IT bosses must do more to change the industry's culture and make working in IT less boring, recruitment experts have said.
The working culture of the industry is putting young people off joining, and making it hard to retain older, skilled workers, members of a roundtable discussion on IT skills said today (10 December 2008).
They added that culture change in the workplace needs to be led by people at the top of organisations. Companies need to be more flexible, interesting places to work and managers should listen more to staff about what they want from a job.
The IT industry has been hampered for years by skills shortages in some parts of the recruitment market. But while some have focussed on the education system, telling universities and schools they are not producing the type of graduates they need, others have pointed to the inability of the IT industry to make people want to work in IT.
Charlie Johnston, HR director at Cisco, said culture change must come from the top. "There is a transformation going on in society. In five to 10 years, we are probably going to be look at this period of time as a time when things had to change in the workplace. It will require a different style of leadership. Leadership needs to be collaborative, rather than 'command and control'."
Many IT organisations have been slow at picking up on the changes necessary to attract and keep staff, Carrie Hartnell, programme manager at IT trade association Intellect said.
"You need to have the right culture to attract and retain staff, and companies are realising that culture is absolutely vital," she said. "There are technology companies that are moving in the right direction, but it is slow. A lot of them are not moving quickly enough."
Johnston added that the current crop of IT leaders are of a different generation to those coming up through the ranks. They are used to traditional ways of working, but are now having to operate in different ways.
He said, "We are trying to create an environment where people can excel, be themselves, and feel like there is a sense of purpose."
Jane Binner, associate director at recruiter Computer People, agreed that companies need to work harder and said those who do listen to staff will be the ones to get ahead. "We have found there is a mismatch between what employees want and what employers are offering as benefits. Employers need to understand their staff."