strategy or culture around upskilling or reskilling. Any learning and skill advancement is motivated by individuals for their own career goals and individual growth.

As organizations start delving deeper into the benefits of tech skills development, they may employ a “one-size-fits-all” approach to upskilling, meaning that, although organization-led training is available, it’s broad-based and doesn’t meet the needs of a technology organization.

Ultimately, most organizations will hopefully employ a proactive and strategic approach to tech skills development. Organizations that are proactive in assessing their skills development needs are also data-driven, using skills assessments and employee feedback to meet technologists where they are on their upskilling journey. Having a keen sense of awareness about where your organization is and where it needs to be in terms of skill development is crucial to long-term success. 

 

They Are Champions of Learning and Employee Growth

The companies that have the most success with skills development efforts are the ones who create a culture of learning within their organization. The State of Upskilling report made clear that employees are hungry for skills development opportunities. In the survey, 91 percent of technologists expressed that they wanted to improve their tech skills to fulfill personal career goals. Additionally, 86 percent of technologists want their tech skills to align with their organization’s overall strategy. 

A great example of an organization who prioritized employee learning and development in a time of massive change is Cendyn, a leading cloud service provider for the hospitality industry. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cendyn found themselves operating with a leaner team and having to do more with less. In order to strengthen their technology teams, Cendyn invested in skills development resources that allowed them to more effectively weather the storm. 

In doing so, Cendyn ushered in agile methodologies for their team to help them ship code more quickly with a smaller team. Cendyn employees were also encouraged to explore technologies that weren’t currently employed in the company in order to improve future development and make them well-rounded technologists. The result was an aligned, efficient, and well-informed team of technologists ready to tackle any future challenges. 

Cendyn’s example shows us what’s possible when employers focus on concrete tech skills development for their employees. Though having a culture of learning itself is important, operationalizing how to reach key success benchmarks through tech skills development is perhaps more crucial for business success. 

 

They Know Tech Skills Add Value to Customers 

The final reason that formalized tech skills development programs set companies apart from their competition is that strong technology teams add more value to customers. Research from Harvard Business Review shows that technology teams contribute to the bottom line of an organization in myriad ways. For instance, tech teams can tie innovation efforts to business growth and customer outcomes. 

Organizations who don’t prioritize tech skills development are likely underprepared for the rate of technological advancement. According to IBM, most business skills have a “half-life” of around five years, but tech skills are only relevant for around two-and-a-half years. This means that if your technologists aren’t actively learning new skills while on the job, your organization is at risk of lagging behind in the race for technological innovation. 

Tech skills development will never be “over” for any organization. There is no defined point at which your technologists have learned everything they need to know in order to be successful. Without a concrete plan for skills development, technologists will naturally fall behind the technology curve. I call this idea “skills debt.” Since we know that tech skills stay relevant for such short amounts of time, it’s important for my teams to dedicate a percentage of their time each week to chipping away at the skills debt. This way, rather than being stuck in a constant game of catch-up, technologists are staying ahead of the curve through consistent, programmatic skills development. 

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The Takeaway 

Today, every organization is a tech company in some capacity. Digital transformations, shifts to cloud solutions, and cybersecurity concerns are no longer business considerations reserved only for the tech industry. Because of this, all organizations need to develop plans to keep their employees on the cutting edge of technology. 

Those organizations that begin their skills development journeys in earnest by using data-driven tactics, championing employee growth and learning, and tying technological innovation to business outcomes, are the ones who will come out ahead. 

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