Cisco survey results: Your guide to IT talent development

Directing analyst with Cisco shares a few of the insights gleaned from the firms recent survey of 300 US-based executives and managers


Whether you are an executive or a manager, you’ve probably asked yourself questions like, "is our organization investing the right amount in the development of our employees? What’s the impact of skilled IT staff? Looking ahead, what IT skills will be most valuable as digital transformation takes hold?”

As a technology training and certifications provider, we at Cisco ask ourselves these same questions all the time. Recently, we surveyed 300 technology executives and managers in large US-based organizations to hear what they had to say about IT talent.

How skilled talent affects your organization

Investment in your organization’s technology systems and services pays off in a big way when you have skilled staff in place. Technology is put in place to improve service levels and extend service functions. Skilled talent ensures that technology is used to its full potential.

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However, highly skilled talent has a broader impact across the organization that’s often overlooked. Skilled staff drives a positive perception of IT across lines of business and executive ranks. Of those surveyed, 78% agreed that staff with certified skills build credibility and trust with the IT organization. The CIO and IT organization are expected to lead digital transformation efforts. This positive perception of IT staff is driven by visible positive impact on projects, systems, information, usability, accessibility, security and business partnerships. It validates the entire organization’s belief in and reliance on the IT organization.

Respondents also agree that developing employees’ skills leads to improved employee retention and engagement. Multiple studies have found that engagement is a primary influence on individual performance (e.g., productivity) and organizational results (e.g., profitability). In Gallup’s 2017 report, State of the American Workplace, companies with the highest levels of employee engagement double their chance of success. Specifically, they see 17% higher productivity and 21% higher profitability. And every technology executive and manager knows it’s difficult to replace a talented employee. Finding and hiring IT workers with the right set of skills can be a difficult, lengthy and expensive effort. Again, Gallup’s findings point to key advantages for engaging organizations – 24% lower employee turnover and 41% lower absenteeism.

Where to invest in employee development

Organizations that commit to employee development receive many benefits. As one survey respondent said, “The time taken and monies spent comes back tenfold in productivity and knowledge.” Given that our survey respondents spent, on average, $4,534 on training per IT employee, a tenfold return would be astounding indeed. So, what’s behind that “monies spent” reference? And how are these monies spent across technology areas and staff?

It’s to be expected that many organizations are increasing their IT staff training budgets, given the wide-ranging and hard-hitting benefits associated with IT staff development. What’s even more interesting is that these increases are indicated across all major IT areas. A further comparison between our 2016 and 2018 technology manager survey results shows that more organizations are increasing their training investment than just two short years ago. The depth and breadth of realized benefits are driving heightened staff development.

Our survey results indicate a fairly even split across major IT areas with respect to allocation of the training budget. Security leads with 23% of the training budget, followed closely by software/applications (21±%), infrastructure (21%), big data/analytics (17%), and business skills (17%).

However, this budget isn’t equally distributed across IT staff. Gartner’s 2017 Key Metrics Data indicates that workers dedicated to application development and support account for almost 50% of IT staff. And yet, software and applications training only accounts for 21% of the training budget. That means that training “monies spent” per employee is higher in the other major IT areas – security, infrastructure and data analytics. Why is this? Well, it is likely that technology and business shifts are influencing how training budgets are allocated across specific IT staff segments. As one respondent advised, “Don’t just get certified in anything and everything. Be selective based on your interests as well as what will benefit you and your organization immediately and in the future.”

How to develop the right skills for the future

As digital transformation brings about rapid and dramatic change, it’s critical that the skills of IT professionals change as well. They’re no longer singularly focused or working on their own. Today’s successful technology worker meets many demands, fills many roles, blends many skills and serves many projects. 75% of survey respondents favor employees with many skills and multiple certifications. 62% favor workers with both strong job skills and specific product knowledge. 99% say they use technical certifications to make IT staff hiring decisions.

What makes the most significant impact is the technology worker who has both a depth and breadth of skills. As one respondent stated, “focus on several key areas and get certified as broadly and deeply as you can.”

Important questions to consider

In light of these responses, consider where your organization stands in terms of talent. Are you creating an atmosphere in which you or your team is able to make the greatest impact possible? Are you putting time, money and energy toward advancing your skills or that of your team? And is your organization clear about what skills it needs to focus on in both the short and long term? The answers to these questions will determine how successful your organization will be into the future.

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