Tech managers aren't doing a good job developing IT talent: survey

Tech managers need to do a better job developing talent, IT pros say. There's too much judgment and not enough instruction, according to new poll data from Dice.com.

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LOCATION: Top 20 metro areas for tech jobs

The IT careers site asked about the relationship between managers and their tech staff, and unsurprisingly, most poll-takers rated it a very important (59%) or somewhat important (23%) factor in the decision to stay at their current firm or look for a new job. Just 6% said the manager-staff relationship isn't an important factor in the decision to stay at a job, and another 6% went a step further and said it's not a factor at all. (The remaining 6% of respondents are either between jobs or are the boss.)

In addition to influencing an employee's job search decisions, an IT boss has the power to influence a company's reputation and its ability to recruit tech talent, says Tom Silver, senior vice president, North America, at Dice. "Yet, when it comes to developing talent, tech managers are not making the grade," Silver noted in a report released this month.

A majority of IT professionals judge their current managers as graders (61%) versus teachers (26%), but it's more important to create a nurturing workplace than a pass/fail department, Silver said.

"There will always be a need for some grading, but the emphasis should be on teaching. Tech professionals do their best work when it's a safe environment to try new solutions, explore alternatives and fail," Silver said. "Over time, wisdom gained equals fewer mistakes, cutting quickly to the best solution and increasing production. That's a pretty good payback."

If tech employees don't feel valued, they're going to jump ship. Turnover has fallen below average for 41 months in a row, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but tech managers can't count on a struggling economy and tight job market to keep their departments staffed. Good talent will flee, Silver says.

"Frankly, companies haven't felt the repercussions of subpar workplaces in the last three years. But, the gap between the importance of the employee-manager relationship and the way it's developing is unacceptable. Both sides need to remember this is a lasting connection and one worth the effort."

As of May 1, Dice.com lists 84,911 available tech jobs on its site. The top tech metro areas, based on the number of open jobs compared to a year ago, are: New York/New Jersey (9,005 jobs, up 1%), Washington, D.C./Baltimore (8,063 jobs, up 10%), Silicon Valley (5,620 jobs, up 21%), Chicago (3,731 jobs, up 10%), Boston (3,290 jobs, up 15%), Los Angeles (3,267 jobs, up 5%), Dallas (3,237 jobs, up 24%), Atlanta (3,196 jobs, up 17%), Seattle (2,993 jobs, up 23%) and Philadelphia (2,379 jobs, up 7%).

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her email address is abednarz@nww.com.

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