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Tech Upskilling Programs: Expectations vs. Reality

Written By HackerRank | April 18, 2024

Abstract, futuristic image generated by AI

In tech, standing still is the fastest way to fall behind. To keep pace with this rapid transformation, it’s crucial that your tech team is not just maintaining their skills but continuously improving them. Enter upskilling.

The benefits of upskilling in the tech industry are numerous, including enhanced productivity, innovation, job satisfaction, and retention.

However, despite these undeniable benefits, many developers encounter obstacles that impede their ability to pursue upskilling opportunities effectively. And the success of any upskilling program hinges on one critical factor: whether developers actually utilize it. 

To gain insight into the state of tech upskilling, we surveyed developers, engineering managers, and recruiters to understand their perspectives. Here’s what we found.

Do Companies Offer Upskilling Opportunities?

The short answer is yes. There are upskilling opportunities offered within companies. However the perception of their availability differs between developers and managers. Our 2024 Developer Skills Report found 72% of developers believe their company offers some form of upskilling, and 84% of engineering managers agree.

The discrepancy becomes apparent when considering unstructured upskilling — 44% of managers report its availability, while only 31% of developers agree. Notably, developers are three times more likely than managers to believe that upskilling isn’t offered at their company.

Several factors could explain this difference in perception. Managers may view the organization’s upskilling initiatives more broadly due to their roles and responsibilities. And managers are more involved in planning and implementing these programs, thereby being more aware of their existence.

On the other hand, developers might have a narrower perspective, primarily focusing on their day-to-day tasks and interactions within their immediate teams. They may not be as exposed to the broader organizational initiatives or may not receive clear communication regarding upskilling opportunities, leading to a lower awareness level.

The nature of the upskilling programs themselves could contribute to the differing perceptions. Managers may perceive certain initiatives differently from developers, such as unstructured upskilling. The way these programs are communicated, structured, or implemented across different levels of the organization could contribute to these opposing perspectives. 

This discrepancy hints at a potential communication gap, where upskilling opportunities are available but not effectively communicated or reinforced to frontline developers. Ultimately, the value of upskilling opportunities hinges on developers’ awareness and ability to utilize them effectively.

Do Developers Get Enough Time For Upskilling? 

Time is a critical factor in the upskilling process, yet our findings indicate that developers often struggle to find dedicated time for learning. 

While only 22% of developers indicate receiving regular time allocated by their employers for upskilling activities, another 28% report occasional opportunities provided by their organizations.

However, a significant portion — 48% — of developers find themselves needing to carve out time outside of their regular work hours to upskill. This stark contrast in experiences is noteworthy, especially when compared to the perceptions of engineering managers and talent acquisition professionals, who tend to believe that developers have sufficient time for learning within the workplace.


Developers are increasingly motivated to pursue upskilling opportunities to remain competitive and relevant in a rapidly evolving tech landscape. Yet, their lack of dedicated learning time could hinder their professional growth and career advancement. This lack of space for upskilling also hurts companies who would have otherwise benefited from these new skills.

Employers looking to seriously benefit from upskilling should prioritize creating an environment that fosters continuous learning and development. This will go a long way in ensuring that developers have adequate access to resources and time for upskilling amidst their daily responsibilities. Addressing this gap is crucial for retaining top talent and driving long-term success.

Does Upskilling Actually Work?

Most people agree that upskilling works, but some groups are more confident about it than others. Developers tend to be more positive, with 72% affirming that upskilling works or mostly works. 

On the other hand, engineering managers display a bit more skepticism, with only 56% expressing confidence in the effectiveness of upskilling and 37% saying it sometimes does, sometimes doesn’t. However, skepticism doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of belief in its value. Only 7% of managers think upskilling doesn’t work at all. 

Continuous assessment and improvement of upskilling programs are crucial to ensure their effectiveness for all involved parties. Employers and tech managers can take proactive measures to ensure upskilling initiatives yield positive results. 

This includes clear communication about available programs, tailored learning paths aligned with employees’ career goals, integration with work projects, feedback and support mechanisms, and recognition of employee participation and achievements. By implementing these strategies, organizations can drive long-term success while fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Key Takeaways 

The discrepancy between developers’, engineering managers’, and recruiters’ perceptions of upskilling opportunities highlights a critical issue within the tech industry. While many companies offer upskilling programs, developers lack the awareness and time to utilize these opportunities. 

To bridge this gap, organizations must prioritize transparent communication and actively involve developers in planning and implementing upskilling initiatives. By fostering a culture of continuous learning and providing adequate resources and support, companies can empower their developers to enhance their skills and stay competitive in the ever-evolving tech landscape. 

Moreover, the data suggests that upskilling does indeed work, with a majority of developers acknowledging its efficacy. However, upskilling programs must be evaluated and refined on an ongoing basis to ensure their effectiveness for all stakeholders. By addressing the challenges and leveraging the opportunities for improvement, companies can cultivate a skilled and adaptable workforce capable of driving innovation and success.

Abstract, futuristic image generated by AI

Developers Rank the Best Ways to Upskill (Survey)