3 Ways to Attract and Retain Talent in I&O

April 15, 2022

Contributor: Katie Costello

IT employees, including those in infrastructure and operations (I&O), are more likely to be job hunting than non-IT staff. Don’t fall victim to this trend.

In short:

  • Gartner data shows that IT employees, including those in I&O, are more likely to be job hunting and are less satisfied than non-IT staff.
  • The transforming and disruptive nature of the modern I&O work environment is causing unique challenges for leaders in the field.
  • To attract and retain IT talent, prioritize the values these employees hold dear, reinvent employee value propositions and embrace new work models. 

The Great Resignation impacts all organizations and business units, but there’s a particular dynamic at play when it comes to IT employees, including those on infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams. As organizations seemingly cram a decade’s worth of digital transformation and tech adoption into a couple of years, the IT talent shortage is becoming more acute every day.

On average, Gartner data shows, IT staff have a higher intent to leave compared with non-IT staff. The share of the IT workforce actively looking for jobs in 4Q21 increased to 32.1%, and their overall job satisfaction is a lackluster 25%. 

“Digital talent is scarce, and workers expect more value from their employment,” says Mark Margevicius, VP Analyst at Gartner. “There is a clear need for I&O leaders to proactively assess the underlying needs of their personnel as a continual management practice to avoid early and frequent turnover.”

We anticipate through 2026, I&O organizations that fail to meet the nonmonetary needs of employees will experience attrition rates 30% to 40% higher than in 2020-2021.

With that in mind, follow these three recommendations to create a holistic employment strategy that attracts candidates and retains employees.

Prioritize employment attributes that I&O talent values

Among prospective IT candidates, fair compensation, work-life balance and organization and job stability are the top three attraction drivers when looking for a new role. 

This are especially true within I&O. Insights from I&O job posting reviews carried out by Gartner analysts demonstrate a propensity to focus on the technical aspects of the role — technical skills requirements, vendor knowledge, specific technologies in use — to the detriment of the attraction drivers candidates value more highly.

When it comes to attrition, compensation, manager quality and work-life balance were among the top factors that caused IT employees to be dissatisfied with their previous organization. You can optimize talent strategies by recognizing both the requirements that attract employees and those that cause them to leave.

Download now: The 2021-2023 Emerging Technology Roadmap for I&O Leaders

Educate, captivate and excite prospective candidates about the opportunities that exist within your I&O organization. Showcase a multifaceted perspective on the group's attractiveness — for instance, how I&O team members are encouraged and rewarded, or the variety of technology currently in production and testing.

Focus on employee growth and satisfaction when strategizing how to retain I&O talent. Craft a plan that addresses the individual needs of employees and embraces flexibility and creativity relative to their values. This might include:

  • Allowing an I&O engineer to choose which DevOps initiatives align to their interests
  • Allocating time for training on new or different I&O tools and platforms not currently being used
  • Encouraging I&O team members to set a work schedule that fits their needs

Read more: How Lack of Skills Threatens Digital Transformation

Create an IT employee value proposition to compete for top I&O talent

Given that the nature of I&O work requires support for systems and processes that run 24/7, it is particularly difficult to create a positive employee experience that emphasizes a well-rounded and balanced work life. However, your employee value proposition (EVP) is a good place to start.

Gartner expects 75% of companies to have an EVP tailored for attracting and retaining technology talent across geographical borders by 2023.

When applied properly, the EVP addresses employees' personal needs and elicits an emotional response to the set of attributes people perceive as the value they gain in their life from working at the organization. This leads to deeper connections between the employer and employee, flexibility in how people work, and increased personal growth and well-being. It also enables the employee to embrace the organization’s shared.

Download eBook: The Top 3 Strategic Priorities for I&O Leaders

Employees in organizations that offer these types of growth opportunities are more likely to stay and perform better, so consider encouraging your teams to:

  • Learn skills such as cloud operations, automation and agile tooling that will be useful in the employee’s current job
  • Gain exposure to things like edge computing and site reliability engineering (SRE) that will make them more employable outside the organization
  • Pursue personal interests (such as volunteering) or nontraditional (i.e., in the business) career paths

IT takes a village: Partner with peers to attract and retain talent

The nature of today’s I&O work is no longer siloed, based exclusively on technical domains. The use of hybrid, product and fusion teams has demonstrated real value that has been recognized both inside and outside of IT. To support this cross-organization work style, I&O professionals are required to expand the nature of their work and expertise across the organization.

Collaborating with other departments will enable you to recognize and balance diversity of need among groups, teams and employees, and adjust accordingly. This way, you can collectively create EVPs that resonate with hybrid teams and employees alike, allowing teams to work harmoniously, as required by hybrid work.

Read More: The Top 6 Trends Impacting Infrastructure and Operations for 2022

Associated actions can include I&O, application development and security leaders meeting quarterly to share personnel and management principles, and cross-pollinating team members from outside groups to gather external perspectives on team dynamics and culture.

The HR department is also an important partner, and you can work with them to codify things like: 

  • Expanding hiring criteria to include skills adjacencies. For example, for in-demand skills like infrastructure as code (IaC), look for candidates who possess not only the desired skill but also adjacent skills such as continuous delivery (e.g., CI/CD or DevOps) or containerization (e.g., Kubernetes or Docker).
  • Being flexible on salaries for I&O associates who relocate to lower-cost geographies.
  • Having more empathetic conversations with employees regarding their mental and emotional well-being, especially with those responsible for supporting mission-critical systems and infrastructure.

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