Leaders: Building Talent Should Be a Bigger Priority Than Hiring It

If employers are unable to hire the right tech talent to fill their needs, they need to build a learning and development program so they can promote from within.

Written by Gary Eimerman
Published on Feb. 23, 2022
Leaders: Building Talent Should Be a Bigger Priority Than Hiring It
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The world of work in 2022 is a fundamentally different environment than any of us have experienced in our lifetimes. 

Thanks to the global pandemic, the way people work has gone through a  paradigm shift: Remote jobs have surged, and the Great Resignation has caused many organizations to reassess their talent retention and acquisition strategies. 

The tech industry, in particular, has been affected by these workplace shifts. Intense competition between organizations for tech talent and high rates of employee turnover have been a hallmark of this era. Eleven years ago, Marc Andreesen famously said that “software is eating the world,” a statement that was nothing short of prophetic. As the tech industry continues to expand, so too does the demand for qualified and skilled technologists. 

Hiring From Outside vs. Promoting From Within

So what does this mean for organizations looking to fill their teams with top tech talent? It means that employers need to begin looking within their organization for the tech talent that they seek. If employers are unable to hire the right tech talent to fill their needs, they need to focus on building a learning and development (L&D) program that will help cultivate the talent within their organization. 


Preparing for Attrition 

Attrition within the tech industry will be one of the lasting impacts of the Great Resignation. At least for the foreseeable future, tech companies need to accept and prepare for the fact that high employee attrition — especially within IT and development roles — will be the new standard within their organizations. A recent survey from TalentLMS indicated that 72 percent of IT professionals plan to quit their jobs in the next 12 months. 

There are several reasons for increased attrition. One is that the world of remote work has expanded job opportunities for top talent. The Harvard Business Review predicts that remote work will increasingly become the norm, meaning that job seekers have more options than ever before and are no longer tied to a certain geographic location. Additionally, job seekers will increasingly look for better pay, more equitable working conditions and other perks (such as the four-day work week) during their job hunt.  

With this in mind, it’s important for organizations to begin building a programmatic approach to upskilling existing tech talent so that their teams are able to continuously deliver value to their customers. Pluralsight’s 2021 State of Upskilling Report shows growing tech skills gaps in areas such as cloud computing and cybersecurity. In order to combat these skills gaps, organizations will need to deepen their commitments to tech skills development in 2022. 

Despite these challenges, the State of Upskilling Report also showed that 60 percent of the technologists surveyed greatly valued growth opportunities when evaluating their job satisfaction. In fact, technologists placed more value on opportunities to grow within their roles than on competitive compensation. This shows that fostering a culture of learning is directly correlated to higher employee retention. 

By ensuring that your organization creates a culture of learning that hinges on tech skills development, you’ll be more prepared to handle the challenges that come along with attrition. Allowing your employees to have access to on-demand, hands-on learning opportunities that help them hone crucial tech proficiencies is key. This programmatic mindset towards upskilling will decrease your ramp-up time for new hires so you can get the most out of your team, no matter how long they stay with your organization. 

Bloomfire research shows that significant knowledge loss is the cost of losing an employee. Investing in tech skills development will also help ensure that there are no gaping knowledge holes left in your organizations when employees leave. There is an idea that some jobs can only be done by senior-level employees with tons of tribal knowledge on a certain system or process. But what happens when those people leave? 

This is why upskilling all technologists in your organization is so crucial: Knowledge can be democratized, shared and constantly renewed within the organization.

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Investing in Potential 

It’s common for hiring managers and recruiters to look for “potential” when interviewing and hiring candidates. However, I think it should be a standard practice for leaders to routinely examine the potential that already exists within their organization. 

Some of the most profound moments I’ve had as a leader have involved watching a team member fulfill their potential in unexpected ways. For example, at Pluralsight, we had a team member who started out their career as a customer-success advocate. She expressed interest in becoming a developer, so she used our platform to learn the skills she needed to become a devops engineer. Her willingness to learn landed her a position as an engineer with our DevOps team. Taking advantage of the upskilling resources easily available completely changed her career trajectory. 

Some of the most profound moments I’ve had as a leader have involved watching a team member fulfill their potential in unexpected ways.

This is why enabling upskilling opportunities for your employees is so important. The investment you put into upskilling resources will pay dividends in terms of helping strengthen your pool of tech talent. 

Another reason why tech skills development matters is you simply can't hire fully “qualified” talent for each role. Not only does the tech talent shortage make it difficult to attract and retain specialized talent, but the pace of technological innovation has made it so the in-demand skills for today didn’t even exist a few years ago. For example, there is no such thing as a “cloud engineer” with 15 years of experience because the technology did not exist that long ago. Yet, organizations have a need for expertise in these emerging technology sectors.

An ethos of constant upskilling should be paramount to all tech-enabled organizations. Continuous tech learning is the only way to fill the skills gaps that your team will encounter as it grapples with new innovations. If you can't hire individuals with all of the skills you need, upskilling your existing talent should be your first priority.

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Building Strong Tech Teams

There is a strategic imperative for organizations to invest in upskilling their tech talent. Not only does it help ensure that employees are continuously learning and that new employees get up to speed more quickly, it helps with talent retention as well. 

According to a poll conducted by Monster.com, the majority of people who plan to quit their jobs in the near future are doing so because of a lack of growth opportunities within their organization. Additionally, there is a direct financial benefit to training versus hiring. Most estimates show that it costs nearly four times as much to hire a new employee compared to training an existing employee. 

So with the backdrop of attrition and ever-evolving tech innovation, what does it mean to have a strong tech team? In my view, it means enabling individual tech skills growth by promoting an institutionalized culture of daily learning.  Thomas Friedman, author of Thank you for Being Late, beautifully illustrates this concept “When the pace of change gets this fast, the only way to retain a lifelong working capacity is to engage in lifelong learning.” 

Home Depot is a great industry example of an organization that made its mission to develop a culture of learning and tech skills development within its team. Despite Home Depot’s traditional brick-and-mortar retail facade, behind the scenes, the organization is working to become more tech-enabled as it becomes an e-commerce powerhouse

Like the majority of organizations, Home Depot was struggling to fill its nearly 1,000 technology roles. The solution was to create a custom L&D program that it called “The OrangeMethod,” a tech skills bootcamp that helped close the skills gaps within the organization while getting new hires up to speed quickly. Not only that, but with each OrangeMethod cohort, Home Depot has turned its hourly store associates into salaried technologists. 

Home Depot’s story shows the vast possibilities and potential to build better tech teams through programmatic skills development. But you don’t have to create an entire bootcamp to upskill your employees. You just need to be intentional and strategic with your L&D investments. 

In time, this consistent attention to upskilling will transform your technology teams for the better.

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