With the skills shortage, an economy that’s the envy of the developed world, and treasury now forecasting that one in two new jobs will be in the mining sector, resellers will need strategies for attracting and retaining staff.
Finding talent is harder than ever. With the National Broadband Network coming on, the IT skills shortage is hitting the industry. A report from the Australian Computer Society to the government last year found the number of students obtaining IT qualifications in public education between 2002 and 2010 fell from 74,000 to 46,000.
University enrolments in IT courses were in decline across the major states. Holding on to talented staff is a priority for resellers.
A recent survey by the Australian Human Resources Institute put staff turnover in IT at 20.6 per cent. That compares with 18.5 per cent across all industries. Clearly, resellers that find ways of recruiting and holding on to the best will be in a stronger position.
The world of work has changed in the past five years. These days it’s not only about money. It’s also about flexibility, training and investing in people’s future and professional development. At the same time, resellers are looking for multi-skilled people who can balance various jobs and who have good business and communication skills. They’re the ones they are targeting, the ones they have to hold on to.
Every company should try to position itself as the employer of choice. Think of Apple, Google and Facebook. They find it easy to attract and hold on to their talent. But then, other companies might find that more challenging because it means changing the way they operate.
And it will cost them. IT wages are higher for a number of reasons, starting with the skills shortage. In Western Australia, they are higher because the mining boom is competing for expertise from the east. Also, a number of large projects put on hold during the global financial crisis are coming onstream. And these are competing with the NBN. This means one thing: attracting and retaining quality staff will cost money.
What makes it more complicated for resellers is that there is a higher percentage of contractors in IT than other industries. Having so many contractors allows companies to increase or decrease their workforce according to the project.
But it has also brought with it high turnover. Many companies ar eworking to develop IT specialists for management and leadership roles, to keep their best people and reduce staff turnover. But enticing the contractors into full time employment is not easy. The company has to offer them special benefits.
One of the big draw cards for quality staff now is flexibility. It’something more employees are demanding, for work life balance and simply because they have so many other things going on. Part time work also is fast becoming the norm. It’s no longer something that’s necessarily forced on employees.
According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, part-timers represented an extraordinary 30.9 per cent of the work force, working fewer than 35 hours a week.
As a result, more employers are measuring their workers by their outputs, not by such inputs as how many hours they are putting in. If they come in at 10am and leave at 4pm, and still get it done from home, that will do.
Employers could offer them the ability to work from home and have flexible working arrangements, stuff that would be harder to manage when contracting. Benefits such as flexible work patterns and family time can be as valuable as cash.
Employers also need to create interesting and challenging work. Placing employees on rotational assignments is another good strategy. It allows the company to use employees’ strengths in different settings and gives them access to different parts of the business, building their skills. It develops careers.
One of the landmark studies done on employee retention was in 1986 by Kenneth Kovach at George Mason University in the US. Kovach got 1000 employees and 100 of their bosses to list the things they believe motivate employees.
According to the study, bosses thought employees would be motivated by good wages and job security, but employees listed factors such as participating in interesting work, feeling appreciated at work and “being in on things”.
They ranked job security and good wages as important but lower on the list. In other words, the key factors for retaining quality staff have little to do with money. It’s more about having the kind of managers that create a place where employees feel challenged and valued.
Resellers should also invest in training and professional development. It shows employees the company is interested in helping their career, and that can often be the clincher. Training them in new technologies is the sort of thing they are less likely to get when they are contracting.
Many companies are also using social media resources such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to attract talent. None of these are simple. But when implemented they will help resellers get ahead of poaching and retain the best and the brightest.
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Issue: 316 | July 2013
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