IT talent: 3 tips to jump-start employee career development

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, approximately 4.5 million employees quit in November 2021. Predictably, this sparked a lot of talk about retention as well as more investment in employee experience programs. But there hasn’t been enough discussion about how to specifically retain IT staff given their critical role in today’s ever-changing organizations.

This year, IT leaders need to take a proactive stance on IT retention, focusing on career development to improve the employee experience. Here are three ways to kick-start your employees’ IT career development.

1. Understand the needs and goals of your employees

Before introducing career development opportunities, contact your IT employees to get an idea of ​​how they feel about their current roles and the skills they hope to develop.

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

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

While the results of the general survey can shed light on potential skill gaps and overall team morale, individual follow-up is essential to get a better idea of ​​where to go. your team members expect to grow and what they think of their current role.

Here are some questions to ask in a follow-up meeting:

  • In your current role, do you feel like you are growing and developing professionally?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What skills do you hope to acquire that would enhance your current role?
  • What resources do you need to help you move forward in 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 match their roles and interests. Think about the skills that bridge the gap between how IT employees are growing now and how they hope to grow in the future.

Also consider introducing new ways of working to overcome some of the challenges associated with hybrid working. Project management methods such as agile and waterfall methods could help employees complete their 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 take time and effort, incorporating them into professional training can positively impact your IT employees’ experience and set them on the path to growth and development.

Training typically focuses on hard skills, which is unsurprising for a technical role, but understanding the importance of soft skills training for IT professionals is essential. Soft skills are especially critical in digital transformation efforts, which cannot be done in silos and require strong communication across 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 develop and strengthen soft skills. This course took place over three months and included lectures, formal learning and time to practice. In the end, we returned to the large group to share the 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 take time and effort, incorporating them into professional training can positively impact your IT employees’ experience and set them on the path to growth and development.

3. Create a skills development plan

Once you have identified the skills you want to develop, identify the type of training that will best suit your team. Whether it’s a short video or an interactive workshop, decide which format best suits the learning styles and schedules of your employees. Remember, if you’re going the video route, training should be as simple as taking a recorded demo and editing it into short, trick-oriented video clips that can be shared over several weeks.

Always follow up with your team after training to ensure skills are retained and implemented. After completing the leadership course described above, the instructors sent frequent emails to ensure that I incorporated the newly learned skills into my daily routine. Creating a consistent follow-up plan can encourage employees to review 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 the employee experience, help drive career development, and ultimately manage retention. As retention strategies continue to strengthen within organizations, businesses should use these methods to prioritize IT retention and provide IT managers 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. ]

Sara H. Byrd