IT skills supply starting to dry up

If your water supply was endless (and you didn’t mind getting your feet wet) you’d probably just keep adding water. However, if you were facing a drought you’d probably think about fixing the hole in your bucket.So what does keeping your bucket full of water have to do with an IT skills shortage?

After the Y2K phenomenon we were dealing with a relatively endless supply of skills. While staff had fewer places to go to, if an organization did lose someone they weren’t too stressed about it – they’d simply engage recruiters to go find replacements.

Recently all signs are indicating that we are entering a period of drought. The supply of new IT graduates is slowing and the baby-boomers want to reduce their hours. Meanwhile, the aggregate demand is increasing. Our water supply is shrinking and the bucket is getting bigger.

In our world of instant gratification it is easier to focus on recruiting rather than retention. Hiring a new resource is a tangible event – you can analyze the exact cost, it is exciting and you can introduce a real person. While an equal investment in staff retention will likely yield even greater returns, these benefits are not as easily quantifiable. Retention can also be tougher than recruiting. Retention strategies involve changing behaviour throughout your organization and the efforts must be maintained for years. It also means following through on promises made during recruiting. For retention to be effective you need a human capital plan that addresses a wide range of factors, including:

  • Career growth: Whether breadth of variety or depth of specialty, people must be able to find growth, change, and excitement of new challenges from within your organization, rather than finding that change by leaving.
  • Performance feedback: People want to know what they’re doing well and what they need to improve upon. Many people who desire feedback will never ask for it but they do expect it.
  • Pay for performance: People must know that strong performance gets rewarded. Adequate compensation and benefit plans are not enough to keep people, but poor plans can drive people away.
  • Respect for work-life balance and providing flexibility is expected and pays big dividends.
  • Relationships: People are less likely to leave your bucket if they’re a respected part of your team and enjoy working together. Relationships are built through ongoing communication. Make sure you take your staff out for coffee more often than the headhunters do.

As the drought worsens others will be eager to make that hole in your bucket even bigger and attract your best people.

Now would be the best time to start fixing the leak.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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