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How investing in skills development helps halt brain drain

Eric Pulsifer
Eric Pulsifer

They say “no one is irreplaceable.” But what “they” often leave out is just how challenging it can be to replace people. 

Especially good people. 

And especially when it comes to cloud talent.

The job market may be in an unpredictable place — as you may have noticed if you’ve tried to grab a coffee recently — but one thing has remained constant: the demand for cloud skills.


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Cloud skills remain a hot commodity

Historically, cloud skills have been one of if not the most in-demand hard skill for years running, according to LinkedIn.

This year, LinkedIn reported that trend continues: “Technical skills are in high demand across the globe right now as companies look to keep their competitive advantage and develop a track record of success through innovation.”

This creates something of a perfect storm for employers.

People are leaving jobs at a record pace, and not just baristas and blue-collar workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports record numbers of Americans quitting for the fourth month in a row—finding nearly 4 million people quit in July.

Of course, the problem is when employees leave, you don’t just lose their skills. You also lose a wealth of institutional knowledge and a potentially important piece of company culture.

Given the ongoing demand and competition for top cloud talent (with 63% of IT leaders reporting it’s harder to find qualified engineers than Bigfoot) and the number of people quitting, minimizing brain drain should be a top priority for any organization that relies on its talent to get stuff done. (Read: everyone.)

How do you stop the brain drain?

Were you going to guess “throw money at your people?” It might not hurt (unless you literally throw money at them — that might hurt them a bit) but it might not be the quick-fix solution you think it is.

Even the generous salaries that top-paying tech leaders like AWS, Google, and Microsoft offer cloud engineers are often not enough to stop talent from jumping ship.

When news broke recently about how Microsoft nabbed an AWS exec, rumors swirled that AWS is struggling with some serious cloud brain drain that will present a problem for the company’s new CEO (after Andy Jassy’s move from AWS CEO to Amazon CEO).

So if a mountain of cash and the clout that comes from working at one of the biggest companies in tech can’t cure your brain drain woes, what will? Investing in your talent in other ways. 

Investing in skills development drives employee retention

More than 90% of employees are more likely to stay long-term with an employer who invests in their career through skills development, according to the State of Cloud Learning report.

As Glenn Llopis put it this week in Forbes talking about “The Great Resignation”: “People want to exceed your expectations. They want to tackle challenges. They want to push themselves and learn new things. And they feel more free than ever to leave a job that doesn’t give them the room to do these things.”

So you help your people learn something new, and you get employees that know the ins and outs of your organization and have a shiny new set of skills? Sounds like a win-win.

Survey says . . . 80% of cloud leaders reported finding it easier to upskill existing talent than to hire for new skills.

There’s real ROI in cloud training, with organizations that have invested in cloud training initiatives reporting that can have a return on investment of anywhere from 2x to 6x.

In analyzing consumption of our courses, we found that employees who complete at least one course in their first 3 months of using the A Cloud Guru platform tend to stay with their company around 20% longer than those who don’t.


The ROI Report: How the Cloud Helps You Grow

Cloud ROI: How cloud skills generate real returns
We analyzed nearly 100 companies to determine the impact of a commitment to cloud maturity. In this guide, see how much value companies get when investing in cloud skills and technology.


Build a learning program, boost retention rates

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building learning programs around cloud skills development. 

  • Some companies may offer employees a 20% time approach, allowing them to use a portion of their week for acquiring new skills. 
  • Others may tell them to just do it whenever you think you might have time. 
  • Some companies even incentivize employees to complete their training with bonuses, extra time off, and some good old-fashioned public praise.

ManTech, a contracting firm, launched an internal certification challenge where employees were awarded cash bonuses for completing a cert. In its first certification challenge — 100 certs in 100 days — ManTech paid out $260,000 in bonuses for high-level certifications and employees racked up 312 certifications.

Certs aren’t everything, of course. But they’re a good barometer for where employee skill levels are — and a good indicator of readiness for employers that are looking to grow their cloud infrastructure teams. And employees will always be able to demonstrate their expertise through their certification.

The new skills picked up in learning programs improve employee performance in their current roles. But they also open up opportunities for advancement, further driving employee satisfaction and retention.

Looking for more insights into how to retain cloud talent and stop brain drain? Check out the ACG report Halting the Cloud Brain Drain.


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