The IT labour market in Australia has been through some turbulent times in the past decade. The market started out strong in the 1990s, with the dot-com era, millennium bug worries and Sydney 2000 Olympic Games contributing to a massive demand for IT skills. Good times were short-lived, however, as a market crash at the turn of the century left IT professionals disillusioned and unemployed.
Now, as the market is picking up again, the industry is having a tough time wooing back skilled staff. Competitive salaries and flexible working conditions have become the flowers and chocolates of a desperate bid for talent, and still employers are scratching their heads over how to get their employees to commit to the company.
And with the new, notoriously fickle wave of Generation Y's entering the workforce, one thing is for certain: the times, they are a-changing.
"Don't ask employees to be passionate about the company," IT textbook author Kathy Sierra writes in a recent blog entry. "People ask me, 'how can I get our employees to be passionate about the company?' Wrong question. Passion for our employer, manager, current job? Irrelevant."
According to Sierra, employees should be less concerned about contributing to their company and focus instead on their craft, be it programming, designing, or engineering. She likened the ideal company to a good user interface that would allow employees to be so engaged in their work that the company just fades into the background.
Sierra's school of thought may resound with projects dedicated to developing the perfect code, but for employers, a workforce of independent, mobile personnel could be bad news.
Already, the twenty-something-year-olds making their way into the industry have demonstrated a loyalty shift from the traditional focus on their employers to a more selfish interest in their own careers. Described by analysts as 'Generation X on steroids', the new generation is highly skilled, highly ambitious, in high demand - and they know it.
"Whilst Generation X are predominantly loyal employees who believe in building their careers through effective and long periods of service in each role, Generation Y are loyal primarily to their careers," observed John McVicker, Managing Director of Sydney-based IT recruitment firm, Best International.
"The length of time most Generation Y people think is appropriate to stay in one organization is based on the length of time it takes to get a promotion or a better job," he said.