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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angelfuego   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/24/2012 6:51:56 PM
Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap
It is a shame how employers/managers would rather outsource than train their in-house staff. Many employees want to learn,develop,and grow, but aren't given the opportunity. It can really bring the morale down, being stuck in a rut with no room to advance. Perhaps some in-house staff would leave the organization to work for another, if they were trained with a "hot" new skill. However, some might stay.  They might build more confidence and  feel more valued. Employers need to stop viewing their employees as numbers and pawns, but rather as human beings with a desire to succeed and to be appreciated for their work. Most people want to learn and succeed, when given the opportunity. As times change, the employers should offer professional development opportunities to close the IT Skills Gap, rather than being so quick to outsource. They should be a little more loyal to the people that they currently have working for them.

Re: "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."
eethtworkz   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/22/2012 2:38:25 PM
Re: Why are Consultants More Highly Trained?
David,

You hit the nail on the head very,very accurately here.

"

Could it be something as simple as the way we source contractors versus in-house talent? With the exception of high-level positions where head hunters are used, full-time job searching is relatively passive. On the other hand, when you look for a consultant or contractor, it is an active search. You seek the firm or individual with the skill rather than wait for the right resume to come in.

Maybe we just need to rethink the way we source talent in the enterprise.


"

Could'nt agree more! Perfect explaination for how most IT departments function today.

Ashish.

eethtworkz   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/22/2012 2:35:18 PM
Re: loyalty and IT skills
Masood,

Not really.In larger organizations its more or less always based on Seniority(& loyalty to the firm/Management).

Honestly,in the real world there is also a lot of politics involved in most companies(incl.Seniority);I don't know or dont want to speculate why Two people with the same Responsibility get paid different Benefits.

In my opinion its more of a company question than anything else.

Ashish.
eethtworkz   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/22/2012 2:20:55 PM
Re: loyalty and IT skills
Maou,

You are right.

In Small companies usually there are very few specialized IT staff.In those people,its difficult to decide on issues like Seniority,etc.

On the other hand in larger organizations this becomes so much more neccesary. Especially since you need to differentiate between employees on the basis of performance (and to account for Company politics/loyalty).

Thats just the way organizations function.

Ashish.
eethtworkz   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/22/2012 1:59:29 PM
Re: catch 22
kstaron,

You talk about an interesting conrundrum which most enterprises face today.

Unfortunately there are no easy answers.

Most IT departments are severely under-staffed(everybody just wants to do more with less and less);and so the people who get in the door(as you pinpoint here) are least likely to spread that knowledge around(primarily because they dont have the time).

So Newbees/Trainees dont get trained at the same level;even for experienced pros;this problem dominates.Its become very,very tough for most experienced pros to find the time for more learning.

Unfortunately there are no easy answers here.

What I tend to find (in all my experience as a Consultant) is that organizations who have a Top-Down culture of promoting education/knowledge somehow find the time for educating all their employees.Its all about who takes responsibility for pushing the organization ahead.

Regards

Ashish.
maou_villlaflores   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/21/2012 9:20:28 PM
Re: loyalty and IT skills
To answer your question YES I experienced it with my previous company. We are under the same job grade level, role and tasks but my colleague is getting more benefits because she's been with the company 5 years ahead of me. I think right now loyalty still matters for some IT companies most especially the established one.
singlemud   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/21/2012 4:11:46 PM
Re: catch 22
I agree with kstaron. Big companies are too big to adjust the salary according to his skills. Small companies can not afford to do this.
kstaron   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/21/2012 2:31:03 PM
catch 22
When I started as an instructional designer my manager made sure to get me trained in all the things we used. When a new product came out she suggested I play with it in the project I was working on. Now it seems no one has the time to allow for playing around with a new application, or bringing a new employee up to speed.

Unfortunately this leads to some highly skilled people and a whole bunch that can't get in the door. If you've got a skill gap, you're in a catch 22.
sohaibmasood   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/21/2012 12:52:00 PM
Re: Why are Consultants More Highly Trained?
@David: Like always you have put forth a gem of a question. 

I think it is easier to find a consultant because enterprises generally go to technology giants for such matters. Instead of relying on the local HR to hire someone or to use training to cultivate this skill.

It also depends on the kind of skill you are looking for. If you are looking for a niche market consultancy may prove to be beneficial while for simpler skills I think enterprises should opt for internal/external trainings. 

The benefits of hiring consults can be: 

The enterprise gets the best resources available to solve the problem and you can bill them on a per hour basis

They do not have to worry about long term incentives and retention 

IT Consultancy firms have specialists for different fields hence the possibility of having a pro doing your work is significantly high. 
sohaibmasood   Loyalty & the IT Skills Gap   3/21/2012 12:39:23 PM
Re: loyalty and IT skills
Ashish, 

I agree with you that today IT is a support function in many organizations. What I meant about the perks and benefits was that inspite of having the technical knowledge, over the years I have seen IT personnel are not being compensated accordingly. 

I just wanted to know if you have had the same experience. Have you seen two people belonging to the same level having different set of benefits based on their departments? 
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