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Seventy-six percent of IT decision-makers worldwide face critical skills gaps in their departments, increasing 145% since 2016, according to Skillsoft’s Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills and Salary Report. At the same time, 50% of IT departments say cybersecurity is their most important area of investment, followed by cloud computing, governance, and compliance.

Thus, in a nutshell, Skillsoft quantifies the paradox facing all IT departments in 2022.

Skillsoft’s report examines the growing global IT skills gap by region, with additional insights into the most in-demand IT skills, current salaries and compensation, and organizations’ plans for training, leadership development, and certifications. Based on 9,300 responses from IT professionals in North America; Latin America; Europe, the Middle East, Africa (EMEA); and Asia-Pacific, the report provides a globally based, realistic assessment of the growing IT skills gap.

Pressure to innovate widens skills gap

Digitally transforming customer experiences forces IT to innovate quickly yet more disruptively. Securing each new application and platform requires new cybersecurity techniques and technologies most IT departments don’t have staff to support today. Many in IT are asked to do two or more jobs at once as a result. Fifty-five percent of IT decision-makers say the skills gap’s greatest impact on enterprises today is increased stress on employees. However, overworking IT teams isn’t the solution, even in the short term, as enterprises say they have difficulty meeting quality objectives (42%), decreased ability to meet business objectives (36%), and often see project durations increase (35%).

Facing time and resource constraints to get new IT initiatives launched and secured, it’s understandable that just over half (54%) of IT decision-makers say they’ve been unsuccessful in filling at least one position, and 38% have three or more positions needed to fill. Furthermore, IDC predicts that by 2022, the monetary losses resulting from IT skills gaps will be $775 billion worldwide.

It’s the pace of technological change and the intense pressure on IT teams to innovate that most contribute to the widening skills gap. Just over a third (38%) of IT decision-makers say that the rate of technological change is quickly outpacing their existing skills development program as the primary driver, followed by difficulties attracting qualified candidates (35%) and a lack of investment in training resources (32%). In addition, 25% of enterprises say they cannot afford to pay the salaries that experienced, in-demand IT professionals want.

IT is under the greatest pressure to innovate in cybersecurity. Fifty percent of enterprises are actively investing in new cybersecurity systems and platforms, according to IT leaders surveyed. And for the sixth straight year, cybersecurity professionals are the most sought after globally. Yet cloud computing is the second most difficult hiring area, according to 28% of managers worldwide. In addition, cloud adoption rates are outpacing training, so IT decision-makers struggle to find the right individuals to keep up with evolving technology needs.

Above: Finding IT professionals with expertise in cybersecurity, cloud computing, or analytics and big data is the most challenging recruiting goal for any IT decision-maker today; 42% of hiring managers are having trouble filling cybersecurity positions today.

Image Credit: Skillsoft

Salary gains are strong for IT pros

IT professionals with cloud computing, cybersecurity, analytics and big data, and AI and machine learning skills are the most in-demand today and regularly receive invitations to interview for new jobs. According to discussions VentureBeat has had with IT directors and CIOs currently hiring, it’s common for experienced IT professionals in these fields to be offered 25%-30% or more over their base salary, a signing bonus, and stock options.

The study found that IT professionals in North America with cloud computing expertise earn an average salary of $144,533 today, and cybersecurity experts are paid $132,163. North American IT professionals are earning an average base salary of $121,544 this year. IT decision-makers in North America, on average, earn $28,770 more than IT staff. North America is the highest paying geographic region by a wide margin for IT professionals today.

Above: The average North American IT professional salary of $121,544 is 58% higher than the global average salary of $76,703. North American IT decision-makers’ average salary of $138,719 is 66% higher than global IT decision-makers’ average salary of $83,497.

Image Credit: Skillsoft

The five highest-paying tech jobs have an average salary of $133,802, $12,258 more than the average IT professional’s salary in North America today. The highest-paying IT job in 2021, excluding C-level and VP/director level executives and IT sales and marketing, is cloud computing, paying an average salary of $144,533. The following table compares average sales by job function across each region of the study.

Above: Cloud, risk management, IT architecture and design, cybersecurity/IT security, and audit/IT compliance are the five highest-paying tech jobs in North America this year.

Image Credit: Skillsoft

Personal development helps retention

Investing in employees’ professional development, including paying for certifications, proves to be one of the most effective retention strategies. In addition to respondents saying they are more engaged and efficient at work based on the knowledge they gained from certifications, employers see it as an excellent deterrent to having valuable employees leave.

The study finds that employees are quick to leave employers not offering this benefit, with 59% choosing to leave an employer due to a lack of growth and development opportunities. Over a third (39%) say training and development are more important than compensation (39%) and work/life balance (31%). More surprising is the finding that 37% of IT decision-makers say their organizations don’t provide formal training to keep their skills up to date. Given how competitive today’s hiring climate is, that’s a decision that needs to be reconsidered.

IT decision-makers are quick to attribute financially measurable value gains to employees with certifications. Sixty-four percent of IT decision-makers say certified employees deliver $10,000 or more in additional value than non-certified employees. Time and money invested in certification training positively affect enterprises’ bottom lines, even though 10% of IT staff report that management does not see a benefit to training or does not approve it. Fifty percent of enterprise IT decision-makers are seeing between a $10,000 to $29,999 annual economic benefit from certified employees, making certifications one of the best investments in employee development there is. Ninety-two percent of all respondents said they have at least one certification, a 5% and 7% increase compared to 2020 and 2019, respectively.

Above: The overwhelming majority of enterprise IT decision-makers see a positive economic benefit from hiring and developing certified employees internally. It’s proving to be an effective strategy for closing the skills gap.

Image Credit: Skillsoft

More than money talks to IT pros

Attracting and retaining IT professionals is more about creating a strong culture of continual professional development that includes paying for certifications than it is about salaries alone. Professional development programs make the best IT professionals more motivated to gain greater mastery of their fields. IT decision-makers who see this and double down on certification and professional development training set the foundation for a more stable, engaged workforce that will churn less than competitors relying on cash incentives alone.


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