3 Warning Signs Your IT Team Is Job Hunting - InformationWeek
Government // Mobile & Wireless
12:25 PM

3 Warning Signs Your IT Team Is Job Hunting

Do you know how to spot clues that your IT team members may soon leave? Consider this expert advice on IT talent retention.

Is your IT team toiling with one foot pointed toward the exit sign? It's not always so obvious as an employee leaving a resume on the printer tray.

Recognizing the warning signs of unhappy employees is a vital IT management skill. When you see them, you can act before your employees -- and especially your best employees -- start leaving for other jobs.

"You're more concerned with trying to keep your best people," said Cinda Daly, director of content at HDI, in an interview. It's far easier, Daly added, to watch subpar performers leave -- don't let the door hit you in the you-know-what on your way out, as the saying goes. "It's hard to keep the really good, conscientious, strong employees. If you start to see [warning signs that they may leave], you've got to hit it head-on."

[ Retaining top talent isn't easy. Here's why your best IT pros might be polishing up their resumes: 3 Reasons Your Top IT Pros Leave. ]

In identifying several of those signs, Daly gave a nod to John Reed, senior executive director at the IT recruiting firm Robert Half Technology. Reed is among the experts who will sit on Daly's panel, "Strategic Staffing: Winning the War For Talent," at the upcoming Interop conference in Las Vegas. Let's take a closer look at some of the omens that indicate your top talent might be job hunting.

1. People Act Differently In Team Settings

Changes in attitude and behavior, especially in group project work or other collaborative settings, should catch your eye. This doesn't mean someone starts behaving badly, per se. It could be far more subtle, such as the usually gregarious employee who suddenly goes quiet, or the always-punctual team member who suddenly starts showing up ten minutes late to meetings.

"Someone who was previously very enthusiastic and is suddenly withdrawn and indifferent, you need to be looking at [that]," Daly said.

2. "A" Performers Start Making Rookie Mistakes

There can be all manner of reasons, both obvious and subtle, for changes in job performance. But slips in performance can be a clear sign that your most talented people might have their eye on a new job outside the company. When your all-stars start turning in mediocre or downright shoddy results, something's up.

"They start to miss deadlines, they start to make errors more frequently -- particularly in patterns you haven't seen before -- because they're distracted or disengaged," Daly said. "They've got their minds on the exit strategy and not what's going on at hand."

3. Flip-Flops Become Dress Shoes

Changes in dress and appearance -- especially in offices with loose or nonexistent dress code requirements -- are probably not a superficial coincidence.

"We live in a pretty casual workplace environment," Daly noted. "If people start to dress more professionally -- they're a little more buttoned up -- that's a change in pattern and a warning sign." That doesn't necessarily mean the shabby dresser starts showing up decked out in tailored $2,000 suits; it could be the difference between a t-shirt and a collar.

So what do you when you see the red flags of employee dissatisfaction waving in plain sight? Money can solve a lot of people problems, but it's not a panacea. It's also often in short supply in smaller businesses and other organizations with tight budgets. In any case, focus on perks, benefits, and corporate culture. These include areas like opportunities for new-skill acquisition; allowing a less experienced employee to learn new technologies on the job, for example, rather than requiring them to do so when they're off the clock. A visible career path is also important -- if there's nowhere to go but sideways, you'll struggle to retain your most talented people.

There are two other related perks that are often highly valued among IT pros -- and they can be big recruiting and retention tools. They've also been in the news lately thanks for a policy change at Yahoo: Schedule flexibility and the ability to work remotely.

IT executives who say no to working from home or other remote locations might be doing themselves a disservice, according to Daly. Scheduling and location flexibility fall under the "work-life balance" header and, when properly implemented and managed, can provide CIOs with a competitive advantage in the labor market.

"So many people have kids, [for example]. They want to be able to go to soccer games. It sounds so ordinary, but it's true," Daly said. "Companies have to be willing to provide that flexibility and culture. A lot of managers fight that and struggle with it."

Bottom line: If you ignore the warning signs or let the underlying issues fester, you're begging for a talent-turnover problem. "You can't let this continue to loom," Daly said.

