Cloud computing, security and the mobile space hold the most growth potential in the coming years, according to IT professionals surveyed by tech staffing firm Modis.
While no single technology dominated that portion of the study, which polled 502 tech workers on issues related to their jobs and the IT industry, those areas took the top three spots. Cloud computing earned 29 percent of the vote, security tallied 21 percent and mobile scored 18 percent.
The technologies are linked, said Jack Cullen, president of Modis. As companies turn to cloud computing to deliver services over mobile devices, securing data is paramount, he said.
"Security has got to be one of the first things you think about even before talking about mobile applications or strategy," he said. Firms first need to ask how they plan on securing their information in a cloud computing environment.
"There's such a fear of what hackers can do around mobile devices that security is paramount," Cullen said. Companies need to consider what access their sales force will have, for example, what data needs protection and what information is too sensitive to be accessed via a tablet PC or smartphone.
And with a myriad of companies including hardware makers and online retailers introducing mobile devices, these questions will need answers in the coming years.
"The battle that is being waged between Google and Apple is only going to advance this further," said Cullen.
The study also looked into how likely workers are to switch jobs, with 64 percent of respondents expressing that they are content in their current positions and not looking to leave. A quarter of respondents would switch jobs if they were offered the right position, the results found.
Part of this caution around pursuing new roles shows that people who kept their jobs during the economic downturn value employment stability, said Cullen.
"I think people right now are very uncertain," he said. "They've come out of a recession that most people have never experienced before. People have put a premium on security in their job position. They're less hesitant to take a gamble and possibly be out of work. I think there's a lot to be said for stability today."
This uncertainty extends to 2012's employment predictions, which are tied to the financial market's performance, Cullen said. The survey found that 65 percent of respondents predicted that team headcount would stay the same next year. Some IT professionals do foresee staff level increases, with 11 percent calling for significant hiring and 17 percent calling for marginal additions.
"Employer optimism really follows Wall Street quite dramatically," he said. Strong markets lead to increased lending, giving businesses access to the capital to make IT investments and hire the staff to operate those systems, he explained. Tech gives firms a competitive advantage "so having cash to invest into IT is really vital to every organization today."
Conducting the survey in the first quarter or early second quarter would have shown more businesses calling for greater hiring, he said. Now, with an uncertain market, "we're seeing a little bit of trepidation in the marketplace."
"As we see the market edging up, as what we were seeing in October, I think the optimism becomes greater," Cullen said. "Whenever we start seeing some follow off and the market is down, that's where people are starting to get a little bit worried."
Cullen added that hiring depends on the industry. Large financial institutions are "tentative" with plans to increase headcount, but technology companies "have a very positive outlook for the hiring in 2012."
For their part, employers realize that attrition and turnover are not healthy for a business and are attempting to create positive work environments, he said.
Keeping employees happy means allowing them to manage their own projects, said 70 percent of those polled. This edged offering a competitive salary and benefits, which ranked second at 62 percent. A premium is also placed on receiving technical training and being able to telecommute, with both categories being important to 61 percent of workers.
"I think companies are really doing everything they can to retain the services of their good workers by creating those environments with flexibility, with great challenges and with empowerment," Cullen said. "Companies that put an emphasis on training their high-end tech workers are going to have a high chance of retaining them."
Replacing a worker with specific domain knowledge acquired by several years of job experience is especially challenging, he added.