Call it the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle, or any other name: it’s a tough time to be hiring in the already-tight labor market of IT and cybersecurity. Competition for talent is intense, employees are changing their priorities, and the result is, in some roles, more open roles than there are qualified professionals to fill them.

McKinsey just published some interesting research on this very topic. The company surveyed a cross-section of workers about what motivates them, what makes them want to stay in a job, and what makes them want to leave a job. Then, the researchers grouped workers into five “talent pools,” intersecting traditional demographic data with similarities in their answers about motivation. Companies looking for a change may want to craft their recruiting messaging around these types of groups, rather than using traditional targeting methods.

Across industries, employees feel like they have more options than ever before – and they’re right. Since 2021, the share of workers planning to leave their jobs remains steady at 40%, and they’re leaving for a number of reasons, including better pay, better benefits, and better culture and fit. Even more significantly, many of these job changers are leaving not just their jobs, but entire industries: McKinsey’s research showed that only 35% of those who quit their jobs in the last two years took new jobs in the same industry, which is particularly concerning for IT and cybersecurity, which already has a highly limited pool of qualified candidates.

By grouping workers based on certain professional priorities and motivating factors, employers can better target prospective employees and understand how to engage with them. McKinsey illustrates five overarching profiles or pools of talent – here’s what to know about each:


The Traditionalists

Unsurprisingly, this group of workers has the most “traditional” view of what work “should” be like. Typically risk-averse and straightforward, they are more willing to make trade-offs in work-life balance in exchange for traditional benefits, like compensation, job title and status, and opportunities for career advancement. Those benefits will be the main factors in attracting them to a new job, and they’re the easiest to find through traditional recruitment means. The problem for IT and cybersecurity is that there simply aren’t enough of them to go around, especially when factoring in the need for specific qualifications and certifications.


The DIY’ers

This was the single largest group of workers surveyed by McKinsey, and they’re defined above all else by their desire for flexibility. No matter what kind of working arrangement they have, they’re looking for roles where they won’t be taken for granted or forced to give up what they’ve built for themselves. Attracting them requires a value proposition that offers competitive compensation along with autonomy and a true sense of purpose. This kind of independent thinking may align well with IT and cybersecurity professionals, but they’ll be getting a lot of competing offers, so you’ll need a value proposition that stands out.


The Caregivers

 This third pool of workers prioritizes their overall well-being, often because they have some form of caregiving responsibilities outside of their jobs. They’re happy to return to the workforce or move into a new job, but it has to be worth it and have the required flexibility. Schedule and remote-work flexibility are critical to recruiting from this pool, and other caregiving-focused benefits (like family leave or childcare) are a big plus too. For remote tech jobs, this pool would be ideal to recruit from, as long as your company can prove that they can truly fulfill all their commitments, personal and professional, in those roles.


The Idealists

 “Idealists” are younger, earlier in their careers, and have fewer financial and familial responsibilities than their older, more established colleagues. Instead, they place especially high value on finding opportunities for meaningful work, career advancement, flexibility, and a supportive, inclusive community. Appealing to this pool of job candidates requires companies to offer flexibility and ongoing development opportunities. They’ll also likely look for clear examples of how an organization is taking active steps to improve inclusivity and diversity – especially in a STEM field where DEI initiatives have been expanding rapidly to improve and make more inclusive the overall culture.


The Relaxers

 Unlike any of the other groups, “relaxers” are no longer at the point in life where work is their priority. They might be retired, taking time off, or would only return to the workforce under certain circumstances. Reaching and recruiting this pool of potential employees can be tricky, but emphasizing competitive compensation (for those who are seeing their savings dwindle faster than expected) could help. These potential workers also may be recruited by emphasizing meaningful work and a real impact, although in a fast-moving field like IT and cybersecurity, it’s important to ensure that these “return” workers are still up-to-date as necessary.


By Daniel Midoneck