The Top 10 Challenges IT Teams Face in 2023
Any who tried recruiting tech workers in the past year knows the immensity of the challenge.
Findings from Skillsoft’s annual IT Skills and Salary survey show hiring tech workers has proven to be one of the greatest problems that IT leaders have endeavored to solve this year. Despite headlines of layoffs and economic uncertainty, the skills that these workers possess remain very much in demand.
The annual survey gathered data from nearly 8,000 IT professionals, revealing the top challenges in the IT and tech industry going into 2023. You can get the entire 81-page IT Skills and Salary Report here to dive deeper into the data.
In the report, you’ll find hiring workers isn’t the only challenge. IT departments globally struggle with a slew of issues ranging from heavy workloads to morale and team communication. The consequences of these challenges vary but often overlap (and the same could be said for the solutions too).
1. Talent Retention
Even amid historic layoffs, the tech labor market remains a trying, highly competitive landscape for employers.
The IT Skills and Salary survey revealed that over half of IT professionals say they’re either somewhat likely (27.64%) or extremely likely (25.21%) to leave their post in the next year.
The main reason for leaving? To get a raise. Almost half of tech workers feel underpaid, according to research by Dice.
But, pay wasn’t the only reason for moving on.
A lack of professional development opportunities has consistently ranked among the top reasons why workers choose to leave, along with work-life balance.
IT and tech workers are hungry to learn new skills — and apply them. For their employers, this means they want opportunities not only to build new skills and learn but find productive ways to make an impact at work.
Otherwise, they may just leave.
Read next: How to Overcome the Tech Talent Shortage
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2. Talent Recruitment
The majority of IT decision-makers — those who manage teams and budgets — say hiring talent is the toughest in these areas:
- Analytics, big data, data science
- Cybersecurity, information security
- Application development
This problem branches out, creating a chicken-and-egg challenge in IT. Two-thirds of IT leaders say they struggle with skills gaps on their teams, which impact morale and stress, project durations and resolution times.
The top reason given for skills gaps? “We struggle to hire candidates with the skills we need.”
Just below that, retention.
For those in IT leadership racking their brain, many have found answers by re-examining their own team’s capabilities. More than half of leaders surveyed plan to take matters into their own hands and train existing staff to close gaps.
Learning and development leaders at organizations like Leidos, Peraton, Johnson & Johnson — among others — say the key to overcoming this challenge has been a holistic approach to talent development.
Read this blog next:Can’t Hire Enough Tech Workers? Johnson & Johnson Found a Solution
Today, essentially every company is a tech company. The reliance and need for tech - whether it’s mobile devices or impressive new AI models - has driven up demand for the skills IT and tech employees have.
Said differently, they have their work cut out for them.
Workload is a leading barrier to training and has a compounding effect when factoring in employee turnover and skills gaps.
Whenever a teammate quits, it can cause disruptions and increase the amount of work for others. Further, skills gaps often lead to a decreased ability to meet business objectives.
This is where effective leadership, coaching, and project management can make a significant different.
Check in with your team or teammates to have open, honest conversations about workloads, projects and opportunities to go beyond surviving the day-to-day grind. Further, a disciplined approach to project management may be the ticket to quelling a never-ending stream of requests, tickets, bugs and more.
Further reading: The Value of Agile Methodology, Design Thinking and Visionary Application to Future-proof Your Organization
4. Skills gaps
When it comes to skills gaps, there is some good news and some bad.
The good? Last year, 76% of IT decision-makers reported having skills gaps on their teams. This year, the percentage dipped to 66%. The decline is due in part because last year, the lion’s share of leaders claimed they would focus on upskilling their teams to close gaps. The 10 percentage-point decline is evidence of their efforts.
And still, the pace of change proves difficult to overcome. Almost one-third of IT leaders say the rate of technological change is just too fast. The field changes constantly, and it’s hard for their teams (or almost anyone) to keep up.
However, this problem is made even worse for one-quarter of decision-makers who say their organizations haven’t invested enough in training. The leading training inhibitor, according to IT professionals, is that management doesn’t see the value.
Only, the impacts of skills gaps can lead to losses in revenue or business to competitors, increase security risks, and far more. All of these consequences have a price tag — some greater than others.
The majority of IT leaders still plan to train their existing staff to close gaps. Although, more work must be done to understand capabilities, take inventory of skills, and upskill or reskill as appropriate.
5. Lack of Career Development, Growth
Tech workers are an ambitious group. They want to learn. They want to advance their careers. They want to apply their skills to complex problems.
And they will, with or without their current employer.
As mentioned, behind a desire for higher pay, a lack of career development opportunities ranks among the top reasons why IT professionals leave their jobs. It’s a make-or-break benefit for them.
Mentioned earlier, the biggest hurdle for IT professionals who wish for more training opportunities is that management doesn’t see the value. According to IT decision-makers, nearly 30% of organizations don’t offer training at all.
All this in mind, the costs of recruiting and retaining talent likely outweighs what it costs to offer training — especially when you factor in other benefits that come from ongoing development. An example: Most workers (68%) say they would remain loyal to their employers and stay with them long-term if given training opportunities, according to reporting by SHRM.
Naturally, workload and resources can prove challenging — more on that later — but for some organizations, there are few other choices in today’s current climate.
“Given the global talent shortage, the only thing you can do right now is look to your internal people and train them into the jobs you want to have,” says Mike Henderson, vice president of technology and development products for Skillsoft in this report.
Read Next: Training Day: Close the IT Skills Gap with a Well-Scripted Reskilling Plan
6. Resources and Budget Constraints
When the IT Skills and Salary Report was released in fall 2022, almost 60% of IT leaders reported budget increases for their departments — a positive sign for those who need to hire staff, train employees and more.
