The IT sector is well on the road to recovery. Technological innovation has not slowed, regardless of the economic environment. In fact, the recession has spurred some organisations on in terms of investing in technological innovation and as a result salaries in this field are on the rise.

The sector remains one of the most rapidly developing in the UK as businesses adapt to take advantage of virtualisation and cloud computing.

Organisations are looking to IT infrastructure projects to help them increase productivity through greater efficiency.

IT and technology employers need to take action, or they could find themselves facing a shortfall of staff to help them achieve their business plans. There is fierce competition for talented and experienced workers, and many employees are opting to switch from permanent positions to better-paid contract roles.

With an increase in hiring activity, it is rapidly becoming a candidates' market, and employers must react appropriately to access the best and the brightest.

Hays recently undertook its second annual report on employment and benefits in the IT sector, and the results make interesting reading for those hoping to recruit.

Employers have enormously high expectations of IT professionals, and look for those that meet all of their demanding criteria. But filling permanent positions will be a struggle as staff opt for more flexible and better-rewarded contract roles.

Just 14 per cent of staff say they would only look for a permanent role as their next career move.

Employers may also struggle to retain experienced employees. The research shows they are increasingly out of touch with the benefits and desires their employees seek, and are failing to offer proper career tracking and development.

It should come as no surprise to organisations that basic salary is the key consideration IT staff take into account when evaluating a new role.

But increasingly the work benefits that come alongside basic pay, such as working from home and interesting or engaging work, carry more weight.

While half of workers in the industry are fairly satisfied with their benefits package, there is significant room for improvement; nearly two in five are to some degree unhappy with their offer. Employees believe their employers could be more generous with the benefits on offer.

Employers are also often failing to offer the benefits employees are most interested in. For example, 85 per cent of workers would like to have the option to increase their annual leave, but just 38 per cent are offered this.

The reverse is true of shift working; most employers offer this, but far fewer employees are interested.

If employers are serious about attracting and retaining talented staff, then they must also pay due attention to their career plans.

The sector is found seriously lacking in performance and pay reviews; 44 per cent of IT professionals told us they receive performance appraisals less than once a year or never.

Worryingly, well over a third of staff say they never have a pay review and over a third say they have never had a performance review. This must improve for employers to stand a chance of retaining employees.

As training budgets are relaxed, there's an opportunity to invest more in career progression. Employers must ensure staff are developing and growing if they are to retain them, while of course gearing training to the needs of the business.

Employers looking to hire good staff need to be agile. If they find a talented individual they are interested in hiring, it's likely that this candidate will also be considering alternative employment offers.

It is currently a candidate's market, and if employers do not act fast, they will lose out on the best staff. Rivals will snap up the most talented workers if hiring managers procrastinate.

Employers have the opportunity to set themselves apart form the crowd by matching their offer to that sought after by candidates.

With a scarcity of full-time candidates, they may also have to look creatively at how they approach projects and service provision using contract and short-term staff.

Andy Bristow is a manager at recruitment specialist Hays Information Technology

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