The great layoff continues. There is an obvious solution, but many bosses are not interested

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The struggle to close the widening skills gaps is a constant source of frustration for employers.

The problem for many is that the traditional approach to filling skills gaps has become less and less effective.

Every company on the planet seems to be on a mission to build a superstar tech team, and that means hiring developers, cloud specialists, and cybersecurity professionals so quickly that it’s nearly impossible for hiring managers to keep up.

There is a different approach to filling organizational skills gaps: upskilling and retraining existing employees to take on more technical roles. This approach has two benefits: Not only does it help employers overcome the shortfalls in their technical teams, but it also provides employees with the learning, development, and advancement opportunities they increasingly see as missing when considering their career options.

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According to Pluralsight’s State of Upskilling 2022 report, 40% of technologists cite a lack of room for career growth as a motivator for leaving their jobs, and cite a lack of opportunities to develop new skills. And yet, 87% of the 7,000 respondents surveyed said they wanted to improve their technical skills, highlighting a huge opportunity for employers and employees alike.

“Skills help people stay,” the report says. “They help them thrive in their role. And they enable you to achieve your goals.”

The problem for employees – and employers by extension – is that other requirements often prevent employees from retraining. The Pluralsight report found that 61% of tech workers were too busy to spend time on upskilling – the biggest barrier to development identified by survey respondents.

This can be seen as another effect of the skills shortage: if teams are understaffed, their resources will already be stretched to cover the day-to-day running of the department. In addition, companies often claim that they do not have the budget and resources to invest well in skills. Whether this argument holds is questionable when you consider how much money employers are willing to waste on new hires, and the costs involved in hiring new staff and replacing those who leave.

Respondents to Pluralsight’s survey echoed this sentiment: 18% said their employer emphasized hiring existing talent rather than upskilling existing talent, and the same amount cited a lack of support from their employer. Interestingly, leaders said they were even more likely to feel unsupported by their managers (27%).

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The bottom line is that tech workers are more comfortable than ever switching employers, and for good reason: the demand for their skills has skyrocketed in the two years since the corporate world embraced remote workingleave their financial, professional and personal prospects better than ever.

Employers can and should continue to hire for the skills they need, but they must also accept that this is not the only solution available. When leaders aren’t actively devoting time to their staff to train, upskill, and get better at what they do, they’re really only making a half-hearted effort to fill the gaps they so often complain about.


ZDNet’s Monday Opener is our opening version of the week in tech, written by members of our editorial staff.