Why more than half of IT leaders may be looking for new jobs

Two new surveys indicate that more than half of IT decision makers and leaders are job hunting because they lack of voice in the C-suite, see few training and advancement opportunities and feel pressures from a lack of IT staffers to meet growing tech needs.

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Two new studies warn that more than half of IT leaders are actively looking for new jobs because, in part, they’re dissatisfied with the amount of C-level support they and their tech organizations receive.

As many as 58% of enterprise IT managers are currently job hunting, according to a survey of 3,300 “decision makers"  commissioned by ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of Zoho. ManageEngine used market research agency Vanson Bourne to conduct the global study, which included IT and other key business functions from a range of private sector organizations.

A second survey that gathered nearly 8,000 responses from IT decision makers and staffers found more than half (53%) are “extremely” or “somewhat likely” to look for a new job in the next year. That study, from online learning site Skillsoft, said respondents have been affected by staff shortages and want to earn and learn more.

Nearly 81% of IT decision makers think their company should have supported them more in the last two years, ManageEngine’s study showed. And almost half said they would resign from their current organization if flexible work was no longer offered (48%) or if there was no potential to advance their careers (45%).

“Although IT departments were heralded as tech champions of the pandemic, their empowerment and autonomy for business decision-making has fallen short due to C-Suite limitations,” the ManageEngine study said.

At the same time they have less say, 88% of North American business and technology leaders believe IT is more responsible for business innovation than ever. Another 85% said IT could drive even greater innovation if it had a stronger leadership position.

“In large part, IT departments are more valuable today than before the pandemic due to a few dominant reasons,” said Vijay Sundaram, chief strategy officer at Zoho. Issues related to new demands around legal compliance regulations, privacy, and cybersecurity are at “an all-time high,” he said.

For example, violations of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can can lead to fines higher than $800 million. “This expertise [for compliance] resides in IT organizations,” Sundaram said.

The difference between 'looking and leaving'

Amy Loomis, vice president for IDC’s Future of Work practice, said while she doesn’t have “specific quantitative data,” the numbers from the two surveys seem high. “Looking and leaving are two different questions and a lot will change over the next few months, so it’s a very fluid situation,” Loomis said via email. “I can confidently say that based on my conversations with senior C-suite leaders, they are keenly aware of the value of the IT workers and leaders.”

The question executives should be asking is what’s required to keep IT leaders and let them feel they have a seat at the C-suite table, Loomis added.

Sundaram agreed the data in the survey his company commissioned “does seem high,” though he didn’t have any earlier study to which he could compare it.

Skillsoft’s report noted that frustration among IT managers is related to being unable to fill key positions. The study found 63% of IT decision makers have been unable to fill at least three positions in the last year. While still a considerable challenge, the 63% figure represents a 10% decrease from 2021, Skillsoft’s report said.

“The pace of digital transformation and lack of enough technical resources have pushed many IT professionals to a point of burnout,” Skillsoft said. “Together, these trends are fueling record rates of talent turnover across all industries. Skillsoft’s report found that IT leaders’ two biggest challenges are employee retention and recruitment. Thus, organizations must take proactive steps to shift their cultures to ensure employees feel fulfilled, engaged, and motivated.”

The 'Great Resignation' is ongoing

In the aftermath of the worldwide pandemic, workers have been quitting jobs in droves, a phenomenon called the Great Resignation. Each month for more than a year in the US, more than 4 million workers have been quitting the workforce, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some of the top reasons workers say they quit this year include unhappiness with how their employer treated them during the pandemic (19%), low pay or lack of benefits (17%), and a lack of work-life balance (13%), according to a survey by employment site Joblist.

Another factor behind high resignation rates appears to be a sense of feeling professionally stuck. A survey by employee management platform provider Lattice showed that 43% of respondents felt their career paths had either stalled or slowed to a crawl. That trend appears particularly true for younger employees: 38% of Gen Z workers (born after 1997) are looking for jobs with greater transparency around job path and development, according to the survey.

Of those surveyed, 80% indicated skills gaps pose high or medium risk to their team’s ability to meet objectives, according to SkillSoft.

Additionally:

  • The top reasons driving those gaps are difficulties hiring skilled candidates (44%); employee retention (33%); and not enough spending on training (26%).
  • The top three most challenging areas to find qualified talent are cloud computing; analytics, big data, and data science; and cybersecurity.

On a positive note, 59% of IT departments expect a budget increase in the next year (up from 26% in 2021), with the top skill areas of investment being cloud computing, security, and AI and machine learning, according to Skillsoft.

The lack of support IT managers and workers are expressing may have more to do with the democratization of IT than anything else, according to Sundaram. In other words, companies may more often be finding solutions to tech problems from outside the IT organization in the form of cloud services, third-party solution providers, and low-code or no-code software tools.

“Similarly, business units often have technology requirements that require quick action — a new analytics feature or integration with another app or data source — and the timeframe doesn’t permit outsourcing the work to the IT department and getting on their queue,” Sundaram said. “Another reason the IT department may feel unsupported is they may not have the right skills for the new emerging needs.”

Business decision makers seemed to disagree with IT managers as to how much say they have in an organization. In the US and Canada, they said their IT teams are most often consulted for advice on finance (53%), security (52%) and strategy (51%) decisions. Another three-quarters (76%) said their IT teams have complete or considerable authority to prevent business decisions based on security and technical concerns.

At the same time, non-IT departments have autonomy in purchasing apps and IT software (54%), facilitating IT audits (52%), purchasing devices (45%) and hiring tech talent (48%), according to ManageEngine. In addition, while nearly all North American respondents said their organizations have implemented a flexible work model, four in 10 reported that they were inadequately or not at all consulted as their organization moved toward that workforce model.

Execs need to listen

Key to addressing dissatisfaction among IT leaders, according to ManageEngine’s report, is for executives to simply listen and respond to some relatively simple needs. IT leaders simply want more opportunities to learn and grow at their current organizations.

When asked what they want most from their role in the next five years, 45% of IT decision makers answered that they want to learn new skills, and another 41% said they want to be able to guide change within the organization, ManageEngine’s report stated.

“This aligns with how they see IT evolving within their companies in the next five years; they believe IT should have a greater role in setting strategies for organizations,” ManageEngine report stated.

“Our research found that there’s increasing demand for certain skills, and consequently, IT professionals with those skills are earning higher salaries,” the report said.

Some examples of highly sought-after skills include cloud, data science, and IT infrastructure, all of which saw significant salary increases this year, ManageEngine said.

Pervasive technologies such as AI, machine learning, and other automation in general require IT know-how, “no matter where these technologies are deployed,” Sundaram said. “Bottom line, IT knowledge is going to be paramount, no matter how the organization’s IT department is configured...centralized, decentralized, or hybrid."

Executives should also encourage IT leaders to reorganize their department in ways that best respond to business demands he said, suggesting a hybrid model in which the central IT department handles some IT projects while others are handled by IT staffers embedded in business units.

One way in which the IT department might be less valuable than pre-pandemic is if it focuses solely on traditional areas such as sourcing, implementing, and deploying large systems, like SAP, he said.

“Companies should give IT leaders a voice in business matters, especially when it comes to anticipating ways departments can leverage technology in pursuit of new business opportunities [such as] adopting AI to gain deeper insights into customer behavior,” Sundaram said. “By encouraging IT leaders to take a proactive role in business, most companies will have technology-powered options that otherwise may have been overlooked. And they’ll have IT leaders who are deeply involved with, and appreciated by, the organization as a whole.”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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