Only 29% of techies truly want to stay in current job

Great Resignation? Flexibility and work-life-balance key factors in how IT staff choose next employer

Researchers at Gartner are finding that only 29 percent of IT workers globally have a "high intent" to stay in their current roles.

Younger techies are even less likely to stick around than their older counterparts, according to the survey of 18,000 employees conducted in the final three months of 2021 – with 1,755 of the respondents working in IT. The study found only 16 percent of IT workers aged between 19 and 29 plan to stay put, versus 48 percent for the 50- to 70-year-old bracket.

IT workers in Europe were most likely to remain loyal, at 40 percent, while 28 percent of those in the US said they weren't planning to move on. Australia and New Zealand had the most fleetfooted IT workforce: only 18 percent were intending to stay with their current employer.

Graham Waller, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said there was a bidding war for the most in-demand IT talent.

"IT professionals who have in-demand skills in data science, cloud, product or agile development, they can almost be like top athletes in the way clubs compete for top footballers [soccer players]," he said.

"Sometimes giant tech companies, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook are willing to pay significantly higher salaries than other firms to get some of this top talent. Compensation remains a big driver," he said.

But for those without such deep pockets, there were other ways to attract and retain IT staff, Waller said.

Gartner found that 65 percent of IT employees say whether they can work flexibly will impact their decision to stay or go.

For those in Europe, work-life balance trumped compensation in IT workers' decision making. Globally, it is now equal to compensation for the first time in a decade, Gartner found.

"We've heard of IT organisations implementing back-to-the-office policies only to face mass resignations and have to reverse course. CIOs may need to advocate for more flexibility in work design than the rest of the organisation, as IT employees are more likely to leave," Waller said.

This means having tough conversations with HR and other decisions-makers on company policy, to ensure they understand the exceptional drivers in the IT workforce, he said.

If an organisation mandates working in the office for a set three days per week, IT would have to collate data on how many people are leaving due to this factor and how difficult they are to replace.

"CIOs with that data can make the case that they need an exemption even if the initial policy was one size fits all across the enterprise. We are seeing that 2022 is a year of organizations experimenting with these models," he said.

The IT industry has seen a varied response to returning to the office following the pandemic. Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri said he was "a big believer that we're going to be back in the office." The company has since invested in $172.5 million in office space.

On the other hand, Salesforce, San Francisco's largest employer, cancelled the lease on an unbuilt 325,000 square foot (30,193sqm) tower.

Last year, Brent Hyder, Salesforce president and chief people officer, said that "the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks" as he announced an end to the assumption that most staff would work from the office, and introduced a flexible working plan. ®

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