Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap

Andrew Froehlich, Network Engineer & IT Consultant | 3/20/2012 | 38 comments

Andrew Froehlich
It's safe to say that employee loyalty in IT firms has been on the decline for the last few decades. But why? Is it because employees jump ship at the first sign of a better opportunity? Or is it that companies don't see profit in loyalty and therefore are willing to create a revolving door environment where employees are simply commodities that are minimally trained and easily discarded?

Unfortunately, the blame often falls on both sides of the table. But for us to get back on track, I feel that management needs to make the first move. A recent article detailing a CompTIA research report shows that 90 percent of IT managers are struggling to find workers with the desired skill sets but are unwilling to train their in-house staff to meet their needs. Instead, they continue to look for external consultants to fill the knowledge gap.

And why is management looking to outsourced employees as opposed to their existing staff? I believe there are two primary factors.

First, employers want IT staff that already have the desired skills as opposed to taking time to train someone they already have. Cloud computing skills are a great example, as the cloud boom hit the IT industry fast and hard. Companies that wanted to get into cloud computing early didn't want to wait until their staff got caught up to speed. They chose instead to outsource cloud computing skills to consulting companies that had technical people on the cutting edge.

The second reason managers look to outsourcing as opposed to training in-house staff is the concern that once an employee is trained with a hot new skill, he or she will immediately look for greener pastures and leave the organization, which doesn't get to use the skills it paid for. This goes back to the lack of trust between IT employees and their employers. It's also one of the factors contributing to the supposed tech skills gap we've been hearing a great deal about lately.

While all of this is great news for highly trained consultants who are in high demand, it spells disaster for companies and their employees. Outsourcing can be great when added manpower and knowledge is required in a pinch, but it shouldn't be thought of as a long-term solution. In the end, external consultants move on to their next project and leave the organization with a brain-drain. Instead, the real solution would be to proactively train your employees and be continuously evaluating their value to the company. If you're training your employees with skills that are in high demand, it makes sense that you would have to pay them more in order to keep them.

The days of annual salary reviews are over, and instead a much more dynamic method should be put in place. Your employees will appreciate both the skills training and monetary recognition when it is determined that they offer added value to the company. This, in turn, will rebuild the employee loyalty that has been lacking in IT for so long. And while it sounds expensive, in many cases, it will likely end up being cheaper and more efficient in the long run to have a well-trained and loyal staff. I believe that profit can be made through loyalty; we just need to create an environment that encourages it.

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David Wagner   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/20/2012 4:49:40 PM
Re: Only as loyal as the master allows
I do have to say mentoring would really be nice. The hard part about mentoring is it requires a mentor and mentee that are please with the relationship. It would be great for the company to foster those relationships, but i think they only work if they are organic. It is hard to force someone to be a mentor. That said, whatever they can do to foster it, they should.
David Wagner   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/20/2012 4:48:05 PM
Re: Only as loyal as the master allows
@Cmtucker- That was a response to the article's argument as well as yours. But if the money is avaialble, how much mor of a priority do you we want it to be? Personally, if I was TOLD I had to take a class in database management or something I might be annoyed. If I was told there was oney out there to do it, I'd be more likely to take that class.

It is all about how it is delivered.
CMTucker   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/20/2012 3:49:56 PM
Re: Only as loyal as the master allows
@David I didn't say that enterprises were afraid to train you because you would leave...merely that employee skill development often gets a much lower priority than other more immediate concerns. 

People are probably not aware of the resources available.
eethtworkz   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/20/2012 3:45:38 PM
Re: Only as loyal as the master allows
David,

I agree.most would really appreciate it;if empleoyees took advantage of the educational resources they have on offer.

Trouble is what is most missing is a mentorship culture where Senior Pros advise Newbies into what courses make the most sense for them to take and under what circumstances.

This is what would really help a lot.

Awareness and Real Mentorship programs(like the ones we had in the Old days) are key here.

However,do u see cuts to Educational Funding at a time of recessions???

I know advertising and new Capital spending(incl.IT) Budgets do get slashed during Recessions but how does it affect Educational Budgets???

Thing is parts of the Economy(incl.California) are still mired in a Recession today.

