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The IT staffing crisis

The IT staffing crisis

The IS staffing crisis isn't a local phenomenon, it's worldwide. And you don't have to look hard for proof.

According to the US version of CIO, "IS unemployment" could be "as high as negative 17 per cent". The February 13 issue of ComputerWorld reported that UK recruitment company Best People has opened a Sydney office to search for local talent to fill finance and utilities industry positions in Britain.

The market for IS staff is too volatile for local companies to stand pat with IS compensation packages and benefits. For many workers, pay isn't everything.

Assuming they're getting fair wages, the quality of their jobs - and of their bosses - is what makes people stick around or leave. Here are some of the cost-effective ways managers are keeping scarce IS talent happy at home, courtesy of (ironically) US ComputerWorld.

1. Give them room: Bigger cubicles or work areas.

2. Stop the insanity: Petty rules can greatly hurt morale.

3. Improve performance reviews: Rather than being an uncomfortable ordeal for both manager and employee, it should be a place for talking about career paths within the company.

4. Do exit interviews - later: Interviewing people as they leave will only give you polite generalities, not what actually drove them crazy about your company. Track them down six months later and ask them why they really left.

5. Put them to work fast: The first six weeks are critical to making new people feel like they're part of the team. Get new hires up and running on the hot projects you promised them before they turn around and quit.

6. Squeeze in training: It's often harder to find time for training than to find the money for it.

7. Update your skills premiums: Pay employees premiums of 10 per cent to 20 per cent over their base wages for learning new skills needed for critical projects. Review your needs annually, and tell employees which skills will earn premiums one year out to allow time to learn those skills.

8. Measure managers on reviews: Because timely performance reviews are so important, measure IS managers on how well they do reviews and whether they're done on time.

9. Give perks, not cash: Relatively inexpensive rewards can dramatically increase job satisfaction. Examples include tickets to sporting events, a day of golf on a championship course, even a gift certificate for a massage.

10. Hire more carefully: One major reason people stay on the job is because they like their co-workers. But many employers focus on technical skills rather than the harder-to-identify personality traits that determine whether someone will fit into the corporate culture.

11. Get out of the way: Micromanaging mid- and lower-level managers is a sure-fire way to drive people out of your company The first time an employee sees an opportunity where their value is going to be respected, they are gone.

12. Get coordinated: Many IS projects are so disorganised that employees often find themselves bumping into each other or not knowing where to hand off a task. Inefficiency not only increases costs, but it makes jobs harder for employees and makes them more likely to leave.

13. Communicate, communicate: IS professionals want to know how their company is doing, how their IS group is doing and whether their manager has a strategic vision.

14. Offer flextime, telecommuting: It's a low-cost, no-cost retention strategy.

15. Assign coaches or mentors: Managers of technical projects sometimes don't have the time or skills to help employees manage their careers and professional growth. Implement "resource managers" who will handle hiring, firing, training, performance reviews, disciplinary actions and help employees establish career paths.

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