Written by Mason Chaudhry
on February 02, 2023

Click most any news site today and you will find that articles that once discussed remote work, quiet quitting and work/life balance are being replaced with tech layoffs, hiring freezes and economic concerns. While many enterprises have been forced (or more likely have been preemptive) to implement layoffs and hiring freezes in order to reduce costs, there is still mass uncertainty about the future of work in the markets, labor pools and in most C-level offices. Yes, the formerly red-hot job market is cooling faster than Tesla stock and the return to office debate is seemingly becoming secondary to efficiency and RIF discussions.

Yet, even with Silicon Valley giants reducing headcount, the IT labor market in 2023 is likely to remain competitive with a particular emphasis on technology skills such as Cloud computing, artificial intelligence and data analytics, with Gartner predicting a 5% increase in IT spend this year. As more and more companies shift their operations and infrastructure to the Cloud, professionals with expertise in Cloud-related technologies such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure will be in high demand. Additionally, the growing use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in various industries is expected to drive demand for professionals with skills in these areas. Cybersecurity is also an important field and will continue to be in high demand, as well.

I recently had an opportunity to moderate an IT Workforce discussion between C-level executives representing Fortune 500 enterprises, the Public Sector and Academia. These executives brought ideas to the table on how to best position their respective enterprises to attract, retain and upskill the IT talent needed to drive their businesses. One thing all of the executives agreed upon was that there are currently opportunities to improve their enterprise’s position in the IT talent marketplace in 2023. Is your enterprise prepared to leverage these opportunities? Take a look below to gain insights on some ideas to help your enterprise take advantage of the current IT labor market.

Is now the time to optimize the IT talent within your building that will drive future growth?

Many enterprises will look to improve their financial stability and long-term growth prospects by investing in new technologies or expanding into new markets. To do this, it is important for enterprises to become/remain Agile in order to navigate the current economic climate and position themselves for future success. A relatively cooler labor market presents opportunities for public and private enterprises to address the quantity of tech talent to drive strategic initiatives in 2023. With true Enterprise Agility requiring continuous migrations from legacy technology, ongoing data migrations, systems integrations and a one-way road into the Cloud, having premium tech talent remains a prerequisite to success. A Harvard Business Review survey indicates that most CIOs still designate the tech talent gap as the largest inhibitor of speed to market and overall delivery. So what approaches can be taken in 2023 to capitalize on not only a more fertile labor market, but also with a workforce that might not be as interested in puddle-jumping between employers? Is this the right time to optimize the way you attract, upskill and retain your IT talent? Is there an opportunity to further diversify your ranks and reap the benefits of confident IT workforce? Yes, yes, and finally yes.

Is your enterprise an attractive destination for top IT talent?

Attracting skilled IT workers has been a challenge even prior to the pandemic, then coupled with a near-universal emphasis on digital transformation over the past 36 months, enterprises of all shapes and sizes have spent big money on bringing on and retaining Agilists, Product SMEs, Developers and Cloud experts. IT workers seek not only traditional compensation and benefits but indicate a desire to work within new technology sets that challenge their skills and for employers that provide opportunities (and the time) to learn new technology. For employers, “advertising” their tech environments is usually not part of the recruiting process; yet for many enterprises that are successful in IT recruiting, weaving the tech story into their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) has been instrumental. Traditional EVPs focus on company culture and compensation; EVPs that focus on tech tend to highlight opportunities for career growth and development, access to cutting-edge technology, a positive and collaborative work culture and a diverse and inclusive environment. Your IT EVP should include:

  • Positive, inclusive and flexible work environments that permit remote work.
  • Training and continuing education focused on the latest in tech, process and tools.
  • Collaboration with universities and tech communities to build brand recognition.
  • Clear pathways for growth and advancement within your enterprise especially as more organizations shift from transparent corporate ladders to flat Agile Operating Models
  • Innovative opportunities to try new approaches and POCs such as learning Dojos, Hackathons and a Thought Leadership culture

So, does your enterprise leverage a traditional or tech-focused EVP?

