IT talent: 6 ways job expectations have evolved

These days, employees expect more and different things from their workplace. Consider these key requirements to retain and attract top talent
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Enterprise IT organizations have been shaken by some tectonic shifts over the past couple of years. Tech professionals who held tight to their seats during the early months of the pandemic are now streaming toward the exits during the Great Resignation. It’s a critical time for IT leaders to realign with their team members.

Specifically, it’s more important than ever to not only understand but get ahead of what IT professionals want from their employers, bosses, and teams today. People’s job expectations have shifted significantly over the last year and IT leaders must acknowledge and meet them in order to not only retain their key players but keep them engaged and happy in their roles.

6 ways IT professionals' expectations have changed

Following are six prevalent ways IT professionals’ expectations have shifted – and what IT leaders can do about it.

1. Job flexibility is non-negotiable

If you’re not already meeting this need, it may be too late. “Things like way more flexibility – both geographic and not in the office vs in the office – those are the low-hanging fruit,” says Elizabeth Freedman, head of consulting at Bates, a BTS Company.

“These days the smart and talented individuals in IT expect to be seen as more than a resource, or the sum of their skillset. They don’t expect beanbags and table tennis in the office, but they do expect flexible working, wellness perks, and an employer that takes its climate responsibilities seriously,” says Lorna Mitchell, head of developer relations at Aiven. “Employers need to embrace the remote and flex-time hustle and trust their people to get their best work done in the way that works best for them and the others around them.”

"These days the smart and talented individuals in IT don’t expect beanbags and table tennis in the office, but they do expect flexible working, wellness perks, and an employer that takes its climate responsibilities seriously."

2. Mission alignment and clarity

CIOs need to have a clearly defined point of view that is well-aligned with that of the CEO and the organization as a whole, says Freedman. “Getting buy-in and bringing others along on that is critical, [as is] being able to explain the rationale behind why we are taking the steps we are taking.”

3. Upskilling

“We hear a lot about the IT athlete, someone who is not just locked into a particular silo or aspect of IT but brings more breadth to the role and can work more horizontally,” says Freedman. “So you are not just skilled at the basic infrastructure, for example, but also work in other aspects of IT that are more business-driven, like external engagement with the function. This is another shift in expectations we are seeing in the role – not just depth, but breadth.”

As the technology group is increasingly responsible not just for keeping the lights on but also for delivering business outcomes, CIOs need to enable their employees to step up to meet enterprise expectations. “In order for IT people to succeed,” says Freedman, “we need to help them develop those skills.”

[ Want more leadership advice for the challenges of the new year? Read IT leadership: 3 practices to let go of in 2022. ]

This is also true for tech skills as organizations continue to modernize and migrate to the cloud. “To help retain teams, leaders need to prioritize cross-training practices and tactics such as mentorship programs and job-sharing, which help build versatility, agility, and skill intersections in team members,” says Rob Anderson, VP of marketing and product for application modernization at Advanced. “As organizations look to make the inevitable leap to a more modernized IT environment, this is an essential initiative that IT leaders can take now.”

4. Empathy and care

Employee well-being has never been more important, says Mark Curtis, head of thought leadership and innovation at Accenture Interactive. It’s now a business imperative to embed kindness and compassion not only into the customer experience, but the employee experience as well. “IT people look for leadership that is far more attuned to what people are thinking and feeling now,” adds Freedman.

5. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) progress

“Tone-deaf leaders who continue to champion practices and policies that have been debunked will get a lot of resistance. People are looking for inclusiveness and diversity and recognize that are many different ways and background stories that we want to continue to champion,” Freedman says. “Leaders should look on this as an opportunity to learn to work with more diverse employees in a more inclusive way.”

6. Respect for the individual

People are feeling much more empowered, with a greater sense of agency over their professional lives and opportunities. A recent Accenture Interactive survey found that half of U.S. respondents were rethinking their motivation for work. Companies need to acknowledge people’s behaviors and ambitions have shifted and rethink the employee value proposition, says Curtis.

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Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.