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Tech skill development: 9 L&D challenges (and solutions)

Employee training for tech skills gaps boosts ROI, as long as learning and development has leadership support, learning resources, and personalized training.

May 23, 2024 • 8 Minute Read

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  • IT Ops
  • Business
  • Team Development
  • Learning & Development

Countless learning and development (L&D) leaders in the tech industry find themselves pondering a perplexing question: Why do our learning and development programs fall short of expectations?

With organizations investing substantial time, money, and resources into these initiatives, understanding why they falter—and why they succeed—is paramount. 

Based on my interactions with L&D leaders, I’m shedding light on the most common reasons I see employee training efforts miss the mark. By talking through these underlying issues, I hope to equip leaders with the insights and strategies they need to revitalize their programs and drive meaningful results.

Table of contents

1. L&D doesn’t align with business goals

When employee training initiatives aren’t aligned with organizational objectives, they risk becoming disconnected from the real needs of the business. This results in training programs that fail to fill critical skills gaps and achieve key business outcomes.

How to avoid it: Communicate with key stakeholders

To ensure alignment with business goals, L&D leaders must actively collaborate with key stakeholders across the organization, including senior executives, department heads, and team leaders. 

By understanding the organization's strategic priorities and identifying the skills and competencies needed to support those objectives, L&D professionals can design targeted training programs that directly contribute to business success. They also position themselves as strategic business partners, making them more likely to receive ongoing support and resources from executive leaders.

Continue to foster those relationships and sustain buy-in through regular updates, progress reports, and success stories. Regular communication and feedback loops with stakeholders are essential to ensure L&D initiatives remain aligned with evolving business needs.

2. Lack of leadership support across the organization

Without visible leadership support and stakeholder engagement at all levels, L&D efforts lack the necessary momentum to drive meaningful change throughout the organization. When leaders fail to champion L&D initiatives, they unintentionally send a message to employees that learning isn’t important. As a result, teams don’t engage and employee training programs see limited impact.

How to avoid it: Build stakeholder engagement with business leaders

Gaining leadership engagement and support requires close collaboration between L&D leaders, executives, middle managers, and frontline supervisors to ensure learning initiatives are aligned with strategic business objectives and seamlessly integrated into daily operations. 

It's imperative for leaders at all levels to understand how L&D efforts can empower them to achieve their goals and cultivate success within their teams. Executives need to know how skill development impacts ROI and key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Middle managers and frontline supervisors need to see how upskilling can impact their productivity and performance. Managers and supervisors also play a pivotal role in supporting, encouraging, and recognizing employee skill development efforts. Organizations should make sure leaders have the soft skills they need to support their team's development.

3. Employee training initiatives don’t address role and skills gaps

L&D programs focusing on generic skills rather than specific competencies fail to address critical skill shortages. When there’s a disconnect between the skills employees have and the skills needed to fulfill their roles effectively, organizations may face challenges in productivity, innovation, and competitiveness in the market.

How to avoid it: Create a skills architecture and perform a gap analysis

Creating a skills architecture involves identifying the skills and competencies required for current and future roles within your organization. It goes beyond individual skill assessments to impact career mapping, shape talent acquisition strategies, and ultimately direct the future of the organization.

You also build employee buy-in when you involve teams in the development of skills architecture and use the resulting skill matrices to inform learning programs. As you go, conduct regular skill assessments and gap analysis to pinpoint focus areas for skill development.

4. Outdated training resources and course content

Rapid technological advancements mean learning resources and traditional training methods can quickly become outdated and ineffective. Technologists need updated learning experiences to stay on top of the latest trends. Additionally, depending solely on passive learning methods, like video content, doesn’t ensure tech professionals can retain and apply knowledge long term.

How to avoid it: Provide interactive learning resources and practical application

Learning and development leaders must adopt a multifaceted approach that incorporates a variety of learning modalities. While video content is valuable, it must be kept up to date and should be complemented with interactive learning resources such as hands-on labs, discussion groups, virtual classes with instructors, and peer-to-peer sharing opportunities. 

Leaders should also provide opportunities for technologists to apply newly acquired skills through real-world projects or stretch assignments. By offering a mix of learning experiences, you can create more engaging and effective training programs that resonate with tech professionals and drive tangible results.

5. Lack of personalized learning experiences

One-size-fits-all training approaches fail to meet the diverse learning needs of tech professionals. Without personalized learning experiences tailored to individual skills, interests, and learning styles, organizations struggle to engage their employees and maximize the impact of their L&D efforts.

How to avoid it: Use skill assessments to create custom learning experiences

Avoiding this pitfall requires a learner-centric approach to training and development. L&D leaders must leverage data analytics and learner assessments to understand individual learning styles, preferences, and skill gaps. Skill assessments play a crucial role in identifying relevant training resources and tailoring learning journeys to meet each individual’s needs. 

