By June Keszeg
Information technology is the hub of business •
today, an engine for communication and business
transformation driven by collaboration and operational efficiencies. Standing at the center of this
vortex are IT professionals, the people responsible
for bringing ideas, technology and standards
together to create solutions that will be functional,
reliable, adaptive and scalable. Good IT pros
don’t come cheap: They typically cost more than
their administrative counterparts to hire and they
are an expensive bunch to maintain.
What then can small to mid-size organizations (fewer than
1,500 employees) do to recruit and attract IT staff? How do
you keep them engaged? What are all the aspects of their
development that should be considered?
Understanding IT Workers, Workforce
Trends, Job Roles
Finding and maintaining IT pros with the right skills isn’t easy,
and you’ve got plenty of competition. According to a recent
study by Robert Half Technology, nearly 1 in 4 chief information officers polled said finding skilled information technology
professionals is their greatest staffing challenge. Providing
employees with adequate skills training ranked a close second.i
Some factors behind this challenge include:
• Increased competition for workers due to population changes
as baby boomers begin to retireii
• Skills gaps resulting from technology changes and the
demand for IT pros to evolve from a pure technology to a
Technology-related occupations continue to be some of the
fastest growing employment sectors.iv
In additional to market pressures, employers also face challenges in hiring and retaining IT professionals because they do
not understand IT job roles or functions. This gap in understanding creates a significant disconnect between the employer and
employee in developing job descriptions, performance measures
and development plans. In fact, many IT professionals don’t
think their employer has an advancement plan for them.
Employers often make the mistake that all IT professionals
are cut from the same cloth; they are all “geeks.” It’s not uncommon, especially in smaller IT shops, for individuals to have to
be a jack-of-all-trades. Employers need to understand that job
roles are typically split between hardware and software and fall
into three main categories:
• Administration — Responsible for maintaining IT devices
and systems infrastructure.
• Development — Responsible for designing software or systems to meet functionality, reliability, security and/or scala-bility standards.
• Integration or Architecture — Responsible for project management, needs analysis, requirements development and
strategic planning across systems or organizations.
According to a study from The Computing Technology Industry Association, 86 percent of IT professionals choose the training they need based on their own career plan. Five percent choose
training based on their employers’ requirements or recommendations, while 2 percent are told by their employers what they
need to take. ITprofessionals spend thousands of dollars and
hundreds of hours every year to upgrade their skills and to remain
current and relevant, and the majority of employers do not provide support.
I’ve heard it before: “What if we spend thousands of dollars
to train them (IT professionals) and they leave?” Well, what if