How the IT Profession Is Impacting the Great Resignation

Here we explore why IT professionals in particular have left their jobs recently, the impact on those who remain, and what leaders can do to keep new hires around.
December 17, 2021
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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, IT positions were already hard to fill. Great demand plus not enough qualified professionals to fill those vacancies meant many companies had to make do with smaller teams. When the pandemic hit, those small teams were burdened even more by the many new responsibilities that came with a new push for work-from-anywhere capabilities and other technology needs.   

Those IT professionals already doing more than their share were pushed beyond their limits. Combined with existing challenges — such as inadequate pay, lack of interesting projects, poorly managed teams, and the mental health issues many across professions have suffered as a result of isolation — the obligation to go so far out of their comfort zone pushed many in the IT profession to quit their jobs. 

This phenomenon within the IT profession is just one part of what’s being called the Great Resignation. In it, many workers have experienced similar conditions: ill treatment prior to the pandemic and being pushed beyond their limits during it. 

Here we explore why IT workers in particular have left their jobs recently, the impact on those who remain, and what leaders can do to keep new hires around. 

Reasons IT Professionals Quit

Some of the reasons IT professionals resign from their jobs are the same as in other professions. They’re looking for things like better salaries, the ability to work remotely (or, in some cases, not having to work remotely), greater challenges, and well-managed companies and teams. 

Simply needing a mental break is another cause for many employees across professions quitting their jobs. But IT workers may have a particular issue here, given the extreme need for additional technology resources throughout organizations as the pandemic unfolded over the last couple of years. 

The Impact on IT Teams

IT teams that lose a few workers may be susceptible to a vicious circle. As burnt-out team members leave, those remaining must work harder to make up for the lost skills. These employees are now in danger of becoming overworked as well and are more likely to follow their teammates out the door. 

The following CNBC newscast reports this phenomenon in more detail:

What IT Leaders Can Do

Company leaders and IT managers in particular should take this opportunity to hold up a mirror and ask what can be done differently to ensure that employees stick around. However, the hiring process can take time, so leaders should also consider some of the following ideas for compensating for lost team members: 

  • Use more automation. It may not be necessary to hire the same number of people who have resigned. Hiring managers can take a look at technology solutions that may be able to perform some of the lost skills.
  • Use temp workers or outsourcing services. It may be uncomfortable to think about handing over work to company outsiders. But temp workers and outsourcing service workers are trained to work with company teams as if they were direct employees.
  • Explore data-driven recruiting techniques. Using information about why former employees have left, it may be possible to identify who is likely to leave next and take steps to entice them to stay.
  • Prioritize diversity. Studies have shown that companies with a diverse workforce are more successful than those without. Additionally, the wider the definition of what an IT professional looks like, the larger the pool of candidates hiring managers will have from which to choose.   

A Pivot to the Great Retention 

Just as getting regular service and maintenance for office equipment helps companies save the cost of new purchases down the road, investing in employees can save the cost and hassle of finding and training new ones. Employers can start by learning what employees need: 

  • More flexibility. Team members want to be able to work in a location of their choosing and be able to take time off to tend to time-sensitive personal matters.
  • Better quality of life. During the pandemic, many employees learned what work-life balance actually looks like and they want to make sure it continues.
  • Relief from burnout. While the pandemic was a special situation that required more hours in certain professions, team members ordinarily want to limit the number of hours they’re expected to work.
  • Respect. Some workers are tired of being treated poorly by their managers and other decision makers within their company.
  • Career path. Team members want to know they can advance in their careers if they do well. 

Once employers understand employee needs, they can set about making them part of the positions they’re hiring for and even work those qualities into job descriptions. For example, they may advertise for “remote work software engineers.” Because working from home is important to many employees, companies must support their distributed workforce by ensuring they have everything they need to perform their work successfully. 

To attract employees, companies can also take other measures, like providing higher salaries and benefits, and offering signing bonuses. All these steps are especially important in the technology industry. According to a recent Entrepreneur article, “The tech industry is very competitive [and] it’s imperative that technology companies focus on retaining their current talent.” 

An Opportunity to Improve

Millions of Americans have quit their jobs in 2021 and it’s not just because of stresses and demands related to the pandemic. Poor working conditions, lack of business stability, and a dearth of career growth opportunities were issues long before COVID-19. 

IT workers aren’t immune to any of these factors, and this profession has been one of those with the highest representation in the Great Resignation. Companies that have lost IT workers this year should see the situation as an opportunity to improve their companies and hiring practices, attract highly qualified talent, and achieve greater success than ever.

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