By segmenting learners into groups based on their skills and interests, organizations can deliver targeted learning experiences that resonate with everyone. This may involve offering a variety of learning modalities, such as self-paced courses, instructor-led training, hands-on labs, and peer-to-peer learning communities, to accommodate different learning preferences. 

Ultimately, personalized learning experiences not only improve knowledge retention and skill acquisition but also foster a culture of continuous skill development within the organization.

6. Insufficient learning resources

L&D programs with limited funding tend to see limited success. The upfront costs of learning and development initiatives can seem steep, but failing to adequately invest in employee skill development can have far-reaching consequences, including increased turnover rates, reduced productivity, and decreased competitiveness in the market.

How to avoid It: Understand the ROI of learning

While I recognize the substantial cost of L&D, it's crucial for organizations to understand the equally significant cost of not investing in employee training. If technologists lack the necessary skills, investments in cloud, cybersecurity, data storage, and other technologies won’t reach their full potential. At worst, the skills gap could even create security risks, higher turnover rates, and bigger workloads.

L&D professionals must articulate these costs and emphasize the impact of training on key business metrics such as retention, productivity, and innovation. By aligning L&D initiatives with strategic business goals, such as increasing retention or reducing security incidents, leaders can make a compelling case for increased upskilling investment

7. Failure to measure skill development ROI

Without robust metrics and evaluation mechanisms, it’s challenging to gauge the value of L&D initiatives. When organizations don’t measure the impact of their training programs, they miss out on valuable insights and hinder further improvement.

How to avoid it: Use ROI metrics to track L&D success

At the beginning of each training initiative, define clear and measurable learning objectives aligned with organizational goals. Using a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics will give you a comprehensive look at your training program’s effectiveness. It's especially crucial for L&D leaders to demonstrate the financial impact and ROI of their initiatives

Many organizations fail to establish a baseline measurement, which is essential for tracking the value of L&D efforts over time. Without a starting point, L&D leaders will struggle to show improvement and justify continued investment and support for upskilling.

8. Teams are resistant to change and new learning experiences

Tech managers and workers may resist training initiatives that disrupt their established workflows or challenge their existing knowledge and skills. This resistance to change can hinder the adoption of new learning initiatives and impede organizational growth and innovation.

How to avoid it: Incorporate change management strategies for L&D

To overcome resistance, leaders need to explain the rationale behind new learning initiatives and how they tie into individual professional development and wider organizational goals. In other words, answer the question "What's in it for me?" to show learners how they’ll benefit from upskilling. 

Providing opportunities for employee feedback can help address concerns and foster a sense of ownership and buy-in. Additionally, implementing robust change management practices, such as stakeholder engagement, clear communication plans, and change readiness training, can help you navigate resistance. 

By fostering a culture of openness, adaptability, and continuous learning, organizations can mitigate resistance to change and create an environment where innovation thrives.

9. Organizations lack a continuous learning culture for technical skills

Organizations that fail to cultivate an environment of continuous learning undermine L&D efforts. As a result, they typically become stagnant and see diminished performance and innovation.

How to avoid it: Create a culture of continuous learning

Building an effective learning culture requires leaders to champion curiosity, experimentation, and knowledge sharing. Encourage managers to support and recognize employee skill development efforts. Incorporate learning into daily work routines with job rotations, stretch assignments, cross-functional projects, and mentorship programs. 

Developing a robust learning culture won’t happen overnight. It requires continuous collaboration with leaders to nurture and reinforce learning behaviors.

Effective employee training requires constant improvement

By addressing some of these common pitfalls, we can equip the workforce with the skills and capabilities needed to innovate, adapt, and excel in an ever-changing environment. However, it’s important to recognize that there is no silver bullet to success.  

Building an effective employee training program requires careful strategic planning, collaboration between cross-functional leadership, and an iterative approach over time. 

Help your tech teams build the skills they need to fill critical gaps. Start a free trial of Pluralsight Skills for your teams.

Jessica Billiet

Jessica B.

As a Principal Consultant on Pluralsight's Workforce Transformation team, Jessica Billiet enjoys empowering individuals to reshape their organizations. Her background in psychology enriches her approach to driving positive change. At the core of Jessica's professional philosophy is the belief that talent is everywhere, but opportunities are scarce. This belief led her to join Pluralsight in 2022, where she is committed to advancing the global technology workforce. Jessica is the founder of Excelsior Ranch, a non-profit organization committed to aiding individuals dealing with the impacts of trauma, addiction, and PTSD using equine-assisted psychotherapy. With a heavy focus on management and organizational psychology, Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree and an MBA through Western Illinois University. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) through the Project Management Institute (PMI).

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