Attend Interop Las Vegas May 6-10 and learn the emerging trends in information risk management and security. Use Priority Code MPIWK by March 22 to save an additional $200 off the early bird discount on All Access and Conference Passes. Join us in Las Vegas for access to 125+ workshops and conference classes, 300+ exhibiting companies, and the latest technology. Register today!

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Apprentice
5/31/2013 | 4:26:53 PM
re: 3 Warning Signs Your IT Team Is Job Hunting
Yes. By the time an IT employee is looking for greener pastures, it's usually too late. Very similar to romantic relationships.
Melanie Rodier
Melanie Rodier,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/2/2013 | 2:30:18 PM
re: 3 Warning Signs Your IT Team Is Job Hunting
A lot of the points raised as reasons for leaving should be integrated into the company's corporate culture. When employees are on the point of leaving is late to be addressing issues at stake. A company and managers should have a long-term strategy looking at their needs but also what would make employees want to stay with them in the long-term. As "certifiable" suggests here, it's all about being proactive, not reactive.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 10:33:44 PM
re: 3 Warning Signs Your IT Team Is Job Hunting
Fascinating how the onus of this article lays it all at the feet of "How the employees are acting" without any commensurate analysis of "What is the company doing"! For example, what if the company is laying off the older, more experienced, and yes, more expensive employees to offsshore/outsource to India or replace with local, younger, less experienced, less expensive employees? How does that sit with your "valued" workforce when they see how age and experience just paints a target on your future prospects with the company? Think that might have any effect on morale and excitement for the firm as it pursues the Holy Grail of cost cutting?

If management had one iota of self reflection and empathy for what is happening to America's IT workforce, they might worry less about what their employees are doing IN REACTION TO what management has already done. I know management is under pressure to "meet the numbers", but their execution in meeting their numbers leaves alot to be desired for their workers.

So don't be suspicious about changed behavior in your workers. Be suspicious about what you as a manager have done over the long term, or even recently, to bring about their changed behavior. That is what it means to be a real manager and leader, that is proactive rather than reactive to the company leadership's own policies and decisions.
User Rank: Strategist
3/18/2013 | 2:16:56 PM
re: 3 Warning Signs Your IT Team Is Job Hunting
Much of what will retain employees is a good work culture. Management that shows the employee he or she is valued. Until out of touch CEO's get the picture, that their company cannot run properly, or at all without good I.T. then things will not change. Information Technology staff are always the first to be outsourced or laid off. I have been with many employers, and some businesses I worked for have a reputation of recycling employees every two years no matter what, in order to keep I.T. costs down. They have a few experienced staff on hand to train up the newbieGÇÖs, and when they start getting good, and up for a second raise......boom! All of a sudden the model employee has all kinds of problems! Not, the employer does. My wife, who works for a health care business, has a supervisor that will send her an email if she clocks in 1 minute late, or out 1 minute late, telling her she cannot do that. She is in customer service on the Phones! Should she hang up when she is on the line, or stop taking calls 5 - 10 minutes before the end of the day? People there are leaving in droves, the business is not replacing them. The management culture in many businesses has employees that are robots, and disposable, not human beings with a life. Is it any wonder that since the workers have no stake holder position in companies, and are treated with no flexibility in life? Jobs, that have stupid 1 minute rules, why people no longer have loyalty? Management in most companies makes it seem like we are worthless, disposable Information Technology peons, so why not look for a company that is different? I have been in Information Technology for about 25 years, and on contract now for 4 years. The Contract agency does nothing, but the people I work for on site are the best. I love the culture, the managers, and am treated like family. I work hourly, so no sick time, no vacation, it is tough. I am sticking here until the economy turns around. I will be careful moving from here. I feel blessed for now.
User Rank: Author
3/13/2013 | 10:20:33 PM
re: 3 Warning Signs Your IT Team Is Job Hunting
I'm surprised not to see something about LinkedIn here -- a star team member suddenly cleaning up her profile and making lots of new connections. That's not necessarily proof of an active job hunt since it's something we should all do periodically, but it would seem to be on the list of signs.

Here's a link to some strong pro-active career advice:

Secret CIO: 5 Steps To That CIO Title
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
The Next Generation of IT Support
The workforce is changing as businesses become global and technology erodes geographical and physical barriers.IT organizations are critical to enabling this transition and can utilize next-generation tools and strategies to provide world-class support regardless of location, platform or device
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll