What makes an organization a great place for technology professionals to work? Top salaries, benefits, and other perks are important, but so are opportunities to learn new skills, a flexible work environment, and a corporate culture that values diversity and teamwork.
Computerworld publisher Foundry surveyed large, midsize, and small organizations to discover the top employers for our 29th annual Best Places to Work in IT report. While in past years the survey has been offered only to US-based companies, this year we welcomed participation by organizations worldwide.
Read this special report to see which companies are the Best Places to Work in IT and what it is that makes them such desirable places to work. To read the report in PDF format, download it below.
Our 29th annual report highlights employers who offer IT pros top benefits, flexible work support, extensive training options, and much more. Computerworld
Tech talent’s time to shine
Career opportunities for IT professionals have been unprecedented over the past year amid strong demand for top talent and new skills. Recent economic pressures and rising layoffs have softened the market somewhat, but many companies continue to seek much-needed skills in data science, software development, cybersecurity, and other IT areas. Whether it’s via compensation, training, career growth, or flexible work options, organizations that have doubled down on efforts to cultivate a highly skilled IT workforce to help advance digital business will be well positioned to ride out a sustained economic downturn or other disruptions that may lie ahead.
In particular, hybrid work arrangements are helping align the needs of companies and workers, opening opportunities for a more diverse and productive workforce. Companies have a geographically broader pool of talent from which to draw, and prospective hires have more freedom to seek employment opportunities beyond where they live.
This shift is critical, given how vital IT’s role in business has become. Across industries, pandemic-era pressures have accelerated digital transformation, fast-tracking technology investments and casting IT as a key business enabler. This has put pressure on leadership teams to keep top performers highly motivated and engaged.
“IT can no longer be viewed as just a function or department. We’re really the backbone and the operating system of the enterprise,” says Jo Abernathy, CIO at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, which earned the No. 1 large-company spot on Computerworld’s 2023 Best Places to Work in IT list. “Technology isn’t used just to run the business but to reimagine it.”
As companies become more digitally driven, there is greater appetite for IT creativity — another plus for career paths in tech. “IT is an amazing melting pot of many skill sets coming together in new ways and is constantly being reinvented,” says Debbie Peterson, senior vice president of People & Culture with MetroStar, a digital services and solutions company specializing in government that earned the No. 1 spot among small companies this year. “I think that leads to a lot more autonomy. You can be more creative. And because of that, inside of IT, you tend to see folks take on many more types of roles than they would in a different sector.”
With technology now being the epicenter of modern business, IT jobs and salaries are on the rise, according to this year’s Best Places to Work in IT survey. The number of IT employees is up 8% over the previous year overall and is notably higher at midsize companies, at 17%. Across the board, companies are adding full-time IT employees: Almost three-quarters (72%) of the respondents have expanded their IT ranks over the past three years, by 41% on average. The year ahead appears to be on a similar trajectory, with 72% of the respondents indicating that they plan to grow their IT organization, by 16% on average.
Raises for IT positions are the norm: On average, 92% of IT employees got a salary bump in 2022, with salary cuts and freezes nearly nonexistent.
Workplace flexibility is here to stay
Most of the survey respondents said the pandemic period has established flexible work as a legitimate option that doesn’t diminish enterprise productivity. As offices have reopened, many companies are embracing the hybrid work model: On average, 90% of IT professionals at responding organizations are working offsite at least part of the time, and most companies (83%) have established a formal policy on flexible work. More than half of the employers (57%) said they give individuals the ability to choose their work location (with approval from management or within certain parameters), and 42% said their employees have the freedom to choose where they want to work on any given day.
Many firms had already supported remote work options, giving them a head start on implementing collaboration tools and new work patterns when the pandemic began. That was the case at Cedars-Sinai, ranked No. 2 among large organizations for hybrid work. IT employees had been working a couple of days per week at home for some time, but once the hospital formalized its telework policy, in 2021, it furnished all hybrid and remote workers with laptops, desktops, multiple monitors, docking stations, and virtual desktop software so applications were readily accessible remotely. Box and OneDrive help promote file sharing and collaboration, and there are tools for project tracking and reporting as well as for receiving calls from employees’ work phone extensions. An IT onboarding committee was established to help new employees feel welcome and to aid in the transition to a virtual environment.
