Why you should invest in training - even if staff decide to leave

Software Developers
Cecilie Arcurs/iStock
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Justifying investment in training may seem difficult if staff leave to work for a competitor, so it's important to understand why developing a talented workforce will ultimately benefit your industry.

It’s a common business problem: how can companies encourage and provide professional development programmes without the risk of making their key staff more attractive to rivals?

This is a particularly prominent issue in the tech sector where 94% of employers believe there is an industry wide skills shortage*. Little wonder that poaching is rife across the sector.

Because of this chronic skills shortage, tech companies understandably focus on the key talent already in their ranks. Offering professional development programmes to boost an individual’s skillset and overall capability is the best way to source the skills that are lacking throughout the sector.

However, tech companies are aware that as staff become more skilled, they also become more valuable and attractive to rivals.

Upskilling talent simply must be a priority for tech companies. Highly trained staff ensures strong company performance which, in turn, allows a business to thrive in the current climate.

Contributing to a thriving industry

So, how can a tech business maintain the balance between retaining a highly skilled and desirable workforce whilst remaining competitive in the industry?

Although it may seem an unattractive proposition to lose talent after investing in training, tech companies must continue to provide professional development programmes.

Upskilling talent simply must be a priority for tech companies. Highly trained staff ensures strong company performance which, in turn, allows a business to thrive in the current climate.

Skills shortage

Cyber-security is one area in the tech sector where there is a specific lack of talent. In fact, we found that 50% of tech employees believe that their organisation is unprepared for an attack and a third of tech staff believe that they are insufficiently trained in cyber-security.

These roles require an increasingly vital skillset as the number of high-profile cyber-attacks continues to rise. Just look at the recent attack on British Airways and Facebook; these events cause huge reputational damage that can have a severe impact on financial performance.

Access to tech training from a young age is vital to ensure that future tech workers understand that not only is a tech career attractive, it is also achievable.

Can the government lend a hand?

The government introduction of initiatives such as incentives to train existing staff would be widely welcomed across the sector.

After all, the UK will face a crippling skills crisis in a decades’ time if tech skills are not more highly prized by policy makers.

Taking a longer-term view to solving the tech skills shortage is crucial. Enhanced promotion of tech skills throughout the education system will ensure that the next generation of tech talent possess all the necessary skills to compete in an increasingly digitalised world.

Access to tech training from a young age is vital to ensure that future tech workers understand that not only is a tech career attractive, it is also achievable.

Greater government support would also ensure that the UK remains competitive on the global stage. Until this support materialises, the most effective way to access the necessary tech skills is for companies to upskill staff themselves.

Is a high staff turnover good for the tech sector?

Losing a talented and skilled individual may feel detrimental at the time, but high employee turnover across the sector is hugely important to the overall performance of the UK tech industry.

Yes, it can be disruptive when a skilled member of the workforce moves to a rival, but a healthy and skilled overall UK tech sector is ultimately more beneficial to companies in the long-term.

An enhanced tech capability attracts additional inward investment into the UK’s world-class tech sector, creating additional jobs and boosting the economy.

Why is staff turnover higher in tech compared to other sectors?

The tech sector has previously been compared to an arms race. This analogy is true in terms of product development but also staff retention. After all, tech staff are often attracted by the tech capability of another company and heads can be turned.

This trend of “keeping up with the Jones’” means that tech companies face the prospect of needing to routinely overhaul their hardware to ensure that they possess the very latest, and most expensive, equipment.

Often the most talented staff are the most ambitious. This means that the very best individuals are also those most likely to be tempted to move on to further their careers. Typically, the most ambitious candidates are attracted to the most ambitious companies.

What goes around comes around

Of course, just because a key member of staff joins a competitor, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be enticed back further down the line. Therefore, it is vital that top talent leaves on good terms so the door is open for them to return with an enhanced skillset and all the benefits that brings.

Staff turnover is always going to be an issue for tech companies, but offers of professional development and a strong, positive company culture can go a long way to remaining competitive and retaining talent whilst encouraging those who do leave, to one day return.

*Based on research from CWJobs.co.uk

About Dominic Harvey

Dominic Harvey

Dominic Harvey, Sales Director of the UK’s leading tech job board CWJobs, has worked in the recruitment industry for 22 years. After initially working on Marketing and PR Week titles he moved to the IT recruitment consultancy field.

15 years ago, Dominic joined Totaljobs Group (owner of CWJobs) and spent seven years launching two offices and growing their regional sales teams, before moving to his current position as Sales Director of the tech brand. He lives in Newark with his wife and two daughters.

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