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Learning and Development in the Technology Industry: Training for Competency and Retention

Learning and development in the technology industry needs to keep pace with attrition rates and staying on the edge of the most advanced technologies.

Things move fast in the tech industry. It’s a space inundated with start-ups, millennials who move jobs frequently, and constant developments in how products and software are built and managed.

To stay competitive in the tech storm, two aspects of L&D are key:

  • Developing a strong learning culture
  • Providing training that supports rapid change

Technology companies should also focus on training as a means of improving employee retention. According to the 2018 Tech Career Outlook compiled by online IT community Spiceworks, one-third of employed IT workers were seeking a new job last year. 

The Spiceworks survey asked IT pros why they planned to search for or take a new job. Seventy-five percent of IT pros were simply looking to earn more money. However, 70 percent said they were looking for a new position in which they could advance their skills.

Technology companies of all sizes need to realize the opportunity to stave off attrition by providing training for their employees.   

Further, the IT industry suffers from the much-talked-about skills gap. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be roughly 1.3 million occupational openings for IT professionals by 2026. Unfortunately, there are only about 60,000 computer science graduates being produced every year, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. 

Compounding the headache is that the most cutting-edge software and technology companies cannot simply rely on recruiting the best and the brightest computer science graduates. According to CIO magazine, conventional education simply cannot keep up, even if they revise their curriculum on an annual basis. The cost associated with the activity alone makes it impossible for colleges to churn out the kind of graduates that can take over high-level jobs in the tech sector.

In a world of self-driving cars and AI, tech companies need to understand the inherent value in training their employees in-house to acquire skills that cannot be obtained in a university setting. 

So, how can L&D deliver training in the technology industry that simultaneously considers the needs of the organization, retaining employees, and attracting top talent?

How can L&D design effective training for employees in the IT industry?

As the technology industry continues to grow and becomes an industry of choice for younger employees, especially recent grads and Generation Z, training is vital.

The following are 5 strategies that can help learning and development professionals in the technology industry produce results that can directly impact the bottom line.

Mentorship and on-the-job training for graduates

When they want to learn a new skill, employees first turn to their peers, then to their bosses, according to a report published in Harvard Business Review. The same is true for tech professionals, particularly graduates in the industry.

Recent graduates still need a lot of mentorship and on-the-job training so they can be brought up to speed and continue to develop their skills.

The good news is that most engineering teams understand the need for mentorship. How can a junior software engineer eventually become a senior software engineer? With a mentor—a senior-level professional—providing guidance along the way. 

Companies like Yelp, Airbnb, and Etsy provide mentorship and regularly host internal classes and learning events as a way to develop their employees. 

Encouraging on-the-job interactions between peers and managers is vital to ensuring those interested in acquiring lateral skills are accommodated. The new skills will greatly enhance product development or service delivery.

Encourage on-the-job interactions between peers and managers. Junior-level employees and those interested in acquiring lateral skills are eager to learn from teammates. The new skills will further product development or service delivery.

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Crowdsource training needs from employees

The L&D department may not be as dialed into the learning needs of different employees or teams within the company. L&D leaders need to “listen” to the market, to determine what types of courses are in demand and most useful for the business.

However, with the seemingly endless number of software platforms and programming languages around which courses can be built, how does L&D decide which deserves the most attention? Which are the most important for employees to learn?

L&D can ease the prioritization of training demands with an efficient training request intake process. Subject matter experts and managers within the organization can request new training; the training department can easily prioritize and manage the flow of requests.

A Training Request platform allows you to easily manage and prioritize training requests. Learn more about how a training request platform can ease the burden on training departments in the energy industry.

Decentralized workforces need decentralized training

This is obvious in the technology industry. Employees are increasingly remote or working in geographically dispersed teams; they rely on mobile devices and communications to complete their work.

Mobile learning can provide tremendous advantages, as it can be delivered in an anytime, anywhere context, available to employees wherever the workplace may be.

According to TrainingIndustry.com, responsive e-learning, responsive LMSs, and learning apps, all of which support multi-device access, have become essential and the mobile experience should be seamless with learning experiences provided via other devices (desktops, laptops, and tablets).

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Track and encourage informal training

Because of the remote, 24/7 nature of many roles in the tech industry, L&D needs to accept that some training will be informal and many employees will be learning in the flow of work. 

The acquisition of new skills in coding or systems can occur anywhere. These might include casual, on-the-job conversations, or training that employees do on their own outside of work. L&D leaders can track this informal training with the xAPI specification, which offers the ability to track up to 100 percent of learning experiences.

Employees have less and less time to dedicate to formal training. In the competitive and fast-paced world of tech, this problem is magnified even further. Embracing and tracking informal learning is a far more accurate reflection of how training happens in your tech organization.

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Instill a learning culture to keep pace with the fastest industry around 

It’s no secret anymore that learning organizations are successful organizations. They keep their employees up to speed by ensuring that learning permeates every aspect of the business. It helps them stay one step ahead of competitors and cultivate employees who are not only top performers on their teams but are also top performers in the industry.

So how can tech companies go about instilling a learning culture?

  • Provide recognition

There is no point in having a silent will for employees to learn. L&D needs to be a present, vocal, and encouraging arm of the business that is built into the corporate goals and strategy.

Employee engagement with training (whether that is mentorship, creating online courses, or achieving exceptional performance as a result of training) should be recognized and rewarded.

  • Crowdsource and leverage subject matter experts

To ingrain learning into the company culture, it has to be embraced by all employees. One way to keep learners engaged is to crowdsource training requests and training materials from employees themselves.

Studies have shown that employees (particularly millennials) like to learn directly from top performers amongst their peers. Identifying and leveraging top performers to provide training (both formal and informal) can help to develop a learning culture.

  • Request feedback and provide it

Learning cultures revolve around feedback, both to and from L&D. 

Learners should be provided with constructive feedback at as many training touchpoints as possible.

L&D should take on board employee feedback on the quality of the training programs provided so the learning strategy can be continuously improved.

  • Hold leaders accountable

L&D is not an island, and a truly effective learning culture needs the support of top tier executives all the way down to middle management and supervisors. 

Many top-performing tech companies include accountability for employee learning as part of performance evaluation for management. This encourages engagement and holds leaders accountable for learning performance in the organization.

In sum, tech companies can stay competitive by training their employees. With the right training resources at hand, organizations can attract and retain their best employees. These employees will excel, and contribute to the development and delivery of cutting-edge products and services.

Want to learn more about innovative ways to approach training in the tech industry? Check out this free ebook!

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