“Since we implemented the formal policy, IT employee engagement scores and comments have continued to positively reflect that employees are happy and productive working from home,” says Craig Kwiatkowski, senior vice president and CIO at Cedars-Sinai.
Some organizations are finding that hybrid models provide a better balance and greater advantages for professional development than fully remote models. Employees at regional broker-dealer Janney Montgomery Scott, the No. 5 midsize company, spend two or three days a week in the office, with one of those days serving as a collective “team day” for IT employees. CIO Robert Thielmann believes that significant knowledge transfer is lost when employees go fully remote, and having employees interact in person with Janney’s veteran IT managers and peers is key to the company’s success.
People learn by observing, Thielmann says — things like the art of negotiation, collaborative design, and leadership behavior in various climates. “Our managers operate like player-coaches. They impart a lot of knowledge and skills, but most importantly they impart work ethic,” he adds, likening Janney’s mentoring model to that of a teaching hospital.
To support a hybrid workplace, companies are not just amping up use of collaboration platforms and equipment to make it easier for employees to work better remotely. They are also investing in on-site facility improvements to make in-office work more attractive and to bring parity to the hybrid work experience.
At biotechnology firm Genentech, for example, conference rooms have been redesigned to provide better visibility during video calls and encourage equity during hybrid meetings. Neighborhood work environments, designed for groups, are available throughout its campus. The company has also made improvements to reservation systems for more efficient management of demand for on-site services and conference rooms, and it has installed IT vending machines to make it easy to acquire technology on the fly.
“We offer a hybrid work model but also believe in the importance of a vibrant campus life,” says Charles Castano, vice president, US Informatics, at Genentech, which earned the No. 2 large-company spot. Creative concepts such as “tech-free Tuesdays” and “whiteboard Wednesdays,” along with on-site events designed to drive connection and celebration, are among the company’s initiatives aimed at encouraging IT workers to come to the office without having a set agenda.
“They have an opportunity to collaborate, sit down, have lunch, and walk the campus,” he explains. “It’s those one-, five-, or 10-minute interactions that spur ideas and discussion about how IT can collaborate with the business.”
Nurturing and upskilling the workforce
Facing a skills gap in many critical technology areas, companies are making a push to nurture existing employees. This year’s Best Places to Work in IT survey results show that 38% of IT vacancies were filled internally in 2021, and companies are actively pursuing a variety of paths to boost employee engagement. In addition to hosting employee appreciation events and offering bonuses and other high-value items to top performers, companies put a significant focus on training and career development, including “stay interviews” with existing employees to help establish trust among team members and proactively resolve conflicts.
IT training budgets were flush this past year, with 62% of the survey respondents reporting increases in dollars spent, an indicator that upskilling employees and filling key skills gaps remain top priorities. The average IT employee is eligible for six days of in-person or remote training, the survey found, but three-quarters of the respondents said there is no set maximum. Popular training options include technical certifications, professional and career development, management and soft skills training, and business skills development.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the No. 1 large organization for career development, offers a wide array of options to upskill its IT workforce, budgeting approximately $1.5 million annually for IT staff training. Employees can take advantage of educational assistance programs, which cover up to 24 credits per academic year for staff members earning a degree at any university. IT staffers pursuing a doctorate are eligible for up to 200 hours of annual education leave (in addition to their regular leave), which provides time for research and work on their dissertation. There are also rotational assignments, mentoring programs, and in-person and online training classes, among other options.
“One of the most important elements for the long-term health of APL is to create and sustain a culture of lifelong learning and discovery,” says Michael Misumi, APL’s CIO. “Our training programs build trust and engagement within the department, two tenets that are very important to the IT culture.”
At Avanade, a digital business and technology consultancy formed by Accenture and Microsoft, Microsoft certifications take precedence for all employees, not just those in IT. The No. 2 midsize firm on the Best Places list trains employees on basic technical skills as well as how to apply those skills specifically to advance the company’s internal business processes and agenda. “Investing in your employee base by reskilling is mission-critical, both for the employee and the company’s ability to support areas that are a priority where we’ve had trouble getting outside talent,” says Ron White, Avanade’s global CIO.
In addition to providing technical training, Avanade promotes IT leadership development through initiatives such as The Leader Within, a six-month virtual program aimed at women in tech, and Coaching@Avanade, which uses the BetterUp mobile platform to grow employee leadership and confidence.
