Despite Large IT Job Market, Workers Remain Disengaged

In-demand roles require extensive training, and there’s a disconnect between employee performance and rewards.

Stephen Lawton

December 5, 2023

4 Min Read
daydreaming employee at meeting

As 2023 comes to a close, navigating the IT job market presents several key challenges, despite the apparent abundance of opportunities.

While the demand for IT professionals is high, a closer look reveals that many of the most in-demand positions require extensive training. According to employment firm Ramstad, six of the most sought-after tech roles are AI engineer, data scientist, data engineer, video game designer, DevOps engineer, and full-stack developer.

Beyond the sheer availability of positions, the challenge in today’s IT job market reflects a broader trend of how employees perceive their treatment and engagement by employers. For example, employers don’t always appropriately reward good performance. A September 2023 report from ADP Research highlights the difference between promotions and merit pay increases. Although promotions are justified for those taking on great responsibilities, exceptional employees who excel in their current roles might be better rewarded by offering bonuses or merit pay increases. “If someone has excellent performance, of course, you should strive to pay them more,” the report states. “But what companies sometimes get wrong is confusing promotions with merit pay increases.”

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The takeaway, according to the report, is that employers need to accurately measure worker motivation and commitment. While admittedly difficult to quantify, motivation and commitment are indeed measurable and can be cultivated in workforces to increase productivity, the report said.

Related:7 Ways to Become a Software Engineer Without a Degree

Ongoing Disengagement Within the Workforce

Phyllis Rosen, an executive coach, recently completed a three-part series about disengagement in the workforce in and outside of the tech sector. Citing a Gallup study, Rosen pointed out that only one in three workers feels a sense of belonging in their organization. The Gallup study also noted that 75% of people who voluntarily resign do so because of their managers.

Rosen said companies must find ways to better recognize their employees’ value via compensation. “[Employers] need to pay them appropriately for their time with reasonable time demanded. Technological advancements have leveled the playing field,” she wrote.

Susan Curtis, founder and CEO of business coaching firm Greater Insight, said many employees are simply not working in the right roles. Additionally, the changes brought on by the COVID pandemic have influenced employment dynamics – for example, many employees realized that remote work allowed for increased personal time while maintaining productivity.

According to Gallup’s 2023 report on the global workplace, although the world saw a job resurgence in 2022 as pandemic restrictions eased, the majority of the world’s employees are ‘quiet quitting.’ “These employees are filling a seat and watching the clock,” the report states. “They put in the minimum effort required, and they are psychologically disconnected from their employer.” Some 59% of global employees fall into this category, while 23% are thriving at work and 18% are actively disengaged, or ‘loud quit.’

Related: Tech Company Layoffs: The COVID Tech Bubble Bursts

Finding the Right Fit

Asking the right questions before one accepts a job offer can help the job candidate and company find the right employment match. Here are some sample questions from Curtis that candidates can ask during the interview process:

  • Who succeeds here?

  • Could you describe to me some of the qualities of your most successful person in this role? What do you see in that person?

  • How do you measure success?

  • What do you wish that person could teach anyone else who's two steps into this position?

  • What is the culture like here?

  • What are the hiring manager’s priorities, and what are your priorities if you are not the hiring manager?

Stanislav Kalatsky, head of people analytics and research at the software engineering firm DataArt, emphasized the importance of employers engaging their workforces with an empathetic and individualized approach. “Each employee deserves a personal human touch in both defining the employee expectations and leveraging corporate capabilities to meet them,” Kalatsky said. “Of course, there are definite things like budgeting and policies, which may not allow us to retain a person.”

When an employee does leave an organization, the HR staff should listen closely to the employee’s feedback during an exit interview. “Most likely they're telling the truth [about their reason for leaving and the company environment],” Kalatsky explained. “There are many reasons for leaving the company, both planned and unplanned. Our responsibility is to note those cases and monitor that necessary changes in corporate organization are implemented.”

Usually, if an employee quits the job, it is either because of unfulfilled expectations or better options on the market, he added. From a corporate perspective, it is wise to track both.

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