Survey respondents: Tech professionals embrace challenges and demand a lot from their employers
By Ryan Day
What is your honest opinion about your job? Your salary? Your boss?
Every fall for 11 years, Global Knowledge has surveyed thousands of IT professionals on key topics such as salary, skill development, certifications, job satisfaction and more. The resulting data makes up a majority of our annual IT Skills and Salary Report, which provides a wide-ranging and detailed snapshot of the industry.
And while the facts and figures are highly valuable, the comments shared by our survey respondents are sometimes more interesting and eye-catching. The open field sections of our survey are packed with authentic opinions about all aspects of the IT industry. Some of the strongest sentiments this year revolve around cybersecurity, skills gaps, communication, management frustrations and job satisfaction.
Cybersecurity professionals are confident in their job security
One trend was clear when analyzing survey comments from those in cybersecurity—they’re not worried about losing their job.
“IT compliance and security is a secure field, jobs will never run out.”
“It is a necessary job function so I am not concerned about losing my position.”
We saw many comments similar to these. Cybersecurity professionals are more secure in their role than anybody we surveyed. Cybersecurity professionals have the top global salaries ($81,564) and with a clear shortage of qualified talent in the field, established and credentialed security personnel are in high demand.
Reasons behind skills gaps
One major finding in this year’s report is that 70% of global decision-makers currently face a shortage of necessary skills. As already mentioned, there’s a meaningful cybersecurity skills gap, which may be a positive for job security but is proving to be harmful for many IT departments.
According to our report, the main reasons behind growing skills gaps are:
- Trouble finding qualified talent
- Lack of training investment
- Inability to pay what top candidates demand
These experiences were supported by comments from several survey respondents.
“[We] can find the candidates with the skills that we need, we just cannot afford to pay them.”
“My company does not provide training. It is not part of the company's culture.”
A finger is often pointed at upper management, whom many survey respondents blame for a lack of training opportunities.
“Senior Leadership doesn't communicate the budget or ways to get training.”
Another survey respondent writes that it’s just a struggle to get “the C-suite to understand the value of IT.”
If you’re constantly fighting a battle for training, check out our article “How to Convince Your Manager of the Benefits of Training” for tips on how to build and state your case.
One of the most in-demand skills: communication
While the technical skills associated with cybersecurity and cloud computing are needed across the board, the most desired soft skill is communication.
A number of the comments highlighted the lack of tech professionals with solid communication skills.
“If you find a person capable of being a good IT person, you can train them. Communication skills is the most sought after component that is missing. I think fixing the communication skills gap will help address the issue more than anything else.”
“There is a growing need to be able to simplify the message - we are overwhelmed by the amount of data and tools -- we need to be able to figure out how to communicate the results/impact.”
As IT professionals realize the value of strong communication skills, so rises the significance of project management skills, particularly DevOps. We heard from a number of respondents this year that say the metaphorical wall between departments is making it more difficult to do their job. DevOps is a methodology that focuses on improving communication and collaboration between teams.
It’s no coincidence that three DevOps certifications showed up on our list of 2018 New and Emerging IT Certifications.
Here are a few free resources focused on communication.
A little appreciation goes a long way
Many factors impact job satisfaction: salary, job security, training opportunities, etc.
One thing that is abundantly clear when you peruse this year’s batch of comments is the importance of management appreciation.
When asked why they remain in their current position, a survey respondent replied “[because] my manager lets me know he is thankful for my hard work.”
Positive feedback and acknowledgement of success go a long way. And it could be the difference between retaining top talent and needing to fill a vacancy.
Concurrently, modern-day IT professionals are motivated by challenges and appreciate the opportunity to add new skills, especially ones that can advance their career.
“I enjoy the department and the people I work with. My supervisor appreciates what I do, challenges me with more difficult audits to perform, and treats me with respect.”
Another respondent said they remain in their current position “[because] I am now engaged in tasks which are more challenging and my knowledge, skills and experience are put to better use and appreciated by the owner.”
IT professionals value work-life balance
While positive feedback and challenges can improve job satisfaction, increasing workloads have the opposite effect. Unfortunately, the volume of projects hasn’t decreased in recent years. On page 50 of our report, you’ll see that 37% of our survey respondents claim their workloads are either very challenging or the worst they’ve ever seen.
“Workload is greater than 60+ hours where work is taken home and there's no ability to disconnect. My personal and family life are each suffering.”
