9 August 2021 — Without question, the biggest headline in technology right now is the talent shortage. The pandemic forced businesses to accelerate their digital transformations by three to four years, according to a McKinsey survey, and IT leaders desperately need talent to execute on aggressive strategies. TechServe Alliance research shows another uptick in IT employment, yet a deceleration of growth attributed to the talent shortage.
Can digital transformation initiatives withstand the wave of resignations headed this way? IT leaders need to take a closer look at what they're doing to keep employees - and better manage employee needs.
But is the talent shortage really the biggest challenge ahead? What most IT executives fail to realize is that employee attrition is equally if not more detrimental to their businesses than the inability to bring talent in.
The shift from who’s coming to who’s leaving
New Monster.com findings validate what’s been coined the Great Resignation. Nearly all workers - 95% - are considering changing jobs, and the mass exodus is already underway. According to the Labor Department’s JOLTS report, almost 4 million US workers quit their jobs in April, followed by 3.6 million in May.
What’s behind the trend? Burnout, for one. The pressure on IT talent over these last 18 months to both facilitate 100% remote work and digitize complex business processes has been unrelenting. Many feel overwhelmed, unappreciated, and at their breaking point.
Generally speaking, employees are also re-evaluating their careers against the backdrop of shifting priorities. Employees are looking for new opportunities that allow them to improve their mental health, work/life balance, and other personal aspects of their lives. This holds true for IT talent, too.
As businesses continue to develop their go-forward plans for how and where employees will work in this COVID era of work, IT talent is deciding whether those plans fit into theirs. If not, they have lots of other options.
Treating employees like candidates
Why should your IT talent stay? Why isn’t the grass greener on the other side? It’s time for the employee value proposition (EVP), a term understood largely only within HR circles, to make its way to IT.
The EVP is essentially the value a company offers to its employees in exchange for their commitment. It goes beyond compensation, benefits, and perks to explain what makes the experience unique for employees. The EVP captures the essence of a company’s culture, the “why” of an organization.
The biggest missed opportunity when it comes to a company’s EVP? It’s used only as a way to attract new employees instead of retaining existing ones. If IT leaders operate under the assumption that 95% of the workforce is considering leaving, then everyone should be treated as candidates. Operating under this new mindset means that all managers should care about the EVP, not just recruiters.
Unless a company is a huge technology brand, attracting and retaining talent based on name alone won’t work. Big-name brands in other industries, like banking or retail, might have the upper hand with candidates in certain disciplines like sales or marketing, but IT talent prioritizes projects and technologies over logos.
So, what makes the EVP stand out or fall short? Like most, IT talent wants more flexibility in how and where they work, more opportunities to work on projects that help them grow as professionals, and access to upskilling programs to boost their resumes and value. IT leaders need to fully understand the EVP for their companies, and more specifically, within the IT department - and ensure it’s resonating with current and prospective employees alike.
Preparing for the inevitable
Undoubtedly, all companies will lose some talent during the Great Resignation. But when employees leave, IT leaders can gain something incredibly important: perspective.
Many IT leaders have a very insular view of their worlds, especially given the pace and urgency of digital initiatives right now. All energy is thrust into the needs of the business, and when an employee leaves, their focus immediately shifts to who can take their place. It is critical, now more than ever, for leaders to conduct meaningful exit interviews with outgoing employees to gain insight on the IT working environment. This is typically handled entirely by HR - an oversight companies can’t afford to make. IT leadership must be involved in this process.
What are other businesses offering to be competitive? And, just as importantly, what causes employees to leave? Exit interviews can help IT leaders uncover what might be broken from a culture perspective within their departments. From a broader view, they can also help leaders identify trends in how and where people want to work, and what value they’re looking to gain from an employer. Most importantly, this enables the company to adjust strategies and take action to make improvements.
The Great Resignation isn’t a scare tactic. It’s a very real, very possible reaction to an unprecedented environment where talent calls the shots. IT leaders who take the time to understand the true value they offer to employees and work to ensure it meets the needs and demands of their workforce will weather this storm far better than those who ignore the warning signs.
Originally published 29 July 2021 in InformationWeek