Why IT Talent Walks Out the DoorBy Larry Bonfante
Studies have shown that one of the most pressing issues in the U.S. economy is a lack of skilled workers to fill key positions. It’s ironic that during a time of high unemployment, many jobs remain unfilled due to a lack of competent individuals. This is even truer in the world of IT, where many young people have been turned off by careers in IT under the notion that the only places that technology workers get hired are Mumbai and Moscow.
Given the reality of how challenging it is to find talented workers, it is more critical than ever to retain the excellent team members who are adding value to our organizations. However, more and more people are becoming restless and looking for an upturn in the economy so that they can bolt their current positions. Why is that? What can we do about it?
First of all, it is always a mistake to look at human beings as part of a market in the same way that we think of real estate. I’m sure you’ve heard of buyers and sellers markets in real estate. Well, many companies use this short-sighted mentality when dealing with their most valuable asset: their people. The thinking goes something like this. The economy is tough. There aren’t a lot of great options for our people. So we can treat them any way we want since they aren’t going anywhere. Can you imagine any relationship where this approach would work? Imagine thinking “my wife is stuck with me; she can’t really wiggle out of this marriage thing too easily so I can ignore her needs and treat her like furniture!” How long do you think it would be before you received a call from a divorce lawyer? Yet many companies treat employees this way. It’s no wonder that there is a pent up desire for people to run out of their companies as soon as the first viable opportunity presents itself.
Study after study has also shown that the No. 1 reason most people leave their current job is their direct manager. Do your people work for you because they have no other choice? Do you treat them like valued assets and make sure that they are part of the decision-making process? Or do you treat them like mushrooms, keeping them in the dark and piling manure on them? How much do you invest in terms of time, money and effort to help them develop their skills and grow as professionals? My people know that I believe I owe them more than a paycheck every two weeks. I owe them an opportunity to grow, learn and flex their muscles. Are you giving people stretch assignments and new opportunities to contribute and learn, or can they do their jobs on auto pilot?
Finally, do you recognize and reward your people for their contributions, or do you take the credit for the team’s success? Every human being has a desire to be appreciated and recognized. Are you taking the time to ensure that your people feel valued or do you take all the bows when things go well?
Some of you may feel that this is all “touchy-feely stuff.” All I can tell you is that in the more than 13 years I’ve been CIO at my company, I’ve only lost two employees who I wanted to retain. One was offered a 50-percent salary increase (based upon skills he learned while on the job) and one took a job closer to home (he spent seven years working for us commuting two hours each way!). You can call it whatever you want, but all I know is that we’ve been fortunate enough to keep excellent people motivated and a part of what is an outstanding team.
Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIO and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also the author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com.