The Great Resignation Intersects Application Modernization And Digital Transformation
January 10, 2022 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Depending on how you want to look at it, today is March 680, 2020, or January 10, 2022. It is too early to tell if it is actually a new year or just the penultimate one stretched out unnaturally by biological circumstance. We remain hopeful that 2022 will represent something of a return to normal, but we also know that we can never return to the way things were in 2019. Too many people have had too much time to think about their careers, and a very large number of people are considering job changes or have already jumped ship for something new.
The IT market is no exception, of course, even if it does represent a very respectable and lucrative career for many of the tens of millions of people around the world who are engaged in this endeavor. We poked around at some national trends on the Robert Half white collar job staffing site, which includes IT workers as well as other areas, to get a sense of the mood out there – and it isn’t good.
According to a national survey from Robert Half, 49 percent of workers think that they are underpaid, 46 percent plan to ask for a raise, and 31 percent say they will consider quitting their jobs if they don’t get a raise. A stunning 66 percent say that they can quickly get a new job if they do so, and 87 percent say they are confident that their skills are still marketable. This is what happens when our jobs are dependent more on the quality of our thinking and our Internet connect than it is one where we are willing to pay rent or a mortgage. Having worked remotely since 1996 in an environment that was not in the midst of The Great Resignation, I took some risks, but I also built a company since 2001 that was founded on the idea that we could all work from home and take better care of our kids. This is a convenience that being involved with Internet publishing affords. Not every job is like this, of course. Most are not. But IT jobs certainly are, if managers let them be that way.
Having gotten a taste – ok, a banquet – of working from home, employees are not willing to give it up, and 75 percent say they want to work remotely at least part of the time and 34 percent say that that won’t stay at a job that doesn’t let them do so. (There are some who crave the office environment. I may have used to when I first got started, but writers and programmers tend to be solitary, and we get our social in other ways.) Remote work seems to be built in now of necessity, and 78 percent of employers realize that they have to recruit from outside of their geographies for new talent. In that sense, the coronavirus pandemic has been a good thing. It has smashed the idea that you have to move somewhere to work with people. And this is why 66 percent of companies surveyed by Robert Half say they will offer some kind of flexible scheduling even after lockdowns and occupancy restrictions are lifted when – not if – the pandemic subsides.
Moreover, companies are already using a lot of contract workers (38 percent of those polled), and 45 percent of them say they use contract workers as the majority of their staffs; 39 percent of workers say they are going to pursue contract work as the next step in their careers, which is a remarkable number. This is not the first time contract work has dominated – there was plenty of this in the 1980s and again in the 1990s, particularly in the AS/400 market.
It has been a long time since we could get good data on salaries in the AS/400 and IBM i market – Bob Langieri and Nate Viall, we miss your salary surveys – but if you want to see how your IT job lines up in terms of compensation with the rest of the national average, you can see salaries at Robert Half and comb through the job offers in Monster, ZipRecruiter, Indeed, or any number of sites. What I did note is that something called “mainframe programmer” was the lowest paid job, at $55,000 for the 25th percentile and $70,250 for the 50th percentile, and a lot of jobs have six figure salaries. There most definitely has been salary inflation in the past couple of years, and certainly over the past two decades in the IT field. Probably not enough to keep up with the cost of living, which is one reason why people are so eager to relocate to cheaper – and some say better – home environments and then work from home. Can’t blame ‘em, really. I did a similar shift six years ago, moving back to the mountains after living in New York City for nearly three decades. It was clear to me that the cost of living was going to wildly overshoot my ability to pay for it over what I presume, with great hope, will be my very long life.
We can talk about some general trends in IT jobs even if we can’t get specific about the IBM i market. As you might expect, there is high demand for highly skilled people and low demand for low skilled people. Given all of the application modernization and digital transformation work that has needed to be done because of the pandemic and as it continues, time is money and there is no time to train someone to do this work over a matter of years, it needs to be done now and that means paying it forward by chasing a talent pool that is too small compared to the demand. Paying it forward specifically means paying even more for more experienced people. Signing bonuses are common as are cash incentives to keep key employees. Hardware and software upgrades are on the rise for systems, too, so programmers and system administrators have the latest tools on which to build modern applications, which is good news for IBM’s Power10 upgrade cycle that starts at the low-end and midrange of the Power Systems line around May or June of this year. Unlimited paid time off is another perk that IT staff are getting, and of course remote work is, too.
Higher pay is a key to retaining existing employees as well as recruiting new talent, of course. The latest IT salary survey from Computer Economics, which was acquired by Avasant two years ago, shows the highest salary increases the IT sector has seen in a decade, with the average salary in the IT department (averaged across job titles, experience levels, and geographies) rising by 4 percent in 2022, with the 25th percentile increase being 2.5 percent and the 75th percentile increase being 5 percent. Those percentiles are roughly correlated to experience levels more than any other factor, we believe. The average IT salary increase was only 2.3 percent in 2021 Computer Economics also offers IT salary data based on geographic regions in the United States, which you can see here.
The situation is fluid, and somewhat volatile because people are reaching all kinds of limits in their personal and professional lives. We are eager for the pursuit of happiness, and less afraid to confront change in that pursuit. And what that means, really, is that all past datasets that might have described our behavior in the aggregate are not as useful as a gauge for future behavior as they might have been. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. If companies shell out more dough, they will get a chance to do a lot of the digital transformation work that should have been done long since – if they can find and keep the right people. Those who find the budget are going to do better than those who don’t over the long haul, and it may be a determining factor in whether a business survives or fails in the wake of The Great Infection.