IT Operations

Bosses and workers aren’t seeing eye to eye on the IT skills gap

Two-thirds of execs admit they don’t understand what IT skills their teams need, while 96% of technologists say their workloads have shot up as a result.
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· 3 min read

There’s a serious disconnect between employers and employees on the tech skills gap, contributing to issues like short-staffing, burnout, and project abandonment, and how to resolve it, according to a recent survey.

IT edtech company Pluralsight polled 1,400 tech pros and found just 33% of executives surveyed said they fully understood what IT skills their teams need—and their staff has noticed. Among technologists who replied to the survey, 68% said their leadership wasn’t aware a skills gap existed at their organizations.

Skills gaps have serious consequences both for individuals and organizations, the survey found. Virtually all (96%) technologists said their workloads have increased as a result of skills gaps, while 78% of respondents said their organizations had abandoned a project midway because they didn’t have staff with the necessary IT skills to complete them.

The biggest skills gaps the Pluralsight survey identified were cybersecurity, cloud, and software development.

Drew Firment, Pluralsight’s VP of enterprise strategies, told IT Brew that many executives chasing investments in new technologies have neglected to pay the same amount of attention to the human element.

“I don’t think anyone has their head in the sand with it,” Firment said. “I think they’re on the struggle bus for implementing effective upskilling programs.”

A 2023 DeVry University survey found near-universal agreement among both employees and employers that upskilling is important, but that training programs underperform in practice due to accessibility and equity issues. For example, 43% of executives said their organizations don’t let workers use company time to upskill, are reluctant to pay for it, or don’t provide personnel to manage training or coaching.

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Meanwhile, execs have continued to point the finger at the supply side: 70% of respondents to a 2024 Infosys survey of over 1,000 senior business leaders said they believed technology was advancing too fast for their workforces to learn it.

It’s far more cost-effective to train existing employees to learn new skill sets than it is to launch a hiring spree, according to Pluralsight. The survey estimated that the cost of training an employee to gain a new IT skill came in at around $15,230, while the hiring process for a new one came in at around $23,450.

That dovetails with other research, such as a 2019 General Assembly and Whiteboard Advisors study that estimated training and reskilling a mid-career software developer could save up to $116,000 over three years versus a new hire, when considering factors like recruitment costs, onboarding, and turnover rates.

Firment said three of the biggest reasons IT employers fail to capitalize on the benefits of upskilling are failure to budget company time for skills training, benchmark what specific skills are missing, or track the success of training programs.

“Leaders aren’t fully supporting,” Firment said. “They’re just sort of throwing links.”

“There’s a big difference between saying, ‘Cloud is really important to us, go learn it and get certified and then come back and let us know how it’s going,’ versus saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to create a learning cohort,’” he added.

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 4x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.