IT decision-makers would be wise to find creative ways to lessen workloads whenever possible. IT professionals who are overworked or unsatisfied are five times more likely to be looking for a new position in the next year.
Excuses not to train
A lack of funds and an already bloated schedule of projects are two main reasons why IT professionals don’t train. While there are workarounds, these are two legitimate excuses.
But those aren’t the only reasons why people don’t train. Here are some you won’t see in our report:
“The skills in my industry are becoming common place. As a result, employees are not pursuing certifications to match requirements.”
This is a marginal opinion, as 88% of respondents took some form of training last year. In fact, the main training motivator, by far, is skill-building. Nearly every IT functional area—from application development to networking to systems/enterprise architecture—is constantly evolving. Consistent learning is really the only way to keep pace.
And when it comes to certifications, nearly 44% of respondents trained specifically in preparation for a certification exam. Respect for certifications has never been higher—over 95% of IT decision-makers believe that certifications lead to a more effective staff.
“The company is hesitant to provide certification based training as employees tend to leave afterwards. That is mostly in part to the company not recognizing the value of the cert/training. Proper salary surveys are not being used by management.”
Data disproves the myth that people who take training will leave their job.
This is another common workplace perception that conflicts with our data. IT professionals who train are more likely to remain in their current job, not less likely. Those who took any training in the past year are 30% more satisfied than those who didn’t train. And as discussed previously, the more satisfied an employee is, the less likely they are to seek alternative employment.
Not investing in your current personnel for fear that they’ll leave for a different job is a disservice to your staff and your organization. Our data consistently proves that training improves job satisfaction, while also allowing team members to better close skills gaps, complete projects faster and provide an edge over the competition.
“I have done this for 30 years, certifications are for the client benefit.”
This type of statement is quickly disproven when you compare the salaries of certified and non-certified employees. Certified personnel in North America earn 22% more than those with no certifications. That number rises to 45% for IT professionals in the Asia-Pacific region.
The individual value is obvious. As for organizational value, it’s been proven that certified employees are more productive and help close skills gaps.
A majority of IT professionals fully understand the overall value of certification. It’s much more than just a “gold star” to add to the resume. And the study that goes into preparing for a certification exam is one of the best ways to enhance your skillset.
Yes, your clients will benefit. But so will you and your organization.
Reasons to train
Training participation is at the highest level it has been in our 11 years of publishing the IT Skills and Salary Report. More IT professionals are finding motivation to train—and they are experiencing the benefits first-hand. Here’s what many had to say this year.
Benefits of training:
- “Meet others in the industry who I can collaborate with on issues.”
- “Anticipate Customer Trends”
- “Improve ability to work with multiple stakeholders and perspectives”
- “Self-improvement - never stop learning”
- “Differentiate myself from my peers (performance evals)”
Benefits of certification:
- “The manner in which I interpret things has changed”
- “Confidence in dealing with clients”
- “I'm more self-confident in my role”
- “I have been better able to recommend and lobby for new or enhanced controls.”
- “I've been able to guide other colleagues away from potentially disastrous decisions on their projects.”
Learn more about the value of certifications and find free resources starting on page 15 of the report. Download it now.
Optimism outweighs frustration
When scouring through survey respondent comments, it’s easy to get fixated on the frustrations. Even so, with budgets shrinking and workloads increasing, there’s still an optimism and enthusiasm that’s impossible to miss. Tech professionals embrace challenges and want to learn. Few are content to remain stagnant—they want to branch out, learn new skills, and make a difference.
With that said, IT decision-makers need to invest in their employees, who are highly-motivated and demand a lot from their employers.
“I believe that my current certifications and skillset deserve a higher salary. I plan to see just how marketable my skills are and if my salary can be more comparable with industry averages elsewhere.”
There’s a running thread throughout the comments that upper management doesn’t understand IT’s importance. Whether that’s true or not, perception is reality. IT professionals expect to be treated like an investment, not an expense.
Our advice to decision-makers is to be clear and transparent in their communication to their teams. Allocating budget and time for skill development is also crucial in alleviating many of these employee frustrations. This drives job satisfaction, can lower employee turnover and inevitably leads to a greater chance for project success.
Don’t forgot to download the full report!
Download your free copy of the Global Knowledge 2018 IT Skills and Salary Report today.