Short term, however, the average IT professional is stuck in a rut. Eighty-eight percent of the 1,400 CIOs recently surveyed by Robert Half Technology don't plan to do any hiring in the third quarter; only 8 percent are looking to add staff, while 3 percent plan to cut back. "Do more with less" is still the all-too-common refrain at most IT shops chastened by the overprovisioning excesses of the dot-com bubble.
It's no surprise, then, that 72 percent of the 650 companies surveyed recently by Meta Group say they have an IT organization morale problem. What is startling, though, is that 32 percent say they're doing nothing about it. "Fewer people, fewer investment dollars for projects and a perception that companies do not really need to do much to focus on retention (where, after all, are people going to go?) do not help productivity," Meta notes in its 2004 IT staffing and compensation report.
If you're among the downtrodden, hang in there. Don't confuse this temporary malaise with a dearth of long-term career opportunity. The employment data indicates that the IT labor market has bottomed out. The United States added 4,000 information jobs in April and 3,000 in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are hardly blow-away numbers, but the momentum is encouraging.
Meantime, those tech employers who still have a "where are people going to go?" mentality had better get their heads out of the sand. Their No. 1 priority must be to identify their best people and most critical technical competencies, and then spend the money to develop them. While the Meta study found that companies pay IT professionals an average of 20 percent more than non-IT employees, only a scant few companies are undertaking proactive "talent management."