Should IT Employers Worry About 'Retentionless Recovery'?

Ann All

During the downturn, companies were understandably preoccupied with market forces that could put them out of business. If they thought about employees at all, it was probably in the context of trying to cut their labor costs. But that may end up costing them now, if enough workers decide the improving economy means it's time to find a new job.


Last week I wrote a post about declining levels of job satisfaction among IT professionals, citing remarks from a Computerworld interview with Tom Silver, Dice's SVP for North America. Silver warned that relatively low unemployment levels in the tech industry, coupled with employers' inattention to their staffs, could result in what he called a "retentionless recovery."


If that wasn't enough to make CIOs nervous, maybe these numbers from a recent Dice survey will. Thirty-five percent of respondents told Dice they'd received at least one call from a headhunter or recruiter this year. Fifteen percent received six to 10 calls, 5 percent got 11 to 15 calls, and a lucky 13 percent were contacted at least 16 times. The remaining 32 percent of respondents haven't gotten a recruiting call.


When I checked in with Dice, a spokesperson told me it's the first time it has asked this question, so there's no way to know whether this level of recruiting activity exceeds the norm. In fact, 45 percent of respondents said the number of calls was about the same as those they received in 2009. Thirty-three percent said the calls had increased compared to last year, while 22 percent said they'd gone down.


Another data point from the survey: Fifty-three percent of frustrated tech pros hadn't told their boss about their dissatisfaction. Maybe it's time for smart employers to ask their employees how they feel about their jobs and be prepared to address any common complaints. The number of jobs listed on Dice is also steadily increasing. In early May, 69,070 jobs were listed, compared to 62,067 a month earlier.


According to Dice, a whopping 93 percent of IT pros would like a raise of at least 5 percent. (Of course, who wouldn't? I suspect this is hardly exclusive to the tech industry.) Headhunters are apparently hip to this, with a salary increase the No. 1 incentive offered to potential recruits. It's not all about the money, though. Recruiters also like to offer better career opportunities and the chance to work with emerging technologies, writes Silver in the latest Dice Report.


I sense Silver is on target, and I got anecdotal proof last month when I interviewed Conrad Cross, CIO of the City of Orlando, Fla. Tight budgets during the down economic cycle have kept Cross from investing in new technologies, and he's also had to trim travel, training and other discretionary expenses. He told me:

In the IT field, you keep your people educated to keep them happy, or you give them new technologies to work with. Without the ability to do that, staff is starting to look elsewhere. Of course, it's bad all over. For a while people weren't looking to move because of the bad economy. But now that things are getting better, they are beginning to look around more. So hanging on to workers is a challenge.

Cross didn't have a totally negative take, though. A tight budget "forces us to look at better ways of doing things," he said. "Necessity causes you to stop and be more ingenious in the way you think and the way you do things." In his case, it led him to migrate Orlando's e-mail from Lotus Notes to Google Apps, a project I discussed in a blog post I wrote at the Midmarket CIO Forum where I met Cross.

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