The global workforce of 2022 has been fraught with change, attrition and reshuffling. The Great Resignation has caused organizations, especially within the tech industry, to become locked in a fierce battle for talented workers. Because of this, developing strategies for retaining and attracting talent has been a key concern for many organizations. According to research from Gartner, annual voluntary turnover in workers is projected to jump by 20% in 2022, leading to an overall turnover rate of up to 24%.

In the face of this unprecedented and widespread attrition, what can organizations do to retain their valuable employees? Pluralsight’s 2022 State of Upskilling Report, which surveyed 760 technologists and technology leaders about the latest trends in skills development, showed that opportunities for career development, specifically in the realm of tech skills, are a key factor in employee retention. In fact, 48% of technologists surveyed have considered changing their jobs because they aren’t given adequate opportunity to develop tech skills.

The Great Resignation and Tech Skills Gaps

The concept of The Great Resignation has become a defining motif since 2021. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record-breaking 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in November of 2021, and in February of 2022, 4.4 million more workers quit their jobs. Research from Pew suggests that the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with low pay, no opportunities for career advancement and lack of flexibility, lead to this surge in worker quit rates.

The tumultuous nature of the job market in the wake of The Great Resignation has also revealed another key challenge for individuals and organizations — skills gaps among workers that leave many organizations with limited resources to deliver value to customers. Tech skills gaps in particular have been exacerbated by high turnover rates.

Pluralsight’s State of Upskilling Report found that a few key tech skills gaps exist among respondents. 43% of respondents ranked cybersecurity as a top personal skills gap. Other top skills gaps were cloud computing (39%) and data storage (36%). All three of these skills gaps have significant impact on businesses. As digital transformations continue at lightning speeds, information and cybersecurity, cloud transformation and data maintenance are all crucial skills for technologists to master.

With the knowledge that tech talent is getting harder and harder to hire, and that skills gaps in key proficiency areas are real, organizations must begin to invest in upskilling and future-proofing their existing tech teams. Doing so will set the organizations who create and cultivate talent from within apart from the organizations that simply consume talent.

The Relationship Between Upskilling and Retention

The State of Upskilling report highlights a key truth — employee retention and skills development programs are intimately connected. According to the report, 52% of technologists surveyed consider leaving their jobs every month. What’s more, 40% of those workers are moving on from their current jobs due to lack of career growth opportunities. This means that, for a massive chunk of the tech workforce, upskilling and personal growth opportunities are a make-or-break factor when it comes to staying with a company.

The good news for employers is that technologists are eager to learn and develop their skills — for their own benefit as well as the benefit of their organization. According to the State of Upskilling Report, 91% of respondents want to improve their tech skills to fulfill personal goals, while 86% of respondents want their tech skills to align with their organization’s overall strategy. Not only are workers eager to seize upskilling opportunities, but they are demanding that their organizations support them in these efforts. 75% of technologists surveyed agreed that their organization’s willingness to dedicate resources to developing their tech skills affects their plans to stay with the organization.

Rather than looking at the stats associated with potential attrition rates as a foreboding omen, organizations should see this research as an opportunity to invest in their employees’ tech skills, thereby creating stronger, more agile tech teams. Investing in tech upskilling and reskilling can mitigate the risk of cybersecurity breaches, productivity inefficiencies and overburdened teams. Realizing the benefits of a skilled tech workforce begins with programmatic and cultural commitments to upskilling.

Leveling Up Your Skills Development Programs

With such a strong connection between upskilling and employee retention, it’s time to solve arguably the most important piece of this equation: How can you successfully upskill your workforce at scale?

There are a host of myths that come to mind when embarking on an organizational upskilling journey. For example, you may believe that upskilling your tech teams will take too many resources and too much time. Indeed, 47% of respondents in the State of Upskilling report agreed that being too busy was a key barrier to upskilling, while 33% believed that budget constraints and cost were hindering their upskilling initiatives. In reality, it is often more expensive not to upskill your employees than it is to invest in upskilling.

Creating a strong culture of learning that helps foster employees’ desire for upskilling opportunities takes time. Many organizations will see this as time well spent in the long run. Technologists don’t just need continuing education courses. They need flexible, tailored training that allows them to learn in the modalities that resonate with them most. Beginning an upskilling program can be as simple as investing in a training platform, identifying executive sponsorship for upskilling initiatives and enabling direct managers with the tools they need to help their employees carve out time for upskilling. Whatever level of commitment an organization is willing to give to upskilling will pay dividends, both by helping to retain valuable talent and by creating a workforce that keeps pace with the constantly evolving technology landscape. Organizations must dive into their upskilling journeys now or watch as their employees seek out other places to grow their skills.