As we move quickly into the second quarter of 2023, leaders and workers alike are facing increasing pressure resulting from the current tumultuous economic period. In a business environment where every budget line is being questioned, IT leaders must maintain a strategic lens when providing learning opportunities for their teams. They must be able to clearly articulate the value of technical training and development opportunities – or risk losing them.

In the midst of this uncertainty, keeping IT workers abreast of innovative technologies and the skills to implement them is a balancing act. To stay at the forefront of industry change, learning must be considered more than a priority – it needs to be a core pillar of every organization. IT upskilling is key in today’s landscape to drive employee satisfaction and organizational success. Here are three of the top reasons to invest in learning and development opportunities and how the benefits can be articulated to leadership to ensure they consider learning a top priority, too.

Invest in Your Employees – and They Just Might Stick Around

While layoffs seem to be dominating the headlines, employees are quitting their jobs at three times the rate of layoffs. Retaining strong talent remains a competitive pursuit, and organizations are feeling the impacts of this challenge. Now, 64% to 66% of employees would consider leaving their current role because there aren’t enough opportunities for skill development or career advancement. The truth is that adequate training directly impacts retention. An important factor in how employees evaluate their organization is based on the opportunities they’re provided to learn the skills that will catapult them towards reaching their goals. Learning and development opportunities can equip employees with essential leadership skills that can elevate their current position and pave the way for internal advancement.

By offering learning programs, and therefore showing the workforce that leaders are invested in their growth, executive teams will realize a multitude of benefits. Individuals will feel valued and excited by new challenges and upskilling opportunities, making them more likely to be happy with their current role. Beyond this, they’ll build a workforce that is equipped with the latest knowledge to drive meaningful outcomes for the organization.

Fostering Creativity, Innovation, and Curiosity

The tech industry is evolving – fast. From generative artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to immersive-reality technologies, digital transformation has raised the bar on the skills required of teams today. Inspiring employees to lead innovative strategies can feel daunting when the workforce is not properly equipped with the latest knowledge to take on new initiatives. When employees do not feel prepared, they are less likely to be enthusiastic about taking on new responsibilities or raise their hand to lead a project that is outside of their comfort zone. In fact, 64% of IT professionals think the skills shortage is the biggest barrier to the adoption of game-changing technologies.

To combat this hesitation and encourage workers to tackle new challenges, leaders must recognize that learning and development opportunities enable IT teams to feel prepared and excited to move forward on adopting new workplace technologies. This ultimately increases efficiency and allows more time and space for innovation and creativity.

Steve Lucas, SAP S/4HANA Cloud application consultant at Sapphire Systems, has seen how learning, for instance with self-paced SAP Learning Journeys on the SAP Learning site, can drive innovation firsthand. “Earning an SAP Certification is important to not just my future but the future of my company. It ensures we’ll both meet our goals and remain at the forefront of SAP’s latest innovations,” he said.

Tackling the Persistent Skills Gap Challenge

The skills gap remains top-of-mind for leaders across industries as technical roles continue to evolve and competition for top talent remains high. Due to the speed of innovation, over 58% of the workforce will need new skill sets to do their jobs successfully in the coming years.

While some employees may be able to make time outside of work hours for learning and development, many have competing personal priorities – meaning encouraging employees to seek upskilling opportunities outside of their nine-to-five may set them on a path of frustration and burnout. Instead, bring training programs directly to them and build a few uninterrupted hours into their workday so that employees can devote themselves to learning without navigating demanding tasks at the same time. This simple solution can mitigate burnout and ensure everyone is receiving the information they need to be successful in their roles – now and in the future.

For example, learning programs like SAP S/4HANA or low-code/no-code basics can quickly and efficiently equip employees with the skills they need by educating them on the latest platforms and technology necessary to keep up with digital transformation efforts. These programs can also level the playing field among teams, increasing workers’ value and purpose within their current role.

The Return on Learning and Development? Priceless.

While it’s true that that investing in learning and development is a commitment – both in budget and in resources – the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. It’s easy to deprioritize learning when the time and money that goes into upskilling can seem like an optional expense, but in today’s workplace culture, it is essential. Companies who invest in learning and development opportunities will reap the benefits almost immediately and will equip their teams for a future of innovation, creativity, and equitable opportunities for growth, ultimately leading to higher retention, empowered employees, and a more secure workforce.

Jan Meyer is head of Learning Systems at SAP.