What Drives IT Pros to Change Jobs? The Evolution of the IT Decision-Maker, Part III

“My ideas are not considered and the problems remain unresolved. The people’s merits are not recognized, and the wrong people have decision-making power. They always make the usual mistakes.”

Now that’s an opinion of an employee who isn’t likely to stick around much longer.

This is just one of the many strong comments shared with us by survey respondents for our 2017 IT Skills and Salary Report, our 10th annual examination of the IT field.

And this unhappy respondent isn’t alone. In our most recent report, we learned that 15 percent of surveyed IT professionals are not satisfied in their current position. That number may not initially seem ominous until you realize that 96 percent of that group is likely to pursue a new job.

Any loss in personnel is a serious hurdle for IT decision-makers. If you manage a department with 500 employees, roughly 75 are dissatisfied and likely looking for employment elsewhere. If you manage 10 staff members, you may have to replace one or two employees. In either case, the loss is felt by the entire department. Supervisors are better served building team strength and driving business forward rather than spending a lot of time hiring replacements.

How Many IT Pros are Looking for New Jobs?

OK, so unhappy employees are looking to change jobs. That’s not exactly breaking news. But how many IT professionals are actually exploring new employment opportunities?

Since we started our report in 2008, the percentage of respondents considering a job change has ranged from 24 to 70 percent. That low point came in the first year of our survey. The high was two years later, just as the economic recession was ending and IT professionals emerged from a “just happy to be employed” mindset.

Post-recession, the numbers have remained fairly consistent. Outside of a small spike in 2012 (52 percent), the percentages have hovered around one-third of survey respondents. In 2017, we broke down the numbers even further with 31 percent of men and 23 percent of women indicating that they’d like to change employers.

For five straight years, one out of three IT professionals we surveyed expressed an interest in changing employers. Numbers have remained flat, but does that mean they will remain unchanged in the coming years? Before we can make that determination, let’s delve into the reasons why employees may choose to stay in their current position or decide to look elsewhere.

Salary

IT salaries have grown consistently since 2008 by nearly 2 percent per year. Raises and bonuses are also on the upswing either matching or surpassing pre-recession levels.

Salaries, however, can vary wildly by functional area and by industry. In our 2017 report, cybersecurity professionals had the highest global salaries ($87,580 average) with project management as the second highest ($82,567). Help desk/support/service management ($47,441) and networking/infrastructure ($47,441) had the lowest salaries.

As for industry, the military and homeland defense segment of the public sector takes the top spot ($89,077 globally) with aerospace and defense coming in second ($87,866).

IT salaries are trending up, but the pay discrepancy between functional areas and industries can be as much as $40,000 per year. This can certainly increase the likelihood of a job change.

According to our survey, professionals in the following fields are more likely to change employers (average global salary in parentheses):

  • Telecommunications ($49,999)
  • Hospitality ($71,021)
  • Media ($69,811)
  • IT Communications Manufacturing ($56,347)

Professionals in the following fields are the least likely to change employers:

  • Aerospace ($87,866)
  • Legal ($81,694)
  • Transportation ($73,504)
  • Healthcare ($77,180)

You’ll notice the discrepancy in pay. The second set of industries averages nearly $20,000 more per year than the first group. That’s certainly a factor when it comes to pursuing employment elsewhere.

Job satisfaction

Another discrepancy that could influence employees is the gap in salary and job satisfaction between IT decision-makers and the staff they manage. In the U.S. and Canada, IT decision-makers’ salaries are 42 percent higher than their staff. That’s up from a low of 19 percent in 2010 and 21 percent in 2012. The differentials are greater in Latin America and Asia-Pacific, with decision-makers earning 72 and 83 percent more than their staffs, respectively.

The satisfaction gap also mirrors those numbers. Respondents in Latin America report the largest gap with 49 percent of decision-makers being satisfied compared to 36 percent of their staff. Other regional gaps are similar.

Job security

Survey respondents who feel less secure in their current job are more than twice as likely to pursue new employment (51 percent versus 23 percent).

The overall feeling of job security hasn’t fluctuated greatly over the years with a high of 73 percent in 2011. According to our 2016 survey, 60 percent of respondents felt more secure in their position than the previous year.

One thing is clear when it comes to job security—professionals who think management values their contributions feel more secure and satisfied in their work.

Training

According to our latest report, 84 percent of IT professionals worldwide engaged in some sort of training in the last year. Of that group, 42 percent feel fully satisfied with their current position compared to 32 percent of those who didn’t train. Also, 22 percent of those who trained feel more secure in their role compared to 13 percent who didn’t train.

When asked about the cause of skills gaps, one IT professional commented: “No training provided due to lack of executive support.”

It’s clear that IT professionals respond positively when they believe their company is investing in their professional development.

Keys to Retaining Talent

Fortunately for IT departments, the number of IT professionals considering a job change hasn’t risen in the past five years. But that doesn’t mean it won’t.

The salary gap between management and personnel is climbing and employees are taking notice. This can become particularly problematic if managers aren’t involved or aware of the department’s day-to-day work or aren’t authorizing training for staff.

“Current management team has not been able to articulate an operating model in over a year,” commented one survey respondent.

Another wrote: “I was thrown, without negotiation, into new position which doesn’t really contest my knowledge.”

To keep employees satisfied, they must see investment and transparency from management and executives. A raise or bonus helps, too.

And while pay is often a motivator, an engaged and satisfied staff is critical. Decision-makers can’t just rely on their employees to be self-motivated.

“Everyone likes to know their work is appreciated regardless of profession,” said Michelle Jones, Senior Manager of Application Development at Global Knowledge. “For many IT professionals, that appreciation is often what keeps us going despite the frustrations of working through an incredible amount of ambiguity. But be careful about how you express appreciation. It has to be genuine or it’s more of an insult than a motivator.”

IT professionals shouldn’t be discouraged by failure either. It’s the manager’s job to recognize setbacks as learning experiences that set up for future success.

“Failure is common in the IT world,” Jones said. “It’s just not realistic to succeed the first time, every time, when you are trying to do something new. It’s not like there’s a step-by-step instruction manual for how to solve the puzzle with an unknown solution.”

The good news is that a majority of IT professionals are currently satisfied in their roles and industry salaries continue to grow. But an increasing number of skills gaps and heavy workloads are threatening the balance of IT departments.

Hiring your way out of skills gaps isn’t a viable solution. Decision-makers need to have a strategy to improve employee job satisfaction, including extra training, added responsibilities for staff and, when possible, promotion.

NOTE: This blog is the third in a three-part series about the changing philosophies of IT decision-makers. The recent release of our 2017 IT Skills and Salary Report marks the 10th straight year we’ve surveyed IT professionals. With a full decade’s worth of data, we decided it was time to analyze all of the numbers together and uncover any noteworthy trends.

Miss the first two blog posts in the series? Read them now, “Training is an Investment, Not an Expense” and “How Shrinking Budgets Are Affecting IT Departments.”

Want to read more comments from IT professionals? See our article “IT Pros and Decision-Makers Don’t Hold Back in Latest Salary Report.”

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