IT Pros Pursue Career Growth Outside Management Track

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    For a lot of IT professionals, becoming a manager doesn’t appear to have the allure it once did. According to the results of a recent survey, only one-third of IT pros see going into management as having the potential to advance their careers.

    The survey was conducted by Addison Group, a Chicago-based staffing and recruitment firm that specializes in IT. The firm attributes this disinterest in management to an expansion in opportunities for IT pros to advance their careers, and their earning potential, without having to shoulder management responsibilities.

    “There still definitely are people out there, across generations, who do have a desire to advance their careers through management opportunities,” said Jason Reagan, regional vice president at Addison, in an interview. “But what we’re finding is that a lot of IT people have really strong skill sets that are in high demand, so it’s not necessarily a must that they have to become a manager to grow in their careers, or their compensation.”

    Reagan said IT managers do tend to be well compensated. “But if you look at the demand for IT professionals, such as high-end software developers, or those with strong business intelligence skills, their compensation opportunities are great,” he said. “They’ve found that they don’t have to become a manager to be compensated at a high level.”

    At the same time, it’s clearly important for companies to maintain leadership bench strength. So I asked Reagan what IT organizations should be doing to incentivize employees to opt for a management track.

    “One thing that we’ve seen companies do across the board is implement and install a mentorship or leadership program,” he said. “It may not be a management track, but it definitely puts people on track to mentor other people as they grow in their careers. Leadership and management do go hand-in-hand, for sure. So you can still have that leadership and guidance through mentorship programs, as well.”

    The survey is Addison’s second annual survey examining employees’ workplace preferences, career goals and professional values across three generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials. Interestingly, it found that satisfaction with work/life balance is decreasing—47 percent of respondents said they’re satisfied with their work/life balance, compared to 55 percent last year. I mentioned to Reagan my own sense that managers would tend to be some of those who are least satisfied in this regard, and he said he agreed.

    “There are a lot more responsibilities squarely on the shoulders of the manager, and that’s added pressure, added hours throughout the week and the year,” Reagan said. “That would definitely impact work/life balance.”

    As for what has caused the decrease in satisfaction with work/life balance, Reagan laid the blame, ironically, on technology.

    “I think what has changed is that technology is keeping us connected all the time,” he said. “You almost have to go off the grid to not be involved in work.” The survey found that 54 percent of Baby Boomers are satisfied with work/life balance, compared to 46 percent of Gen X and 41 percent of Millennials.

    The survey found health care to be the most highly prized benefit, topping even salary, regardless of generation. I mentioned to Reagan that I would have expected that the importance of that benefit would increase in direct proportion with the increase in the age of the respondent, so I was surprised that it was consistent across generations. Reagan attributed that consistency to ongoing discussion of the Affordable Care Act and the rising cost of health benefits.

    “It’s more about the total package—it’s not just, ‘I want to go make as much money as I possibly can,’” Reagan said. “We’ve seen people turn down offers that are higher salary for an offer in which the overall package is better.”

    Reagan noted that benefits in general are at the forefront of what employees are looking for, with paid time off (PTO) high on the list. He said he’s starting to see companies that no longer have PTO restrictions.

    “We had the CEO of a company tell us that they don’t need to have a PTO policy, because the technology ties people to their jobs—they’re working when they’re not in the office anyway,” Reagan said. “As long as they get their job done, that’s the most important thing. That’s been a big shift.”

    A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.

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