7 min read

Developers today play a critical role in every business – the days of centralized IT being shut away providing clandestine support not only feels outdated, it’s offensive too.

But it’s not enough for employers to talk about how important an ambitious and creative technical workforce is. They need to prove it by actively investing in the resources and training their employees need to stay relevant and up to date.

That’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also a smart business decision. It attracts talent and ensures flexibility and adaptability.

Not convinced? Here are 6 reasons why employees should pay for the resources their development and engineering teams need.

Employers make money out of their developers’ programming expertise

Let’s start with the obvious – businesses make money from their developers’ surplus labor value. That’s the value of everything developers do – everything that they develop and build – that exceeds their labor-cost (ie. their salaries).

While this might be a good argument to join a union, at the very least it highlights that employers should invest in the skills of their workforce.

True, we’re all responsible for our own career development, and we should all be curious and ambitious enough to explore new ideas, topics, and technologies, but it’s absurd to think that employers have no part to play in developing the skills of the people on which they depend for revenue and profit.

Perhaps bringing up Karl Marx might not be the best way to make the case to your business if you’re looking for some investment in training. But framing this type of investment in terms of your future contribution to the business is a good way to ensure that you get the resources you need and deserve as a software developer.

It levels the playing field: everyone should have access to the same resources

Conventional wisdom says that it’s not hard to find free resources on technology topics. This might sound right, but it isn’t strictly true – knowing where to look, how to determine the quality and relevance of certain resources is a skill in itself. Indeed, it might be one that not all developers know, especially if they’re only starting out in their careers.

Although employees that take personal learning seriously are valuable, employers need to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to learning. Failure to do so can not only knock the confidence of more inexperienced members of the team, it can also entrench hierarchies. This can really damage the culture. It’s vital, as a leader, that you empower people to be the best they can be.

This issue is only exacerbated when you bring premium resources into the mix. Some team members might be in a financial situation where they can afford one – maybe more – subscriptions to learning resources, as well as the newest books by experts in their field, while others might be finding it a little more difficult to justify spending money on learning materials.

Ultimately, this isn’t really any of your business. If a team has a set of resources that they all depend upon, access becomes a non-issue. While some team members will always be happy to pay for training and resources, providing a base level of support ensures that everyone is on the same page (maybe even literally).

Relying on free content is useful for problem solving – but it doesn’t help with long-term learning

Whatever the challenges of relying on free resources it would be churlish and wrong-headed to pretend they aren’t a fixture of technology learning patterns. Every developer and engineer will grow to use free resources to a greater or lesser extent, and each one will find their favored sites and approaches to finding the information they need.

That’s all well and good, but it’s important to recognise that for the most part free resources are well-suited to problem solving and short-term learning. That’s just one part of the learning-cycle. Long-term learning that is geared towards building individual skill sets and exploring new toolchains for different purposes requires more structure and support. Free resources – which may be opinion-based or unreliable – don’t offer the consistency needed for this kind of development.

In some scenarios it might be appropriate to use online or in-person training courses – but these can be expensive and can even alienate some software developers. Indeed, sometimes they’re not even necessary – it’s much better to have an accessible platform or set of resources that people can return to and explore over a set period.

The bonus aspect of this is that by investing in a single learning platform it becomes much easier for managers and team leads to get transparency on what individuals are learning. That can be useful in a number of different ways, from how much time people are spending learning to what types of things they’re interested in learning.

It’s hard to hire new developer talent

Hiring talented developers and engineers isn’t easy. But organizations that refuse to invest in their employees skills are going to have to spend more time – and money – trying to attract the skilled developers they need.

That makes investing in a quality learning platform or set of resources an obvious choice. It’ll provide the foundations from which you can build a team that’s prepared for the future.

But there’s another dimension that’s easy to ignore. When you do need to hire new developer talent, it does nothing for your brand as an employer if you can’t demonstrate that you support learning and personal development. Of course the best candidates will spend time on themselves, but it’s also a warning sign if I, as a potential employee, see a company that refuses to take skill development seriously. It tells me that not only do you not really care about me – it also indicates that you’re not thinking about the future, period.

Read next: Why companies that don’t invest in technology training can’t compete

Investing in learning makes employees more adaptable and flexible

Change is the one constant in business. This is particularly true where technology is concerned. And while it’s easy to make flexibility a prerequisite for job candidates, the truth is that businesses need to take responsibility for the adaptability and flexibility of their employees.

If you teach them that change is unimportant, and that learning should be low on their list of priorities, you’re soon going to find that they’re going to become the inflexible and uncurious employees that you wanted to avoid.

It’s all well and good depending on them to inspire change. But by paying for their learning resources, employers are taking a decisive step. It’s almost as if you’re saying go ahead, explore, learn, improve. This business depends on it, so we’re going to give you exactly what you need.

It’s cost effective

Okay, this might not be immediately obvious – but if you’re a company that does provide an allowance to individual team members, things can quickly get costly without you realising.

Say you have 4 or 5 developers that each decide how to spend a learning allowance. Yes, that gives them a certain degree of independence, but with the right learning platform that caters to multiple needs and preferences you can save a significant amount of money.

Read next: 5 barriers to learning and technology training for small software development teams

Conclusion: It’s the right thing to do and it makes business sense

There are a range of reasons why organizations need to invest in employee learning. But it boils down to two things: it’s the right thing to do, and it makes business sense.

It might be tempting to think that you can’t afford to purchase training materials for your team. But the real question you should ask is can we afford not to?

Learn more about Packt for Teams here.

Co-editor of the Packt Hub. Interested in politics, tech culture, and how software and business are changing each other.