Mercenary IT staff go mobile in skills crisis

The IT skills shortage is allowing workers to think about leaving their jobs for richer pastures, according to a report by recruitment company Randstad.

The IT skills shortage is allowing workers to think about leaving their jobs for richer pastures, according to a report by recruitment company Randstad.

According to the Randstad World of Work Report 2011-12, which looked into the working lives of 3000 Australians, 57 per cent of ICT employees surveyed have been with their current employer for less than a year. To make matters worse, 43 per cent of employees are looking to leave their jobs in the next 12 months.

Telecommunications and IT shops have raised their voices high in the last few months about the difficulty of finding and keeping good workers. For example, this week, Commonwealth Bank CIO Michael Harte said that he is particularly pleased about the bank's new offices, as they would allow him to better retain his IT staff. The bank is coming towards the end of an expensive core banking revamp. Australian online bookseller Booktopia was forced to seek talent offshore after it couldn't find the people it needed for its IT shop. Meanwhile, projects like the National Broadband Network (NBN) are sucking recruits from the market in the telecommunications sector.

This shortage had tempted workers into moving, according to Randstad solutions director for information technology, Richard Talbot, who said that many of the moves were also likely to be into lucrative contracting roles and not other companies. Ultimately, a shift from in-house positions to contracting would hit the bottom line of IT budgets.

"Often, in technology, this means companies are forced into hiring more IT contractors to fill the skills gaps, and more of the 'top IT talent' that employers are very keen not to lose from permanent positions are tempted into moving into well-paid contracting roles. This can lead to pressure on technology project costs, which can ultimately have a negative impact on bottom-line performance."

Companies opening their wallets to keep employees would please the 28 per cent of IT professionals who told Randstad that they considered salary to be the most important employee benefit. Salary was again pulled out as a reason why employees would leave a company.

Indeed, IT workers are more mercenary than those in other industries, according to Talbot.

"Salary tends to drive technology professionals more than workers in other industries. According to the report, 41 per cent of employees are expecting a 5 to 10 per cent increase, with 19 per cent looking for an increase of 10 per cent or more this year," he said.

However, 23 per cent of the surveyed employees cited flexible working conditions as a reason to stay with a company. Talbot said that companies feeling strapped need to consider other options than money to retain staff.

"A good work-life balance is the main reason 57 per cent of employees say they would stay in their job in the next 12 months. However, only 16 per cent of employers believe location is important to jobseekers. There are lessons to be learned here."

He also suggested looking at flexible working hours and growth opportunities.

"If leveraged correctly, these alternative benefits can make all the difference to your employee retention efforts, and would help prevent your best talent from walking out the door," he said.