The demand for talent far exceeds supply, giving technology workers the power to choose their employer.
Technology workers want higher pay and flexibility, a readily accessible combination in the remote and hybrid work era. Flexibility extends to job responsibilities, as employees take advantage of chances to learn new skills and work with top-of-the-line technology stacks. These are all factors IT candidates take into account when searching for their next role.
Money and flexibility are the two biggest motivators for tech employees leaving their jobs, according to Candace Bracher, senior recruiter, information technology at Addison Group.
"Before, the ideal situation would be best of both worlds, but candidates understood and accepted the fact that they likely wouldn't get both," Bracher said. The COVID-19 pandemic proved that companies could accommodate flexible work and employees have more choice to go to companies with better pay — so now, candidates look for both.
In IT specifically, top talent seeks opportunities to grow their skills and work with a modernized tech stack, according to Bracher.
"Working with companies who do stay on the cutting edge of technology … has always been a big attraction to candidates," Bracher said. "Regardless of the shift in the marketplace, I don't see that changing."
Remote work, despite its benefits, also came with hurdles for the IT workforce that affect employee retention.
"Lockdown, long working hours, work-life balance issues, disconnection — these have affected us all and, the effect increased depending how we dealt with these issues," Antonio Vázquez, CIO at Bizagi, told CIO Dive via email. Companies succeeding while remote improved employee experience, and those that don't put employee well-being first may drive top talent out.
Additional hurdles for those new to the field
Cloud analyst Shayla White had been coding for a few years, but didn't feel ready to jump into the workforce after finishing an associate's degree. There also weren't many technical job opportunities nearby.
"I still needed to find a way to break into tech, and bootcamp was a great way for me to still be able to work and also go to school and further my education," White said. Bootcamps not only helped train for the technical skills, but also help candidates find roles and prepare for interviews.
White switched majors in school before landing in technology, but realized that finding a job in the field wasn't as easy as it seemed — despite overwhelming demand for tech talent. Imposter syndrome and lack of representation acted as mental barriers to entering the field.
Technical interviews are difficult to prepare for when candidates are new to the field and rejection can feel personal. "Sometimes you won't hear back, sometimes you will and can't take [it] personal, you just got to keep going," White said.
"I know it's hard to find talent but if you want to sculpt talent, you can find it."
But companies could be doing more to ease the interview process so candidates feel less left out and more engaged with the process.
"We're nervous," White said. "We shouldn't be nervous, but we are." Salary negotiation, ensuring career growth and trying to impress the interviewer all pile up and make it more difficult for candidates to feel confident applying for positions. Workers new to the IT field could benefit from mentors or leaders who they connect with to help them settle in, according to White.
"I know it's hard to find talent but if you want to sculpt talent, you can find it," White said.
Internships or apprenticeships build pipelines for talent development, but less formal programs to upskill talent help with finding strong talent and preparing them for the role.
IT leadership can hire for potential and invest in training the candidate for a role. High-potential hires that may not fit the exact bill "really ended up impressing our clients, and those were people who stayed around for the long term because they then put their investment back into the company that invested in their growth," Bracher said.
Improving employee experience to recruit and retain talent
Tech talent are seeking opportunities to stay remote, expecting the enterprise to overcome engagement hurdles that sometimes come with not seeing coworkers in person.
Two in five employees would like to be fully, almost entirely or mostly remote, even if COVID-19 was no longer a concern, according to a PwC survey. One-third lean toward mostly or entirely in the office.
"Companies who aren't able to provide some sort of meaningful, effective employee experience are at risk of losing their talent to their competitors," Bracher said.
Six in 10 IT organizations are investing in improving employee experience to better support remote work productivity and performance, according to a Forrester survey on behalf of Elastic released in April. Only 40% believe the department currently has the right tools, policies and procedures to support a remote workforce.
Engaged employees stay with the company, and company leaders are responsible for playing a role in that, according to Debbie Connelly, SVP and chief people officer at Hyland, said via email.
"Engagement takes many forms: It could be clear, transparent, consistent communication from the CEO, or it could be the CIO or senior HR leader giving employees a voice," Connelly said.
Engagement starts during the hiring process.
"To attract talent you need to make a strong and consistent value proposition to your potential candidates," Vázquez said. "Then, when all that is set, you need to align your selection and on-boarding processes."
A comprehensive engagement program goes beyond compensation and flexibility to include: mental health and well-being benefits, corporate social responsibility, diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and other programs, according to Connelly.
"Implement a multi-faceted employee engagement program that gives employees a voice," on issues such as work-life balance or current events impacting them personally or in the workplace, Connelly said.