3 Reasons Your Top IT Pros Leave

Here's why your best people might be looking for another job -- and expert advice on how to keep them.

Kevin Casey, Contributor

March 12, 2013

4 Min Read

Attracting top talent is harder than ever for CIOs, CTOs and IT managers. That makes retaining the "A" performers on your current team all the more crucial. So why do your best people keep leaving for other jobs?

There's a diverse set of reasons why IT pros seek greener pastures in another organization, ranging from the empirical -- a 30% raise, say -- to the anecdotal. Perhaps their boss' idiosyncrasies drive them to the loony bin.

What's clear is that finding qualified replacements for departing staff is no easy task. A recent HDI research report calls the current IT labor market a "war for talent." The issue is not finding candidates; post a job opening online and you'll likely be inundated with resumes. The problem is finding qualified candidates with the right set of technical skills for the job, according to HDI director of content Cinda Daly.

[ For more insight on how to retain IT talent, read 4 IT Leadership Failures That Make Employees Leave. ]

The HDI study found, for example, that nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents struggle to fill "level 2 or 3 and/or desktop support" roles with qualified people. Management's not much easier; 59% of companies have trouble finding IT executives with the right skills and experience for the job.

With that kind of hiring picture, you can't afford to lose the good people you already have. Daly identified three critical issues that tend to underlie IT job dissatisfaction and motivate workers with in-demand skills to start looking around for a better opportunity. The first one should come as no surprise.

1. Money.

Were you expecting a different headliner? The almighty dollar is a big mover and shaker in the labor market. "Compensation is always a key factor," Daly said in an interview. Money might sound obvious, but it's complicated by the fact that many companies froze even cost-of-living pay increases -- let alone actual raises -- for several years during the recent recession. Those organizations that continue to keep a lid on labor costs may be paying a higher long-term price on the IT talent front. "[Frozen pay] added a lot of stress and pressure," noted Daly, who will moderate the "Strategic Staffing: Winning the War for Talent" panel at the upcoming Interop conference. "That's an incentive to move."

2. Opportunities For Learning And Advancement.

The good news for budget-constrained businesses: Money's not the be-all, end-all. In fact, IT pros care almost as much about the chance to acquire new skills and move up the organizational chart, according to Daly. Training, education and career upside are roughly as valuable as current compensation on the list of reasons talented people start looking elsewhere -- yet management often overlooks these issues.

"When there are limited opportunities for people to grow, to have a career path, to learn and stay up to date on things -- those are equally important to compensation," Daly said, noting that many companies slashed training budgets during the economic downturn. "In the IT profession especially, with so much rapid technological change, people cannot afford to get behind in their skills." If their current gig restricts their ability to keep their skills ahead of the curve, Daly said, "They're going to go look for places where they can."

3. Stress And Workload.

Stress and workload might seem like a no-brainer, but in the IT context it's a double whammy. Daly said that some 73% of companies are struggling to fill their open IT headcount. In the meantime, many of those firms are parceling out the extra work to existing employees. Translation: Those open desks are not only hard to fill, but they're burning out the current staff in the meantime. That often makes external opportunities much more attractive, sometimes simply by virtue of the chance to focus on one job rather than needing to cover three or four.

"Everything starts to get overloaded, everyone gets stressed, and mistakes happen in those scenarios," Daly said. "It's very prevalent. There's now empirical evidence that shows that connection between stress and workload, and people will move on."

Worried your top-tier talent might be sniffing around on the job market? Stay tuned for an upcoming story on some of the warning signs -- and some ideas for making your IT organization more attractive to current and future employees.

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!

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About the Author(s)

Kevin Casey


Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses.

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