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Training is an Investment, Not an Expense

Oct. 05, 2017
Ryan Day

The Evolution of the IT Decision-Maker: How Training Views Have Changed Over the Last Decade

By Ryan Day

What does your boss think?

It’s a simple question that often doesn’t have a simple answer. Many of us, no matter the industry, spend part of our workday wondering or worrying about the opinions of a supervisor.

Do your opinions align? What about your goals?

If only there was a way to see their thoughts…

Well, now you can. The recent release of our 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report marks the 11th straight year we’ve surveyed all ranges of IT professionals, from managers to staff, on everything from IT certifications to job satisfaction.

Having analyzed more than a decade of data, we uncovered some noteworthy trends, especially when it comes to the opinions of IT decision-makers. Training is an area of particular passion, eliciting some of the most honest and reverberating opinions in the history of our report.

Viewpoints have shifted since our inaugural report in 2008. When we started our survey, many in the tech industry considered training an expense rather than an investment. Today, decision-makers better appreciate the need for training even as IT budgets have gradually dwindled.

So how do your training views compare to those of your boss? Let’s find out.


Budgets are bottlenecking success

Despite the budgetary challenges, the value of training remains high according to this year’s IT Skills and Salary Report. Nearly 80% of managers say training is effective in developing needed skills for their staff. This belief in the success of training has remained stable over the last 11 years and has consistently hovered between 70 and 86%.

The confidence in certification value, however, has skyrocketed. In 2011, only 35% of decision-makers stated that certifications directly lead to a more effective staff. That number rose to a high of 95% this year.
Managers were fairly skeptical about the importance of certification during the early years of our report. In 2011, 21% of decision-makers reported “no change” in the effectiveness of staff after certification. Even hiring managers were de-emphasizing the importance of certifications in 2011 with less than 10% viewing them as “very important.”

This could be due to a number of reasons. Technology didn’t change as quickly as it does now, so employees could adapt more quickly to tech upgrades in the workplace.

Professional development options are also now more plentiful than ever. Classroom training used to be the only way to educate your staff and, thus, forcing managers to adapt to employees constantly being out of the office. Today, classroom options are still popular and successful, but there are a number of virtual and on-demand choices that allow professionals to further their IT education where and when they choose. It’s easier for managers to see value in training when their departments’ productivity isn’t taking a hit due to staff being off-site.

When it comes specifically to certification training, opinions have shifted significantly in the past seven years. Managers quickly realized the value a certified employee brings to their team is greater than the cost of a certification.

In our 2018 report, 95% of decision-makers say that certified team members bring added value above and beyond the cost of certification. Specifically, 54% of decision-makers estimated the economic benefit of a certified employee exceeds $10,000 a year.
The financial payoff for certified employees is also clear as they make nearly $16,000, or 22%, more than non-certified peers. The difference between certified and noncertified decision-makers is $9,201, or 8.9 percent.

If that’s not enough to entice you or your staff to pursue a certification, check out our list of the 15 top-paying certifications for 2018, which breaks down the highest-paying credentials in the United States. Or if stay ahead of the competition with our list of the New and Emerging IT Certifications for 2018.

In general, the number of IT professionals who train each year has slowly inched upward even as decision-makers have struggled to allocate funds for it. In 2010, 66% of survey respondents trained in the previous year. In 2018, that number rose to 88%, the highest its ever been.

While our reports have tracked 11 years of data, for more than 20 years we’ve seen firsthand how training needs have evolved and where they’ve evolved to. We now have training formats for all learning styles. These options have diminished the stress on decision-makers who can now spend less time worrying how to track their employees’ progress. When they’re ready for staff to train, it’s easier than ever to set plans in motion.


Managers are asked to do more with less, and it’s leading to skill gaps

Seventy percent of IT decision-makers report a shortage of skills on their team. While that number is only up two percent from a year ago, only 31% of respondents reported skills gaps in 2016.

With skills gaps rising steeply over the last few years, the addition of newly-learned tools and techniques are vital to the efficiency of IT departments. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents who trained last year did so to acquire new skills, and 47 percent trained to prepare for a certification or specialist exam.

We’re in a time where managers are asked to do more with less, so training choices are as important as ever. Skills gaps are already causing major headaches for decision-makers who have to deal with the resulting consequences, such as missed objectives, delayed deployments and an increase in employee stress.

The best way to optimize team performance is to establish a culture of regular training.


Stop the problem from developing

Since we started our report in 2008, salaries and business conditions have improved significantly. Much of this can be attributed to increasing numbers of IT professionals having access to IT training.

But there are problems on the horizon. Skills gaps are on the rise and have already become a training motivator. Even as budgets continue to shrink, professional development opportunities should continue to increase as managers seek to reduce skills shortages and alleviate worker stress.

According to IDC’s Training Impact on Projects Survey, a small increase in team skills can drastically improve the chance of project success. The survey finds that objectives are met less than half of the time when a team’s skill level is average (5 out of 10). When that skill level is increased slightly, from 5 to 7, project success soars past 70 percent.

Advocating for consistent training and certifications is the key. IT professionals must keep their skills fresh to better adapt to changing technologies and ensure project success. 


A perfect blend: external and internal training

Decision-makers are advised to get creative in the ways their staff trains. Michelle Jones, Global Knowledge’s Senior Manager of Application Development, encourages a mix of formal training and informal mentoring. The more resources IT professionals are exposed to, the more opportunities they’ll have to grow and expand their skillset.

“The most talented IT people love to learn and are naturally drawn to many different avenues for expanding their skills,” said Jones.


Spread the wealth of formal training

Managers are reminded to take advantage of as many internal training resources as possible. Arranging informal learning sessions is a great way for employees to share knowledge. When an employee completes a formal training, make sure they pass along new information and techniques to co-workers.

A wide array of learning opportunities is a great way to keep staff engaged and inspired. Another way is to constantly provide your team with challenges. Jones says IT professionals approach their work as a series of puzzles that need to be solved. Thus, the most rewarding of these puzzles are the ones that require creative application of new knowledge.

“An IT professional wants to be challenged to achieve something or solve a problem that has never been done before—or at least not done by them before,” said Jones. “We love making sense of the unknown. To succeed, we need to be learning, brainstorming and experimenting.”


Company training is out there—don’t miss it!

Managers must also stay diligent and schedule formal training when given the opportunity. According to the 2018 report, 59% of decision-makers worldwide said their organizations offered training, but only 46% percent of that group authorized training for their team members, a drop of three percent from last year. Skipping out on available IT training is a huge wasted opportunity.

The benefits of skilled and certified team members are too great to pass up. Certifications continue to pay off in terms of employee salary, job satisfaction and value to the organization. And decision-makers who authorized training in the prior year are significantly more likely to authorize training in the future. They witness the advantages first-hand and are hungry for more.

The value is evident—it’s now up to the decision-makers to stay resourceful in how they schedule trainings. Whether it’s formal or informal, internal or external, professional development is the key to eliminating workplace shortages, maximizing careers and driving business forward.

Visit our IT Skills and Salary page to find our entire collection of reports from the past 11 years.