What technology professionals and employers are looking for in 2020

Tech pros want opportunities for growth and a work/life balance, while employers say they face challenges finding skilled workers, according to the staffing firm LaSalle Network.

Technology professionals and the companies that employ them all have their own unique needs, goals, and challenges. Workers often face the question of whether they should stay with their current employer or explore opportunities elsewhere. And companies are often in need of skilled and qualified workers that they may not be able to find. Two new reports from LaSalle Network shed some light on what tech pros and employers both want in the year ahead.

For its report "What Do Technologists Really Want," LaSalle Network surveyed more than 4,000 tech professionals to find out what they're seeking in a company and career in 2020. Among the respondents, 83% said they're open to new opportunities, while 53% said they've received anywhere from one to three job offers over the past year.

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Asked why they're open to new offers away from their present company, those surveyed cited more opportunity for growth, higher compensation, and better benefits. The top benefits that tech pros want are a 401(k) match, paid time off, and an option to work from home. While respondents pointed to growth as the top motivation for seeking new opportunities, they cited a work/life balance as the main reason for staying with their current employer.

Next, the certifications that professionals most frequently seek are CompTIA A+, Network+, and Project Management Professional. Tech pros are also looking to beef up their skills in some specific areas. With cloud computing such a hot topic, 55% of the respondents said they want to improve their skills in Amazon Web Services (AWS), while 14% are looking at Microsoft Azure. Programming languages is another popular field as 38% said they want to improve their prowess with SQL, 25% with Java, and 25% with Python. Looking at software development, 66% said they want to enhance their skills in Scrum and 11% in Kanban.

On the flip side, employers have their own laundry list of needs. For its "2020 Hiring Challenges report," LaSalle Network surveyed 100 leaders in finance, operations, and human resources to ascertain their goals ahead. The economy and job market remain strong as 80% of the respondents said that the talk last year of a possible recession hasn't affected their hiring plans. A full 70% of those surveyed plan to add headcount this year, with 40% looking to fill IT jobs.

Beyond hiring more workers, employers are aiming to invest in other areas this year. Almost 40% of the respondents said that their company would make investments in technology in the next 12 months. Another area for investment will be training and development as companies realize that retaining skilled staff requires investing in them.

Automation is expected to expand further into the business world. Around 33% of the respondents said they automated parts of their workforce last year, a number that will rise over the next decade. And among the companies that have automated, 60% said they provided retraining programs to help employees stay with the organization.

Employers also face their own set of challenges. Among those surveyed, 71% cited the ability to find skilled workers as their biggest hiring challenge. 

More specifically, the Society of Human Resources Management listed the top three missing soft skills in many job candidates as: 1) Problem solving, critical thinking, innovation, and creativity; 2) An ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity; and 3) Communication. Some of the hard skills missing in candidates include data analysis, science, medical, and engineering.

Identifying candidates who fit the company culture was another challenge, cited as a top one by 62% of those surveyed, up dramatically from 36% in last year's survey.

Finally, compensation requirements was the third-largest challenge among employers, listed by 58% of the respondents. Some 60% said they plan to increase salaries this year to remain competitive, while around 33% plan to add benefits.

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