High Cost of Replacing IT Workers

"No one recruitment or retention strategy is enough to offset the hiring difficulties in today's labor market," said software workforce expert Bill Curtis at a briefing of IT executives at the Cutter Consortium Summit 2000.

Dr. Curtis emphasized a need for companies to drastically change their attitudes and human resource policies with regard to IT workers, in the face of an IT unemployment rate around 1.3%.

Curtis explained that the total cost of replacing IT workers can far exceed the usual estimates of $10,000 for an inexperienced worker and $20,000 for an experienced worker. These estimates usually overlook the cost of preparing IT workers to be fully functional in a new position and the opportunity costs incurred when an experienced IT worker leaves.

Curtis suggested a number of strategies companies should adopt in their efforts to improve their rates of IT worker attraction and retention:

Think of recruiting as marketing. Expand college recruiting to include building relationships with professors; provide real-time responses to resumes on the company Web site; offer bonuses for employees responsible for bringing in new hires.

Don’t rely on perks to retain critical staff. Don't assume that perks such as birthdays off, health clubs, free food, etc. will prove effective in retaining critical staff. Although perks can help in attracting new workers, retention is far more influenced by challenging work assignments and career development.

Provide professional development opportunities. Realize that IT workers desire professional development above all else. Managers should be trained to help guide the personal development of their employees.

Build a strong team. Individuals that become part of an effective team feel "bound" to both the team and the organization. Team-building is a long-term process that begins with the development of good interpersonal coordination skills, and continues to grow by establishing team roles and processes, and can culminate in substantial levels of team empowerment and self management.

"The fact is, the raw material of software is knowledge, and technology has not replaced the creative designer's ability to integrate multiple domains of knowledge" said Curtis. "Companies must realize that they are now competing in two markets: a product or service market and a talent market."

For more information and strategic suggestions, visit the Cutter Web site at www.cutter.com.