Human Resources

Susan Rousseau (South Africa) - Is IT Staff Turnover Really a Problem?

Ask CIOs to list the biggest challenges faced by the South African IT industry and, chances are, most will mention high staff turnover. Staff turnover is disruptive and costly - and, often, unavoidable. And, while retention of key skills is always important, turnover can also be positive.

Recently, economic uncertainty has slowed turnover. PE Corporate Service's Annual IT Salary Survey 2011 showed that staff turnover dropped from a high of 22% in 2008 to only 13% in the 2011 Survey. While this significant decline should be cause for celebration, it still effectively means that 13 out of every 100 IT people changed jobs over the past 12 months. And, with IT recruitment on the rise again, staff turnover is likely to continue to be an issue for CIO's for time to come.

Smart employers understand that the combination of demand for top IT talent, a limited pool of new entrants into the market, high earnings and a generation that views careers differently has created a ‘climate of opportunity' for IT people, where changing jobs regularly is not only possible, but desirable.

In 2011, in the USA, the Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey found that just under one third of participants expected employees to stay with their organisations for 2 years or less, while nearly half anticipated tenure of between 3 and 5 years.
Effectively, this means that the average IT person is likely to have between 8 and 20 jobs in a 40 year career.

Smart employers find ways to make this reality work for them. Firstly, smart companies view ‘job hopping' differently. They are no longer suspicious of candidates who change jobs every 2 years. Rather, they regard them as dynamic and able to adapt to a change quickly, believing that, in a fast-paced world, it's best to have a team that is not frightened of change.

Secondly, smart companies create internal opportunities to gain alternate experience.
Instead of losing a key skill to a competitor, they create internal opportunities for change, allowing staff to gain experience in different departments or jobs - both facilitating career progression and ensuring that good people are not forced to look for growth outside of the organisation.

Thirdly, smart companies keep the door open. They understand that IT people will leave - but are convinced that they don't have to leave forever. Talent management plans include alumni networks, forums and social events that assist in tracking the progress of the brightest stars - and in attracting them back when the time is right.

And, finally, smart companies continuously recruit. Succession planning - even for lower level positions - is vital in a high turnover world. Smart companies understand this - and continuously interview and employ good skills so that they always have a ‘bench' available.

Staff turnover can be a positive force for change - particularly if viewed as a reason to further invest in IT skills.

By Susan Rousseau, Client Development Manager, Insource.ICT


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