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Talent shortage keeps Nordic IT companies focused on job satisfaction

Nordic companies are aiming to win the race for scarce IT professionals through improving the workplace and concentrating on employees’ job satisfaction levels

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The IT industry is a major employer across the Nordics, and its increasing focus on job satisfaction is paying off.

Computer Weekly’s global salary survey shows Nordic IT professionals are happy with their pay and training opportunities and few are actively seeking a new job.

The survey found that only 7.6% of Nordic IT professionals are actively looking for a new job. This compares with 15% in the UK, around 25% in the Middle East, and 10.4% in the Benelux countries.

So what are Nordics companies doing right? According to Liselotte Jensen, deputy manager at the Great Place to Work Institute in Denmark, the answer lies in the workplace.

“Employees are the main resource for IT companies, more than in many other sectors. [Companies] need to create good workplaces to attract and keep workers,” said Jensen, adding that 10 years ago there was much more dissatisfaction.

Demand for IT professionals is major driver behind businesses looking to become attractive places to work. The Danish government predicts Denmark will need 19,000 more IT specialists by 2030, while Statistics Sweden estimates there will be a shortage of 30,000 engineers in Sweden by the same year. 

The numbers are similar in Finland, where the Finnish Information Processing Association warns there will be a lack of 15,000 IT experts by 2020.

“[IT workers] are in a good position as there are a lot of companies competing for them. They will vote with their feet if they aren’t happy somewhere,” said Johanna Pystynen, head of HR at Finnish software company Vincit. “This is one of the reasons why the industry has developed so fast when it comes to wellbeing at work.”

Work-life balance

But Nordic IT companies’ focus on job satisfaction is not all ping pong tables and office saunas. According to data from Great Place to Work in Denmark, more IT professionals feel they are paid fairly, appreciated, involved by management and encouraged to balance their work and personal life than employees in other industries.

“IT companies score three to four percent higher in these [categories] than companies in general,” said Jensen. “This is maybe surprising as the IT industry has a reputation for working hard and long hours. But perhaps people have realised this is not a necessity.”

These results are echoed in Norway. Jannik Falck, CEO at Norway’s Great Place to Work, said a significant portion of top ranked companies in its list of best workplaces are from the IT industry.

“From our research we find that the IT industry, on average, performs better overall when it comes to trust-based leadership,” said Falck. “This includes a stronger relationship between the management and individual employees.”

Against this background, it is not surprising Computer Weekly’s survey found the Nordic region had the least IT professionals actively looking for a new job.

People over profits

One Nordic company that has turned job satisfaction into a success story is Swedish IT consultancy Cygni. The 11-year-old company topped the Great Place to Work rankings for the medium-sized company section in Sweden and Europe in 2017.

“Our vision from the start was to be the best possible workplace,” said Tommy Wassgren, vice-president at Cygni. “That is the only measurable goal we have even now – we only measure how many people leave the company. We have no financial goals even for our sales staff.”

It seems the company is on to something. Wassgren said Cygni has very low turnover among its 112 employees. He attributes this to a thorough recruitment process, choosing only projects that challenge employees, offering extensive technical training and emphasising having fun together along the way.

“Another key thing is that when we make big decisions, which impact the entire company, we talk with everybody about them,” he said. “For example, we are now switching to new offices and everyone gets to have a say on this.”

Finland’s Vincit shares similar attitudes towards employee inclusion. In 10 years the company has grown into a 400-person listed company, and a year ago it decided to replace the traditional employee-manager model with its own creation: management as a service.

“The everyday work is still done in projects with project leaders taking care of budgets and deadlines, but traditional management tasks are decentralised into services. People can use them to tailor a package that suits their needs,” said Vincit’s Pystynen.

“Support for self-leadership, career planning, training and wellbeing have all been transformed into concrete services, which employees can order from our management and networks,” she said.

The company is keeping a close eye on the use of these services and employee feedback, but Pystynen has found initial results to be positive. Instead of offering the same model for everyone, employees can choose what they need at any particular time.

Growth challenges

Maintaining job satisfaction is continuous job in itself. At Cygni the next focus area is managing growth. The company’s Stockholm office workforce has grown by 27% annually, which next year would mean adding around 30 employees.

“That is a lot of new people to integrate. So we have slowed down the growth rate in Stockholm, started a new office in Gothenburg and are planning to open another office in another city,” said Wassgren. “These [offices] can grow more easily without affecting the overall company culture because we want everyone in an office to know each other.”

For Pystynen, the next challenge is adapting better to the changing ways people work. She believes trying to keep the same people for 30 years is not a reality anymore. Instead, her work with Vincit is to build models to support different types of employment, which remain beneficial for both parties.

“We understand different career paths suit different people and the quality of their input only grows if we can enable a career option that meets their current life situation,” she added.

Read more about IT recruitment in the Nordics

Read more on Information technology in the Nordics

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