More evidence here

http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2012/03/california-tax-revenues-plunge.html

Ashish.
eethtworkz   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/20/2012 3:31:09 PM
It all part of the Get rich quick/Fast food mentality in place today...
Andrew,

I really liked what you had to say here,

 "

Outsourcing can be great when added manpower and knowledge is required in a pinch, but it shouldn't be thought of as a long-term solution. In the end, external consultants move on to their next project and leave the organization with a brain-drain. Instead, the real solution would be to proactively train your employees and be continuously evaluating their value to the company. If you're training your employees with skills that are in high demand, it makes sense that you would have to pay them more in order to keep them. "

It really has everything to do with The Get Rich Quick mentality that is in place today in Corporate America today.

Everybody is just chasing short-term Gains and Profits and they want them super-quick too(fast-food style).

Not the recipe for Long-term results or Gains this.

Regards

Ashish.

 

 
David Wagner   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/20/2012 3:29:26 PM
Re: Only as loyal as the master allows
Hrm...I think this might be partially a perception thing. i've never worked at a company that doesn't have right in its employee handbook that they'll reimburse you for classes or certifications pertaining to your job. I'm sure some startups don't offer it, but most larger enterprises and even academic institutions offer it.

what they don't do is tell you what kind of classes you should take or that they'd really like you to take advantage of it. I know most people don't access that money.

Maybe what really needs to happen is for companies to do more to encourage people to take advantage of these funds.

Either way, i think the perception that enterprises don't want to train you up because you might leave is overblown.
CMTucker   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/20/2012 3:22:19 PM
Only as loyal as the master allows

As business leaders and managers, it is really...hard to say...but...it's our fault. We under valued the skill and knowledge it took to build and maintain the technology we coveted to give us a strategic advantage. The people we like to hire have an education, experience and practical hands-on knowledge of systems. Well folks, that's not cheap. It's also not cheap when you consider the rarity of the skills as a whole: Anyone can dig a hole. It takes a lot of education, experience and skill to make systems, websites, games and movies.

But we commodified it. Found that we could treat them like unskilled workers and just ship the job overseas. And those we wanted to keep, we put on contracts because it was cheaper. Without benefits. Left to be independent contractors at their own will. Treated highly educated people with critical skills like they were the cleaning crew. Cheaper. Better for the bottom line.

Add in the fact that business has become bigger, and this leads to innovation happening more frequently on the edges. This is where people really make it in this country anymore. A code jockey isn't looking at department head in 10 years ("If only I play my cards right")...because there is ony a per-project mentality.

Those that are institutionalized, aren't usually challeneged or enabled enough to make them stay. A college buddy with a trust fund and an equity stake in a possible billion dollar idea sound a helluva lot better than working 100+ hours a week (when you are supposed to work 40 but hey, review is coming up soon...).

It's time business stepped up in these ways:

 
  1. Treat technology and its applications as strategic, and develop it as if it was any other product. It's not a tool anymore, it's your core competency.
  2. Treat the technologists as they should be treated: As critical as your sales staff. I have sold plenty, and I'm  not getting into a chicken or the egg debate but the skilled fulfillment should be rewarded as much as the skilled convincer.
  3. Intellectual property systems is what these people provide. They are the machines that make your enterprise run. Just like any other critical piece of your infrastructure, they need maintenance. They need critical inputs. Instead of pure logic, they are also emotional...so show some appreciation even if you don't understand what it is they do.
  4. Give them a stake. People will work harder if they have something at stake. Not just a pittance for a bonus, something real. If you don't want to give them a percentage...then be creative. Find out what they are into. Send one guy to Virginia because he's a Civil War reennactor. Send your other girl to Vail because she likes to ski. 
Because if you have even sniffed any game theory you know how rational players play games...and if there is a perceived imbalance then they will defect.

And for the cost of not paying health care (a popular example); you have to spend time and money retraining the next twit who will leave you high and dry.


 

Hospice_Houngbo   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/20/2012 3:13:01 PM
Projects cannot wait
"employers want IT staff that already have the desired skills as opposed to taking time to train someone they already have."

For short-term projects, that does make sense. Companies cannot wait to train employees for skills they cannot master in a short time. So they prefer the outsourcing option.
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