IT Worker, ConfusionInformationWeek’s Annual Salary Survey is out and as always provides an interesting look at IT salaries and great insight into what IT workers are thinking about. One thing that caught my attention as I reviewed the details were the results around training and education, which shows a bit of a disconnection between what IT workers are thinking and doing.

The survey reports that “Just one in five IT pros considers ‘ability to work with leading-edge technology’ among the top factors that matter at work [and that] just 23% of staffers and a mere 15% of managers put skill development/education/training on that priority list.” However it also reports that over 50% “of both staffers and managers acknowledge that ‘experimenting with cutting-edge technology’ is critical to doing their jobs.” It’s easy to see the problem here: If you know that cutting-edge technology is critical than how can you think the opportunity and perhaps your ability to work with it isn’t important? It seems pretty obvious that it is!

The fact that less than ¼ of the people surveyed say that the opportunity for ongoing skill development is a priority should be very troubling to managers and senior leadership. If people don’t think it’s important then they won’t do it. Does this attitude mean they aren’t getting the right message? Do you value training and development? Do you understanding the connection between it and innovation and growth? If so, are you communicating this to your employees effectively? Do they appreciate how important you think enhancing their skills is? Are you providing the right opportunities and ensuring that everyone takes advantage? These numbers suggest room for improvement.

For those who don’t think it’s a priority to invest in themselves to become better IT professionals and more valuable to their company – this is a wake-up call. Based on my personal experience, I can tell you that it is critical to keep learning. For example, a few summers ago I attended a leadership program at Stanford University; after 25 years running a business and many more as a consultant, I still continually look for big and little ways to improve. Everyone should, whether it’s working on your technical skills or building better communication or managerial talents.

Specializing in IT staffing solutions, I can also attest to the importance of continuing education and IT certifications. Companies look for employees that have the latest skills – it’s as simple as that. If you don’t pay attention to this you’re hurting your market value, probably making it more difficult to get promoted or find a great new position, and possibly increasing the likelihood that you’ll find yourself or your job obsolete. If your company offers training or opportunities for tuition reimbursement and you aren’t taking advantage of that, you’re missing out big time.

The good news is that some people are taking advantage of the opportunity. InformationWeek reported that “around half of all IT pros in our survey say they attended company-paid training in the past year, and 17% of staffers and 18% of managers attended company-paid certification.” This is good but could be better.

The survey doesn’t ask exactly why people didn’t get training – were they not offered it or did they not take it? My guess is some of both, and that means there are lessons for both sides. The skill shortage and talent gap, particularly in IT, are long time hot topics. Hiring companies say they can’t find skilled people and these results support that conclusion in a way, but are they doing everything they can to support people development at their firms? Are they providing training and educational opportunities and an environment that makes it possible to take advantage of them? Some people contend that the talent shortage is fictional and just an excuse to turn to offshoring or other sources of cheaper labor, but if by their own admission IT professionals don’t think development is a priority then it seems reasonable to think employers are at least partly correct.

Those that have attended company paid training, and those enterprising and dedicated people who invested their own money in education, will reap the benefits. I’m pretty sure they’ll be the ones getting the better raises, the promotions, or the amazing offers from other companies. I know those are the kind of candidates we find it easiest to place. Not only does investing in your development provide tangible results in enhanced skills, it shows present and future employers your commitment and dedication and a host of other desirable attributes in an employee. The fewer IT pros who do so, the more the ones who do will stand out.

42% of respondents said they were either actively or somewhat looking for a new job. If they are the same people who said they take advantage of training opportunities and actively work at improving their skills then they should have an easier time finding that new job. Make sure you’re one of them!

Jerry Brenholz
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.


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