Training is an Investment, Not an Expense – The Evolution of the IT Decision-Maker, Part I

IT budgets have gradually dwindled over the last decade, thus making it more difficult for decision-makers to allocate the proper funds for training.

Despite this challenge, the value of training remains high according to the 2017 IT Skills and Salary Report, our 10th annual dive into the inner workings of the IT industry. More than 80 percent of managers say training is effective in developing needed skills for their staff. This belief in the success of training has remained stable over the last 10 years and has consistently hovered between 70 and 86 percent.

The confidence in certification value, however, has skyrocketed. In 2011, only 35 percent of decision-makers stated that certifications directly lead to a more effective staff. That number rose to highs of 85 percent in 2016 and 94 percent this year.

Managers were fairly skeptical about the importance of certification during the early years of our report. In 2011, 21 percent of decision-makers reported “no change” in the effectiveness of staff after certification. Even hiring managers were de-emphasizing the importance of certifications in 2011 with less than 10 percent viewing them as “very important.”

This could be due to a number of reasons. Technology didn’t change as quickly as it does now, so employees could adapt more quickly to tech upgrades in the workplace.

Professional development options are also now more plentiful. Classroom training used to be the only way to educate your staff and, thus, forcing managers to adapt to employees constantly being out of the office. Today, classroom options are still wildly popular and successful, but there are a number of virtual and on-demand choices that allow professionals to further their IT education where and when they choose. It’s easier for managers to see value in training when their department’s productivity isn’t taking a hit due to staff being off-site.

When it comes specifically to certification training, opinions have shifted significantly in the past six years. Managers quickly realized that the value a certified employee brings to their team is greater than the cost of a certification.

In our 2017 report, 57 percent of decision-makers estimated the economic benefit of a certified employee exceeds $10,000 a year.

The financial payoff for certified employees is also clear as they make nearly $8,400, or 11.7 percent, more than noncertified peers. The difference between certified and noncertified decision-makers is $9,201, or 8.9 percent.

If that’s not enough to entice you or your staff to pursue a certification, check out our list of the 15 top-paying certifications for 2017. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to boost your skills and salary as well as scout the next up-and-coming certifications.

In general, the number of IT professionals who train each year has slowly inched upward even as decision-makers have struggled to allocate funds for it. In 2010, 66 percent of survey respondents trained in the previous year. In 2017, that number rose to 84 percent.

While our reports have tracked 10 years of data, for more than 20 years we’ve seen firsthand how training needs have evolved and where they’ve evolved to. We now have training formats for all learning styles. These options have diminished the stress on decision-makers who can now spend less time worrying how to track their employees’ progress. When they’re ready for staff to train, it’s easier than ever to set plans in motion.

Managers are asked to do more with less, and it’s leading to skill gaps

More than two-thirds of IT decision-makers report a shortage of skills on their team. That number has risen drastically from previous years. In fact, only 31 percent of respondents reported skills gaps in 2016.

With skills gaps rising steeply, the addition of newly-learned tools and techniques are vital to the efficiency of IT departments. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents who trained last year did so to acquire new skills, and 47 percent trained to prepare for a certification or specialist exam.

We’re in a time where managers are asked to do more with less, so training choices are as important as ever. Skills gaps are already causing major headaches for decision-makers who have to deal with the resulting consequences, such as missed objectives, delayed deployments and an increase in employee stress.

The best way to optimize team performance is to establish a culture of regular training.

Stop the problem from developing

Since we started our report in 2008, salaries and business conditions have improved significantly. Much of this can be attributed to increasing numbers of IT professionals having access to IT training.

But there are problems on the horizon. Skills gaps are on the rise and will likely be a training motivator in the coming years. Even as budgets continue to shrink, professional development opportunities should continue to increase as managers seek to reduce skills shortages and alleviate worker stress.

Advocating for consistent training and certifications is the key. IT professionals must keep their skills fresh to better adapt to changing technologies and ensure project success.

A perfect blend: external and internal training

Decision-makers are advised to get creative in the ways their staff trains. Michelle Jones, Global Knowledge’s Senior Manager of Application Development, encourages a mix of formal training and informal mentoring. The more resources IT professionals are exposed to, the more opportunities they’ll have to grow and expand their skillset.

“The most talented IT people love to learn and are naturally drawn to many different avenues for expanding their skills,” said Jones.

Spread the wealth of formal training

Managers are reminded to take advantage of as many internal training resources as possible. Arranging informal learning sessions is a great way for employees to share knowledge. When an employee completes a formal training, make sure they pass along new information and techniques to co-workers.

A wide array of learning opportunities is a great way to keep staff engaged and inspired. Another way is to constantly provide your team with challenges. Jones says IT professionals approach their work as a series of puzzles that need to be solved. Thus, the most rewarding of these puzzles are the ones that require creative application of new knowledge.

“An IT professional wants to be challenged to achieve something or solve a problem that has never been done before—or at least not done by them before,” said Jones. “We love making sense of the unknown. To succeed, we need to be learning, brainstorming and experimenting.”

Company training is out there—don’t miss it!

Managers must also stay diligent and schedule formal training when given the opportunity. According to the 2017 report, 60 percent of decision-makers worldwide said their organizations offered training, but only 49 percent of that group authorized training for their team members. That number drops to 45 percent for respondents in the United States and 46 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Skipping out on available IT training is a huge wasted opportunity.

The benefits of skilled and certified team members are too great to pass up. Certifications continue to pay off in terms of employee salary and value to the organization. And decision-makers who authorized training in the prior year are significantly more likely to authorize training in the future. They witness the advantages first-hand and are hungry for more.

The value is evident—it’s now up to the decision-makers to stay resourceful in how they schedule trainings. Whether it’s formal or informal, internal or external, professional development is the key to eliminating workplace shortages, maximizing careers and driving business forward.

Visit our IT Skills and Salary page to find our entire collection of reports from the past 10 years.

NOTE: This blog is the first in a three-part series about the changing philosophies of IT decision-makers. The recent release of our 2017 IT Skills and Salary Report marks the 10th straight year we’ve surveyed IT professionals. With a full decade’s worth of data, we decided it was time to analyze all of the numbers together and uncover any noteworthy trends.

Read the other two blog posts in this series, How Shrinking Budgets Are Affecting IT Departments and What Drives IT Pros to Change Jobs?

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