4 ways to stop your IT staff from leaving

Over half of IT staff are considering leaving their current job because they’re unsatisfied. Here are four ways IT managers can encourage staff retention

The turbulent labour market and fast-paced digital transformation have led to a retention headache for today’s tech companies. Skillsoft’s latest IT Skills and Salary Report revealed that in the year ahead, over half (53 per cent) of IT staff are considering leaving their current employers due to a steep drop in job satisfaction. This is a worrying sign for IT leaders whose most valuable asset is their people, and who cite retention as their biggest challenge in 2022.

Not only are employee departures costly to the business, but they impact team morale, success, and business growth. It’s no surprise then that identifying solutions to prevent talented IT pros from leaving the business is a top priority for many leaders. The issue they often have, however, is knowing where to start.

The 2022 IT Skills and Salary Report revealed the leading reasons IT staff quit their jobs, and what they value most in their employers. Here are some data-driven insights about why IT staff are quitting and advice on how organisations can retain their best people.

Harnessing the right skills

While there’s an urgent demand for talent, recruiting and retaining ambitious IT pros with the right skills and certifications is becoming increasingly costly. The survey highlighted that cloud, data science and analytics, cybersecurity, DevOps and application development are the most challenging areas when it comes to IT staff leaving.

Leaders have recognised that their teams don’t always have the skills to work with these technologies. For instance, nearly half (49 per cent) of IT decision-makers say their team’s AI and machine learning skills are low or somewhat low, whilst 37 per cent say their team’s skills in cloud computing are somewhere in the middle, leaving room for growth.

There’s also a rising need for soft or “power” skills in tech roles. According to most (66 per cent) IT staff, effective team communication is essential for IT leaders, alongside interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence, and business skills. These skills will help IT leaders better align with their peers across the organisation to drive real transformational change.

Diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) goals must also be taken seriously. While 75 per cent of respondents say their organisation takes DEI seriously, approximately 25 per cent have experienced workplace harassment and/or discrimination and only 19 per cent of non-management IT staff experience management setting and measuring DEI goals and objectives.

What tech workers really want

New insights into what IT staff want from their roles have shown it’s vital to understand employees’ needs to be able stop them leaving.

Employees’ top three reasons for changing employers in the past year were better compensation, lack of training and development, and work-life balance.

The key drivers for workers to undertake training are to boost their salaries, to obtain a certification, or out of personal interest in self-improvement and learning new skills. The highest percentage of IT professionals (31 per cent) say their primary driver for training is to prepare their organisations for a product launch, migration or update, underlining the importance for training relevancy.

IT pros claim the benefits of training include improved quality of work (56 per cent), increased engagement (41 per cent), and faster job performance (36 per cent). Businesses that invest in their people can expect more significant ROI in terms of employee retention and the bottom line.

However, a communication disconnect between workers and management could be the biggest barrier to training. As many as 45 per cent say management doesn’t see the value of training, while 85 per cent of IT decision-makers say they have authorised training in the last year.

Do you have a skills gap?

Many IT leaders recognise the importance of supporting the professional development of their staff to unlock opportunities and grow. Yet the survey shows that one in ten IT leaders remain uncertain if skills gaps exist on their teams. Over 80 per cent of IT leaders acknowledge that the level of risk posed to organisations by potential gaps is a high or medium risk.

How to stop your IT staff from leaving

To minimise this risk, there are four steps that employers can take to drive employee retention:

#1 – Conduct a comprehensive assessment of team skills

With some IT leaders in the dark about their skills gaps, this can threaten operations or elevate risk within the organisation. A starting point should be to assess the team’s capabilities to identify any gaps and areas to grow.

Objective assessments will help leaders gauge their team’s competencies in areas like cloud, cybersecurity, networking, and more.

#2 – Collaborate across teams to improve training programmes

Collaboration with counterparts on learning and development across the business is vital for IT leaders to ensure training courses target the right skill areas. It can also help improve the adoption of training programmes.

After identifying skills gaps, setting new goals, or investing in new tech, this partnership approach can design training programmes which are relevant, applicable, and accessible.

#3 – Personalise training and career development

While opportunities for hands-on practice to upskill the team can be valuable, team members’ learning preferences and ambitions can vary. Some desire to build new skills, while others want to earn a certification or take on different responsibilities at work. Maintaining regular dialogue about career development with staff is important. This should cover goals, managerial support, stretch assignments and the proper training to meet their needs.

#4 – Track progress over time

Training programme evaluation is also vital to success. Leaders and hiring managers must define what success looks like with partners and stakeholders. This can be challenging, however, tracking the team’s progress is important at both the individual and company level, to show how training impacts individual careers, company initiatives, and resource planning. It can influence the design or refinement of programmes, as well as measure performance and advocate for solutions.

Empowering employees drives businesses

The pace of digital transformation and gap in technical skills have pushed many IT pros to the brink of burnout, fuelling record rates of staff leaving across all industries, and heavier workloads for those who remain. It is important therefore to consider a number of aspects in understanding the organisation’s capabilities in concert with individual team members’ needs to achieve the right balance of organisational health, and support teams members with where they are at on their training journey.  

Organisations must take proactive steps to set development paths and daily work that ensures employees feel fulfilled, engaged, and motivated. Only effective planning can create transformative learning experiences to solve today’s skills gaps.

Orla Daly is CIO at Skillsoft


Lines of code written – a useful metric of productivity?In the wake of recent Twitter staff layoffs, we explore why taking the path of code simplicity is vital for tech industry productivity

Four ways to build technical talentWith economic uncertainty and an ever-present skills gap impacting businesses, here are four ways in which organisations can build technical talent

The most vital roles to fill in DevOpsWhat are the vital roles when it comes to DevOps? With a growing IT skills shortage, Antony Savvas considers the most important jobs in the sector