If you want to get ahead in tech, then get ready to switch companies

In the past, IT has often been a platform for a good, lengthy career but that is becoming increasingly less likely as IT pros are finding that they need to move employers if they want to get on.

IT staff are more likely to change jobs to get a promotion than workers in most other industries in the UK, research has found.

As a result, more than three-quarters (85 percent) of IT roles are now being filled by external talent rather than by people being recruited from within the company. This compares to an average of less than half (42 percent) across UK business as a whole. 

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According to the research from IT recruitment consultants Randstad Technologies, UK IT firms also have a leaner management structure with an average of 3.5 layers of management compared to 4.4 layers for all types of management.

In the survey of 2,000 UK staff, Randstad also found that one-quarter (24 percent) said that there are fewer layers of management at their company than there were five years ago, while just one in six (17 percent) said that more layers of management have been added.

Randstad said tech employers have been streamlining their business models since the recession, and one of the key ways of doing this has been to reduce layers of management. But this has had a knock-on effect on internal promotion opportunities, because as the tiers of middle management are slowly squeezed, the opportunities to climb the career ladder within an organisation are contracting.

According the recruitment company's managing director Mike Beresford, tech workers "are being forced to move out of their company to progress their career, or face professional stagnation".  

At the same time he warns "employers face losing ambitious high-flyers to their competition — and could find them hard to replace as the universal skills shortage continues to bite ."

The research analysed a range of sectors, from accountancy through IT and engineering to nursing and property, to find the average number of layers of management in each of the main UK industries. It found that the leanest management structures were in the IT and telecoms (3.5), education (3.5), and nursing (3.5) sectors — each having significantly fewer layers than the UK average of 4.4 layers.

Increasing the span of control of managers also encourages leadership through example, said Beresford, which allows "workers to operate autonomously and discouraging the temptation to micro-manage".

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