What do IT professionals look for in an employer?

This is a guest post from Matt Fahy, Unum’s chief information officer.

New statistics from KPMG reveal that the current skills shortage has led to the sharpest growth in demand for IT staff in August in more than 15 years. Whilst IT vacancies are increasing year on year, it’s growing increasingly difficult to find people with the right skillset for the job. As a result, employers have to work harder than ever before to beat off the competition and recruit and retain the best talent.

As IT companies gear up for the busy Autumn recruitment drive, now is the time to think about how to stand out from the crowd and bridge the looming skills gap. So what do IT professional look for when deciding which company to join?

While salary will always remain a key consideration, our research has found that feeling cared for by an employer is one of the most important factors when IT professions decide whether to join or stay with a company. In fact, a third of people working in the sector say they would consider leaving a job as a result of poor wellbeing and a further 26% say it would make them less likely to stay with an employer long-term.

An important part of making staff feel valued and cared for is paying attention to softer elements around management and recognition. IT workers increasingly expect to feel empowered at work and that their hard work is recognised and rewarded.

There are many examples of IT companies which have found innovative ways to empower and motivate staff. Google’s 20% rule is a famous example, where employees spend one day a week on a new product or idea that is not part of their main job, while newer companies such as Edinburgh-based travel comparison site Skyscanner invests in training and development through the Skyscanner University, which includes subjects as diverse as negotiation skills and making sushi.

IT companies that are truly committed to retaining and attracting top talent also need to make sure these softer elements are underpinned by a comprehensive package of benefits which provide long-term financial protection – for example, Private Medical Insurance or Income Protection which provides a replacement income if an employee has to go on long-term sick leave. This is a tangible way for employers to demonstrate they care for their staff, and we know it’s important to workers in the sector – Unum’s Wellbeing Lag research earlier this year found that as many as 75% of IT workers say a comprehensive benefits package is important to them, and 63% specifically highlighted financial support through ill health, making this a bigger factor in staff loyalty than a good bonus (49%).

The latest evidence of the concerning skills shortage within the IT sector should be a wake-up call to businesses. People join – and stay with – companies who can demonstrate that they value their employees.

With our research finding that the cost of replacing IT professionals who earn £25,000 or more comes in at over £31,000, it makes financial sense to ensure this is an absolute priority. There needs to be more emphasis at board level on recruiting, retaining and nurturing talent, not only to ensure a happy and healthy workforce but to make sure IT companies can beat the skills gap and attract the staff they need in order to innovate and grow.