IT talent: 3 tips to kickstart employee career development

Today's challenging hiring environment makes it more important than ever to focus on employee retention. Consider this expert advice to foster the career development of your team members
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, approximately 4.5 million employees resigned in November of 2021. Predictably, that has spurred plenty of talk about retention along with more investment in employee experience programs. But there has not been enough discussion about how to specifically retain IT staff given their essential role in today’s evolving organizations.

This year, IT leaders must take a proactive stance on IT retention, focusing on driving career development to improve the employee experience. Here are three ways to kickstart your employees’ IT career development.

1. Understand your employees' needs and goals

Prior to introducing any career development opportunities, connect with your IT employees to get a pulse on how they feel about their current roles and what skills they hope to develop.

[ What are today's candidates looking for? Read IT talent: 6 ways job expectations have evolved. ]

You might streamline this process through an employee survey, forming questions around employee satisfaction, desired development opportunities, and how they perceive their role within the company.

While general survey results can shed light on the potential skills gaps and overall team morale, it is essential to follow up individually to get a better sense of where your team members are hoping to grow and how they feel about their current role.

Here are a few questions to ask at a follow-up meeting:

  • Within your current role, do you feel like you are growing and developing professionally?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What skills are you hoping to gain that would enhance your current role?
  • What resources do you need to help you to advance on your career path?

2. Identify the IT skills you want to develop

Once you have a more holistic view of your employees’ needs, identify the skills that best align with their roles and interests. Consider which skills bridge the gap between how IT employees are currently developing and how they hope to develop in the future.

Also, consider introducing new working methods to overcome some of the challenges associated with hybrid work. Project management methods such as agile and waterfall methods could help employees complete tasks more efficiently and better focus on priorities in an ever-changing work environment.

[ Read also: 3 essential soft skills IT pros need ]

While teaching soft skills can require time and effort, incorporating them into skills training can positively impact your IT employees' experience and set them on a path of growth and development.

Training typically focuses on hard skills, which is not surprising for a technical role, but it is critical to understand the importance of soft skill training for IT professionals. Soft skills are particularly essential amidst digital transformation efforts, which cannot be done in a silo and require strong communication among many departments.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an eye-opening leadership course on driving strategic growth, which reinforced for me how important it is to take the time to build and strengthen soft skills. This course ran over three months and consisted of lectures, formal learning, and time to practice. Ultimately, we returned to the larger group to share learnings from our practice time.

This learning process reminded me how important it is to build learning programs around soft skills. While teaching soft skills can require time and effort, incorporating them into skills training can positively impact your IT employees’ experience and set them on a path of growth and development.

3. Create a skills development plan

Once you’ve identified the skills you want to develop, identify what type of training will be best for your team. Whether it be a bite-sized video or an interactive workshop, decide what format makes the most sense for your employees’ learning styles and schedules. Remember that if you take the video route, the training should be as simple as taking a recorded demo and editing it down to short tip-oriented video clips that can be shared across several weeks.

Always follow up with your team post-training to make sure skills are being retained and implemented. After I completed the leadership course described above, instructors followed up with frequent emails to make sure I was incorporating newly learned skills into my daily routine. Creating a consistent follow-up plan can encourage employees to revisit training and measure personal progress and growth.

Anticipating the needs of your IT employees can be difficult in a hybrid work environment, but it’s more important than ever to do so. Creating valuable professional development opportunities is a great way to enhance employee experience, help drive career development, and ultimately manage retention. As retention strategies continue to strengthen among organizations, companies should utilize these methods to prioritize IT retention and provide IT leaders with the tools they need to do so.

[ Ready to explore learning opportunities for your IT team? Start a free trial of full access to Red Hat's curriculum. ]

As Head of Learning Systems at SAP, Jan is responsible for leading the product, engineering, and editorial functions for SAP’s learning products. With an extensive professional learning background, Jan’s north star is to make learning engaging and accessible for all.