Leadership in IT: catering for a mixed workforce

  • 22/10/2014
  • Candidate
  • Insights
  • Recruitment

Attracting and retaining highly coveted IT talent in a globally competitive marketplace — where skills shortages continue to threaten UK competitiveness and business performance — calls for management and engagement strategies that speak for themselves amid a sea of competition.

But in an age of increasing diversity, the modern talent mix (where as many as four generations could be working together) raises significant challenges. And with Baby Boomers nearing retirement, emerging generations will have a far greater choice of roles — allowing them to be even more selective.

Attraction and retention: one size no longer fits all

With more women in the workplace, a surge in migration, and an ageing workforce who are retiring later in life, employers are having to adapt their management style to appeal to a much wider range of genders, ages, religions and nationalities, along with personalities, skills, interests and beliefs. Furthermore, what appeals to employees at the beginning of their careers is often vastly different from what motivates them as they progress.

Our own research found that over time several factors become less important to IT professionals, including job security and new technology. So while younger workers are more likely to be impressed by cutting edge systems and equipment, experienced professionals value the factors that directly impact their quality of life, such as salary and location.

The great generational divide

Young people entering the jobs market for the first time are aspirational, believing they have the right to work the hours they want, in the job they want, with the benefits they want.

There’s also an expectation from 47% of Generation Y workers for promotion every two years — with 16% expecting one annually. Furthermore, 84% of Gen Y expect to be able to work from home, compared to 68% of the over 55s.

Different generations also expect largely different things from the workplace. Baby Boomers (those in their 50s and 60s) tend to favour face-to-face communication, respect titles, and like to be told they’re needed, while Gen Y (those born between 1981 and 2000) prefer electronic communication, actively request feedback, and have little issue with challenging authority.

Managers must therefore assess policies around home-working and flexi-time, manage expectations concerning career paths, and tailor management and communication styles to the professionals in their midst. They must also give thought to the range of benefits on offer, as these are likely to hold great sway in the ongoing war for talent.

Companies that really spend time understanding their employees and adapt working conditions and benefits to suit will set themselves apart from the competition with regards to the attraction and retention of highly skilled IT workers.

Spring Technology has witnessed a surge in demand for IT candidates and has seen development, business intelligence and database technology changing faster than ever before. We suggest that employers look at more than just a candidate’s specific technical skills and focus more time on their ability to learn and adapt to new technology. In the modern economy, businesses and technology departments will need to be able to evolve and react quickly to the market and will require a flexible IT workforce that can keep pace with IT innovations.

Preparing for a transient future

The duality in expectation of those entering the workplace and those nearing the end of their careers cannot be ignored.

If employers are to remain competitive, management styles must be fluid and flexible to ensure organisational needs are met, while adapting to a changing time and the changing needs of today’s diverse talent mix.