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CIOs fear mass IT exodus following economic recovery

CIOs worry IT teams might flee for better opportunities in the economic recovery.

By , Network World
November 18, 2009 03:15 PM ET

Network World - IT professionals asked to do more work for less pay and fewer benefits might be able to forgive their employers' financial choices, but industry watchers say high-tech workers won't soon forget being treated poorly during the most recent economic recession and will look to find other employment opportunities as soon as the recovery gets under way.

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Robert Half Technology this week released findings of a survey of 1,400 CIOs that showed 43% said retaining existing workers will be their top staffing priority in 2010. The IT staffing and consultancy firm also reported that 21% of CIOs polled said they would offer more training and professional development opportunities to employees in 2010.

"Employers need to focus on preventing burnout and keeping their best people engaged at work. This may be a challenge, given that staffing cuts and the reduction or elimination of benefits have left many employees feeling overworked and undervalued," said Dave Willmer, executive director at Robert Half Technology, in a statement.

Robert Half Technology suggested a few retention efforts IT employers must begin now, including training and career development programs and career advancement opportunities. CIOs should re-recruit their best employees, which essentially means they must start working to convince them to stay on board.

Other suggestions include recognizing excellence and providing project support. Robert Half Technology also suggests managers communicate regularly with staff, encourage team-building activities and promote work/life balance. Lastly, the firm says CIOs need to consider the compensation packages they offer as well as re-evaluate the workloads employees are carrying. Effort such as these will be important in reducing turnover, according to the firm.

"Companies may have to work at 're-selling' themselves to existing employees in much the same way they would when promoting themselves to prospective hires," Willmer added.

Yet it may be too late for some employees to be convinced to stay, suggests other research, which points to data collected after previous recessions and shows employees will seek other employment during the recovery. According to the September 2009 "Managing Talent in a Turbulent Economy: Keeping your team intact" report from Deloitte Consulting, "a resume tsunami may threaten unprepared companies as key employees who held on to their jobs in tough times seek out better opportunities when economic fears recede."

Jeff Schwartz, a principal with Deloitte Consulting's Human Capital practice, says there isn't much evidence to suggest that the recovery following the most recent economic recession will be any different in terms of employee turnover than previous downturns.

"There are some lessons that many in IT learned from the last recession that occur about 12 to 24 months after the end of the recession: very critical workers leave," Schwartz says. "Companies, especially leaders in IT, need to get ahead of the curve in terms of retention plans in the next year because it is a very reasonable bet that companies are going to see a pike in turnover after this recession."

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