Is your enterprise flying a plane while building it?

Upskilling tech workers, AKA training current employees, in new technologies has been a daunting task for many organizations. This has meant training in new programming languages, software development tools, data analysis techniques and many migration requirements. While upskilling can help employees stay current with the new ever-evolving tech landscape, carving out time and resources requires innovative approaches beyond pre-recorded videos. The approach below  is effective for larger enterprises and should be modified based on the needs of small and mid-size enterprises. Fostering tech skills in automation, data and Cloud can be achieved if enterprises consider encourage employees to upskill, which can be beneficial for both the employee and the company.

Some strategies for creating this time include:
    • Encouraging employees to attend relevant workshops, conferences and other training opportunities.
    • Creating internal training programs and mentorship opportunities that allow employees to learn from more experienced colleagues.
    • Offering online training resources, such as online courses, webinars and video tutorials. 
    • Incorporating skill development into the performance review process, so that employees are encouraged to continuously improve their skills and take ownership of their own development.
It's important to communicate that upskilling is a company's priority and the time given for it will be protected and valued. Also, providing the resources for it, such as access to training materials or mentorship programs can help.

Retaining the best talent: your own!

Retaining talent refers to the strategies and actions that organizations take to keep their most valuable employees from leaving the company. This can include offering competitive compensation and benefits packages, providing opportunities for career advancement, fostering a positive and supportive work environment and investing in employee development and training programs. Additionally, effective communication, recognition and rewards and clear expectations for employee performance can also help with talent retention. Retaining IT talent requires a combination of strategies to address the various factors that can contribute to employee turnover in the field. Some key strategies include:

  • Providing opportunities for professional development and career advancement, such as training programs, mentorship and stretch assignments that allow employees to grow their skills and advance in their careers.
  • Fostering a positive and inclusive work culture, where employees feel valued and supported, and where diversity and inclusion are embraced.
  • Communicating the company's mission and values clearly and regularly and ensuring that employees understand how their work aligns with the company's goals (Business Agility requires transparency)!
  • Offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options, which meet the needs of employees and help to attract and retain top IT talent.
  • Regularly gathering feedback from employees and implementing changes based on that feedback to improve employee satisfaction and retention (Feedback loops are not just for customers)!
  • Establishing a clear path for career progression and providing opportunities for employees to take on increasing levels of responsibility and leadership within the company.

As recently as 2022, surveys have indicated that only 1/4 of the US IT workforce is comprised of women and only 11% of IT workers come from African American backgrounds. Attracting a wider pool of job applicants from diverse backgrounds could help address some of the IT talent gap; and while most enterprises have Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) programs, many still struggle to gain meaningful change through DE&I. What can organizations do to not only improve DE&I efforts, but to leverage DE&I as a way to gain a leg up in the IT labor market?

  • Set clear diversity goals and track progress not only within the HR function but with goals for leaders across the enterprise. Consider OKRs across corporate functions.
  • Create pathways with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)s and also other minority and women’s groups to move beyond internships to real training for jobs prior to graduation.
  • Offer diversity and inclusion training for all employees that explains not just the why but also the how in creating more opportunities for people of all backgrounds.
  • Increase representation in hiring and promotions at all levels. DE&I initiatives create more impact if the diversity is also found within leadership ranks.
  • Regularly gather and act on feedback from employees, DE&I innovation and opportunities should be grass-roots, not just top-down.

Overall in 2023, the demand for IT labor will remain strong with greater pushes for automation, data science, artificial intelligence and Cloud tech. Your enterprise can take advantage of the shifting labor market by creating an attractive IT EVP that focuses on true upskill opportunities (and with the time to do it)! By leveraging DE&I as a tool towards addressing the labor market rather than a box to be checked, your enterprise can gain leverage against competitors for tough to find roles and technical fields. No matter the size, mission or tech stack of your enterprise, these IT workforce insights should be applicable; good luck in 2023!