By Melissa J. Anderson

According to a new study by Randstad Technologies and Technisource, employees in the IT field are highly mobile. In fact, over half (53%) said they plan to consider other options when the job market improves.

Bob Dickey, EVP of Technologies at Randstad U.S., Professionals, pointed out:

“With engagement remaining steady and strong for IT workers, employers need to be sure they do not take their employees for granted. Companies should be aware of potential turnover even among their most engaged and top performing employees, especially as more jobs in the industry continue to open up and the market becomes increasingly competitive.”

But, according to the study, the mobility of people in the IT field is not due to a lack of engagement. It’s been said again and again that companies needed to be sure they were not taking advantage of their employees during the recession – this could create disengagement, and when the job market returned, weary and underappreciated talent would jump ship.

But that isn’t what seems to be happening in the technology industry. In fact, according to the study 76% of employees say they are “proud to work for their company,” an increase of 6% since last quarter. And 68% of IT employees said their “efforts at work are recognized and valued,” which is 5% higher than the average population.

Nevertheless, the study revealed, IT employees are 5% less likely than average to say they “enjoy going to work every day” (63%). What is causing the engagement discrepancy?

Retention and Engagement

The study involved a survey of over 3,000 adults in the United States, and about 10% of them were in the IT field. According to Randstad, IT workers are more optimistic about the job market in general – with 59% saying they believe the job market will pick up this year (5% higher than average), and 80% saying they feel secure in their employment (again, 5% higher than average). More than three quarters (77%) say they are positive about their company’s future. Fewer (but still a significant majority at 64%) feel their company is making the right choices when it comes to talent investment and 60% say they aren’t really concerned about the possibility of having to take a pay cut.

Finally, 67% said they “trust their company leadership to make good decisions for the workforce.”

The numbers look good concerning employee engagement in the IT field. Why then, are more than half of IT employees ready to leave their companies? Dickey weighed in:

“Employers should also be careful not to confuse engagement with worker retention. Our Study results underscore that IT workers, although engaged and satisfied, are more apt to consider leaving their current jobs than employees in any other industry sector. This speaks volumes on the need for employers to truly understand what motivates this talent and how to carefully balance the desire to scale back on various workplace incentives, with the need to have a workforce that wants your business to succeed just as much as you do.”

The question then, is what does the tech workforce really want at their jobs? The fact that they are less likely to say they are happy going to work every day than average, while meanwhile appearing to be more engaged on every other factor may reveal some truths about the technical work they are doing – perhaps they don’t find it stimulating.

Is it possible that this innovation-focused workforce is longing to do work they find more cutting-edge or more meaningful to the whole? The answer isn’t clear. Also unclear is how these employees see the potential for career growth. The survey didn’t ask how employees felt about advancement opportunities at their current companies. Perhaps they feel find about their companies, but their day to day has become too routine, and without career growth in sight, they are ready to leave for bigger opportunities. Companies should ensure they are providing a clear path for development and advancement, even during the recession, for this talented group.