In the months since, news of an economic recession have many concerned. The 2023 State of IT Report by Spiceworks Ziff Davis (SWZD) shows 83% of organizations share concerns over what’s to come, with many taking actions to reduce non-essential spending, scrutinize existing contracts, or decommission underutilized infrastructure.
Like Skillsoft’s report, the SWZD research shows similar budget trends, with most forecasting an increase but a significant portion remaining the same. The good news? Not many foresee decreases as IT budgets will remain a priority for business leaders.
The challenge then becomes choosing very carefully where to spend money to overcome problems. During times of uncertainty and scarcity, all must make do with less. For IT and tech executives, this is where close alignment with the business becomes critical so the allocated budget matches what’s expected. “Otherwise, you’ll always be allocated a budget that’s insufficient to meet the [new] business initiatives,” says Mike Puglia, chief strategy officer at Kaseya, to CIO.com.
Further, this is also a time to look within at your own team. Take stock of skills and capabilities. Find ways to upskill or reskill staff to save on outsourcing or recruitment costs and open new doors for your team.
7. Unclear Job Roles and Responsibilities
Unclear job roles or expectations has been attributed to the greatest cause of stress among workers, according to a 2016 study by ComPsych, a Chicago-based employee assistance provider.
When change happens at work — and in IT, there is always change — it can set some on edge, especially when their manager doesn’t communicate what’s happening. "Employees are telling us that much of the disequilibrium around change is coming from managers," says Richard A. Chaifetz, founder and CEO of ComPsych, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.
In today’s hybrid world, communication has risen to the top of team challenges. More than one-third of IT staff say team communication is their greatest challenge in hybrid scenarios, followed by interpersonal communication and communication with leadership.
Given the challenges preceding this one, it’s a must for team leaders to make time with their staff — together and individually — to check in, talk through changes that will impact them or the team even if all the information isn’t there. Clear, honest communication can help quell fears that stem from speculation or rumor.
In the coming year, almost 60% in IT plan to work in a hybrid fashion. Still, 32% will stay remote full time. Less than 10% will go into the office regularly.
What this means for team members and their managers is learning how to communicate to remain on the same page about roles, changes, and expectations.
8. A Lack of Effective Leadership
It’s hard to overstate the importance of effective leadership. Good, stable and effective leaders can make or break a team.
When leaders lack the skills to grow and nurture their teams, it can cause mutinous friction that leads to disjointed workflows, poor relationships, and attrition. Almost one-quarter of IT professionals quit their jobs because of management.
But what are the most important skills for those in IT leadership?
By a long shot, team communication is the single most important skill for IT leaders, according to 66% of survey respondents. Interpersonal communication (15%), emotional intelligence (6%), business (5%) and technical skills (4%) follow.
Team communication can help clear up issues of misaligned expectations (read number seven on this list), department priorities and challenges, and more.
“Leadership skills are essential to understanding and delivering business outcomes,” writes Orla Daly, CIO at Skillsoft, in a recent report. “Whether that’s the skills to understand and appreciate the business challenge, decipher which areas are most important to focus on, or identify and deliver the best solutions, it all requires the ability to communicate effectively, prioritize and influence, while being resilient and adaptive to change.”
Orla goes into greater detail about the importance of leadership skills in IT. See Skillsoft’s annual Lean Into Learning Report on page 36 to read it in full.
While technical skills remain in demand, soft skills — we call them Power Skills at Skillsoft — have an elevated importance in today’s workplace. Skills like these make a big impact in team dynamics, especially when fusing teams or working cross-functionally.
However, communication can prove challenging, especially in hybrid work. It’s the greatest challenge affecting hybrid teams as noted earlier. While effective communication can help solve the big, complex problems facing IT departments today, poor communication can have the opposite effect.
Evidently, many recognize this.
Of the nearly 16 million digital badges learners earned by training with Skillsoft in 2022, these ranked among the top 10:
What all of these courses have in common is they teach how to interact effectively and appropriately with others to reach an outcome. In business, working cross-functionally becomes paramount in completing large projects and reaching goals that carry far-reaching impacts for the organization, like transformation and growth.
See more about learning consumption trends by downloading the Lean Into Learning Report. It covers in-depth 2022 learning data, trends, and the state of upskilling.
10. Employee Morale
Developing stronger teams is a leading challenge for one-quarter of IT decision-makers as they try to fortify their departments with the capabilities to transform their organizations.
In doing so, employee morale must be a part of the effort.
“Great leaders hold themselves and their teams accountable. You can't do this successfully without empathy,” writes Rashim Mogha, General Manager, Leadership and Business, at Skillsoft. “Understanding where your team members are coming from, helping them fail fast, and stay engaged is an essential leadership skill. Empathic leaders connect with their team members beyond business outcomes to ensure good work.”
If feelings of apathy or dissatisfaction set in, it becomes harder to rally the team around strategic initiatives or even inspire workers to continue trudging through the daily grind.
For those in leadership, you must work within your means. Naturally, you can’t always give out promotions and raises to increase employee morale. But even smaller, sometimes overlooked, steps can help.
Consider taking these actions to help your team thrive:
- Recognize your employees’ efforts and praise their work.
- Validate their contributions, suggestions and opinions.
- Grant them more opportunities to work on skills that matter to them.
- Encourage them to pursue a new certification. (41% of IT professionals say they felt more engaged at work after earning a certification.)
- Work on the team culture by listening, gathering feedback and enacting change when it makes sense to.
Read next: What Do Great Leaders Have in Common, and How Do You Nurture More of Them?