You Want to Keep Employees? Train Them

Given a choice, which would you choose: more money or more training?

Given a choice, which would you choose: more money or more training? While that is an easy answer for me as I realized long ago I am untrainable, the wisest route for you would be training. As Maria Seminerio outlines in "Training: Key to retaining", the major factor in keeping IT professionals satisfied with their jobs is "Not cash. Not vacations. Not even stock options. Its company-paid IT training."

It is clear that fixating on stock options has turned out to be as boneheaded a move as loading up the U-Haul with furniture before vacating the White House. However, the wisdom of training can get lost among the woes of corporate downsizing, shifting strategies and vendors introducing products without any thought of how to provide the skills to implement those products and services. But it will be those IT execs who are able to recognize, adapt and quickly build new skills who will be the leaders tomorrow.

Driving the training initiative is one overriding demographic: As the baby-boom generation (Hey, thats me!) ages, more IT pros will retire than will enter the work force. And this at a time when despite the dot-com layoffs, nearly a million IT jobs remain vacant. That demographic has special meaning for the three areas most affected.

For the companies hiring and trying to retain those IT professionals, recognize that training is not an afterthought or the first item to be cut from the budget when the bean counters turn their attention to your department. Too often, training is seen as something that can be much honored in the budget creation process and first cut when the paring starts. This is shortsighted and is sure to drive the best people out of your company.

For the vendors, thinking about how users will be trained to develop on the platform you are touting is as important as the product itself. Microsoft, for all its foibles, has always done well at coddling its developer community. Linux, for all its merits, will never find the success it promises until the softwares supporters find a way to train this new development community.

Those aging IT execs have a much grander task. Recently at eWeek, we have been working with the Youth Tech Entrepreneurs (, an organization dedicated to bridging the gap between disadvantaged youths interested in technology careers and companies seeking to train and hire IT professionals. YTE is only one of many worthy groups trying to bridge this gap, but the greatest need is not money or programs but IT execs willing to take some time to share what they know.

As mysterious as IT is to many employees in a corporation, imagine how much more remote the idea is to students struggling to find a skill that can provide a means to improve their situation. And that skills transfer may turn out to be the most important skill of all for the IT community to develop.