Offering mentoring programs has become a popular way to upskill the existing IT workforce with practical business experience, a strategy cited by nearly three-quarters (71%) of the survey respondents. Blue Cross NC, for example, has instituted Blue Xchange, a six-month program that matches mentees seeking specific skills to an appropriate mentor; each pair participates in forums as well as individual sessions to boost knowledge in the areas of leadership, career development, business acumen, and communication. A second mentoring initiative, the Leadership and Diversity Development Experience Rotation (LADDER), connects minority IT leaders with IT professionals who are early in their careers to help nurture and develop a culturally diverse workplace.
Outside of training and career development, top employers have embraced numerous measures to keep IT employees connected and engaged. There are companywide hackathons and tech summits to boost creativity and innovation. Speaker events, fireside chats, and more intimate roundtables provide a venue for more conversational information sharing and problem-solving across professional as well as personal areas of interest. There are in-person recreational events designed to bring colleagues together to promote camaraderie and team building, as well as a variety of recognition programs to help IT workers feel appreciated.
A strong commitment to DEI initiatives
With diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) now considered foundational to business success, IT departments are actively trying to cultivate new talent pipelines to bring more diversity into what has remained a stubbornly white and male-dominated field. The lion’s share (92%) of companies on the 2023 Best Places to Work in IT list said they have a documented DEI strategy, and 96% have established some kind of DEI champion, through a formal role (61%), a team of employees dedicated to promoting workplace diversity (82%), or both.
Blue Cross NC, which tops this year’s list of large organizations in the diversity category, has taken several steps to increase racial and gender diversity, through initiatives such as its LADDER program; its involvement with Road to Hire, which focuses on helping underrepresented youth enter the tech field; and a partnership with the North Carolina Governor’s HBCU Internship Program. It has also established TechNOW (Network of Women), an employee network for women working in technology at Blue Cross NC that includes a mentoring program.
“Deliberate nurturing of talent is important,” says Abernathy. “It’s not just about creating mentors but what can be done to get more minorities in IT and, even more importantly, in leadership roles.”
This year’s winners are taking a variety of steps to promote DEI. Nearly all (98%) have created specific recruitment strategies to attract diverse employees through tactics such as leveraging diverse job boards or rewarding employees for diverse candidate referrals. Other popular efforts include celebrating employee differences (96%), offering diversity and inclusion training (93%), and creating employee resource groups based on common interests and goals (85%).
At Janney, a formal diversity and inclusion strategy includes workforce tactics such as blind recruiting, diverse candidate slates, and expanding geographic search areas, among other approaches. The efforts to grow the talent pool are paying off: Over 40% of Janney’s IT staff comprises women and minorities.
“Skills, motivation, and fit are the primary factors during recruitment,” says Thielmann. “By placing skills and experience as the paramount focus, diversity naturally follows and has been a huge benefit to our technology department.”
Despite such efforts, there is more work to be done across the industry. Computerworld’s survey found that, on average, 28% of IT workers and 28% of IT managers are women. Although those numbers show progress, they are still shy of many companies’ stated DEI targets. “The bottom line for employers is that you have to have more candidates in the pool in order to hire more women in the organization, and that’s not happening at a fast enough rate,” Abernathy says.
Genentech, with a mission to deliver better health outcomes for all patients, sees DEI as central to its charter. The company has created a chief diversity office; appointed a chief diversity officer reporting directly to the CEO; and set forth specific commitments, which include doubling the number of Black and Latinx employees among its leadership ranks and in its overall workforce. There are also more tactical efforts to support diverse hiring, such as seeking candidates from nontraditional talent pools and creating more-diverse interview panels.
“Cultivating an environment where all employees are actively included, feel comfortable showing up, and thrive as their authentic selves is essential to delivering groundbreaking science and innovation to all patients,” Castano says.
Building a positive and nurturing IT culture is not about making a singular department better. In today’s digital climate, a happier and more effective IT organization translates directly into more innovative and competitive business. As our Best Places to Work in IT winners demonstrate, organizations that are proactive in creating a supportive, engaging, and rewarding environment for IT teams will be well positioned to succeed, now and in the future. — Beth Stackpole
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