Don't fear the exodus: paying for IT staff to get qualified is a worthwhile investment

Employers who do not fund staff training for fear workers will move on will pay the price

Employers who do not fund staff training for fear workers will move on will pay the price.

In an ideal world the IT industry would be a meritocracy, where all employees could use their skills, combined with industry-standard qualifications, to prove their worth as professionals.

I talk to people at all levels of the industry on a daily basis and, unfortunately, this is not how it is. In fact, the opposite is true.

I have observed worrying levels of "certification hostility", where individuals are deliberately held back from acquiring qualifications by short-sighted managers who see an ambitious employee as a threat to the stability of their department. Some IT managers refuse to invest in the long-term professional development of their staff.

They will not allow them to gain recognised and practical qualifications such as Microsoft's systems engineer certification or the IT security qualification, CISSP, for fear that they will use them to land a better job elsewhere.

Even more worryingly, some IT managers are deliberately sending staff on courses that do not offer industry-standard qualifications. They are too concerned about looking after the here and now to think of the long-term benefits of investing in the right training for their staff.

In an attempt to justify their short-sightedness, these IT managers argue that staff with paper qualifications are less important than those with experience when faced with a crisis.

This is, however, a particularly naive approach to management, and stems from the failure of the IT establishment to recognise the true value of professional qualifications.

IT managers might claim that qualifications mean nothing in the real world - diplomas are, after all, useless when your network servers are down.

Having a qualified workforce can, however, be an excellent benchmark of the abilities of your staff - you know exactly what team members are capable of because they have passed an industry-standard examination in doing just that.

Sending staff on a training course that does not offer qualifications can be a waste of resources. At least with a benchmark you can tell exactly what skills staff have acquired - or whether they have spent the duration of the course dozing at the back of the class.

If IT departments are really worried about losing qualified staff, they could be asked to sign a "human capital guarantee". This is a short contract that ensures that an employee whose training is paid for by the company will remain in a job for a set period after the qualification has been awarded.

Ultimately, if an employer will not allow staff access to training and qualifications, they will go ahead and fund it for themselves and be more likely to leave.

Robert Chapman is co-founder of The Training Camp
This was last published in October 2003

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