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A new Gartner survey finds that only 29% of IT workers said they would stay with their current employers, and this requires that CIOs take a data-driven approach to identify workers who are most at risk, the firm said.

“CIOs are at the epicenter” of the talent retention issue many companies are facing, with “a huge chunk of their [IT] workforce at risk,’’ said Graham Waller, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst.

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“We’ve heard of IT organizations implementing back-to-the-office policies only to face mass resignations and have to reverse course,’’ Waller said in a statement. “CIOs may need to advocate for more flexibility in work design than the rest of the enterprise, as IT employees are more likely to leave, [are] in greater demand and [are] more adept at remote working than most other employees.”

Making more data-driven decisions around how work is done or can be done better is helping both recruit and retain IT workers, according to Rob O’Donohue, senior research director at Gartner. “The data from the research surveys tell it clearly–employees want hybrid and flexible work–and IT leaders that go with this as key input to their decision-making are doing well.”

The latest research also “busts the myths and assumptions [that] work can only be done in the office,’’ O’Donohue added. Case studies reinforce this, and IT leaders are buying into this, he said.

Changing the work mindset and construct

Once they identify valuable IT staff who are most at risk of leaving, CIOs should tailor hybrid work policies to keep them engaged and high-performing, Gartner said.

By shifting the mindset from policies to principles around flexible work, IT leaders can experiment and learn about different approaches they can try, then iterate and tweak again, O’Donohue said.

A human-centric work model can improve talent and business outcomes. To achieve it, Gartner advises CIOs to rethink outdated assumptions about work, including:

  • Working hours—Progressive enterprises are empowering people and teams to decide when they do their best work and pioneering new schedules such as the four-day week.
  • Office-centricity—The pandemic shattered the myth that employees can only get real work done in an office where managers can see them. Most organizations are now planning for a hybrid future that recognizes employees can be fully productive remotely for ‘heads-down’ work, while the office is best suited for certain work activities such as human connection and collaboration.
  • Meetings—The culture of meetings started in the 1950s when people had to come together physically to make decisions. Now, asynchronous and synchronous collaboration tools enable distributed decision-making, collaboration and creativity.

O’Donohue recalled that at one CIO roundtable session, “Clients were complaining that the day just became one long meeting since going to remote. That’s because the office-centric way of working was being virtualized.”

He told the group that they need to rethink how collaboration is done and, as an example, suggested blocking out four to five hours per day dedicated to synchronous work and then leaving the rest for asynchronous work. Once CIOs tried this, he said they started to see the usefulness of this approach.

Unless leaders model this behavior, it will not work, O’Donohue said. “As soon as a leader schedules a meeting outside the collaboration hours, it gives permission for others to do it. This is very much tightly tied to culture change and takes a new mindset.”

Some clients take a full day of asynchronous work per week; others a few hours per day, depending on the type of organization, he said.

On the flip side, “some organizations have taken it to another extreme–having meeting-free days two, three or four days per week,’’ O’Donohue said. “Data shows that many benefits can be gained—but there is a point at which this can start breaking down.”

The Gartner Global Labor Market Survey is made up of more than 18,000 employees in 40 countries, including 1,755 employees in the IT function in Q421, the firm said.

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