IT talent crunch: Myth or reality?

*  Keeping tech talent in-house is the biggest concern of IT managers

Covering IT management technologies often leads to discussions around IT managers' concerns, ranging from technology to processes to people.

This year there has been much talk about the last piece of the IT manager trifecta: people. Many industry watchers and IT managers alike are foreseeing a drop in available IT talent due to fewer technical graduates entering the market and more veteran IT employees reaching retirement age (being in the baby boomer generation). 

The Society for Information Management argues that IT employee turnover rates are low, less than 10%, when in years past IT managers could see numbers closer to 20%. Still the industry organization reported last week that attracting, developing and retaining IT workers is IT manager's top worry in 2007. And when polled informally by me, a majority of respondents agreed that keeping tech talent in-house is the biggest concern of IT managers.

Here Ron Uno, manager of Information Management at Kuakini Health System in Honolulu shares his challenges with finding and keeping IT talent in house.

Do you worry about getting IT talent in house? Is this a concern for you? Why?This is my No. 1 worry. I have had some key staff leave the organization recently and have been searching for replacement staff for the last several months. To be honest it is very 'slim' pickings out there, there is no one. Since the labor market is down, there are very little applicants and the applicants that I do get are not even qualified for the position based on the job description for the position and based on my assessment when I review the job application or perform an interview. Being on an island state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, this matter is even worse, the workforce population is static.Has it become a bigger concern over the years? How so?Yes it has. We have more and more projects that are being put on us to keep up with the ever-changing technologies and with the computer applications within the organization. With applications specialists staff being so hard to come by, the deployment of the new or upgrading of new technologies and computer applications are being delayed -- resulting in project cost overruns and project 'spread.'What measures do you take to attract top talent?My hands are pretty tied. I am bound by the rules and regulations of the organization. Salary levels here on the islands are no where close to the salary levels on the U.S. mainland. So, I need to make other provisions internal to my area of responsibility to keep the talent interested and happy in the organization. Some of the talent are by word of mouth, meaning my contacts with other IT folks in town.How do you work to keep IT talent happy once you hire them?I try to involve them as much as I can in the project planning phase, so they know and understand the project from the ground up. This makes it a lot easier to do a project, if you know the history. I also try to give them as much freedom as possible to perform their jobs, meaning letting them make decisions that are relevant to the project and still strictly adhering to departmental and organizational policies and procedures. My approach to staff is not to 'smother' them, but to let them think for themselves. They are all adults and should know what is right and wrong. I also inform them when they are doing a good job, I think this is very important for their personal self-esteem and hopefully will make them happy to be here.What other issues top your list of concerns?One other big issue, obviously is that, even if I perform the above to the fullest, the staff may still not be satisfied with the position. So the process starts all over again.What's your take? Are you finding the talent pool dwindling? Or do you feel that the issue is being overhyped?Log on to our community page on the topic of finding and retaining IT talent and share your thoughts (anonymously if you prefer) or e-mail me.

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