IT Turnover Signaling a Strong Market

Employee-initiated turnover is up, as more IT workers desire work-life balance.

As CIOs have changed gears in the last few years from managing enterprise technology to driving business growth within their companies, the shift has also trickled down to what is demanded of the IT professionals within their organizations.

Technology workers whose strengths lie in core areas of information and technology have become the most sought-after group and hold the most-difficult-to-fill positions. These difficulties are exacerbated by changing demands from the IT workers themselves, whose desires for work-life balance and growth opportunities within their jobs are more pronounced than before.

In the absence of these qualities in a job, theyre more willing than ever to leave, evidenced by an ever-increasing rate of IT employee-initiated turnover, according to Gartners 2007 IT Market Compensation Study released July 17.

"A big factor, in my mind, is that there are a lot of baby boomers and other seasoned employees in the IT workplace right now, people who if theyre not getting what they want out of their work-life balance or career plan will get it elsewhere," Diane Berry, managing vice president for Gartner EXPs content development group, told eWEEK. "This is true as well for Generation Y employees."

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The employee-initiated turnover rate grew 1 percent between Gartners 2006 and 2007 reports, making 2007 the third year in a row that there was an increase in the turnover rate. Much of this increase appeared to be occurring at the professional staff (individual contributor) level of IT organizations.

Data on employee-imitated turnover drawn from a survey of 225 U.S.-based organizations also pointed to strong growth in the IT labor market. Sixty-six percent of survey respondents projected some level of increase in IT staff during the next 12-month period (March 1, 2007, to February 29, 2008), up from 61 percent in 2006.

"From an overall perspective, if you look at the data, it all points to the same picture: an increasingly tight market after some really lean years," said Berry. "Its really an employees market; things have been turned back around. All the indicators are pointing up, whether you look at the number of days it takes to fill a highly sought-after job, the premiums that are being paid or how many folks are projecting a headcount increase."

In a robust labor market, one in which employees have leverage to get what they want from their jobs or go elsewhere, offering workplace perks and generous HR packages is almost as important as the salary base itself. Work-life balance was cited as one of the top reasons for employee turnover in the study.

"During the bust, people were worried about having a job at all. This is not when youre going to go to your employers and ask if you could work 7 to 3 or work two days from home each week because of your daycare situation," said Berry.

"Coupled with this is an aging work force that wants more balance, and a younger generation that expects it as well."

Offering programs that enable IT professionals to more effectively manage work-life demands and to meet their personal and professional goals was shown to be a significant differentiator for employers. One of the most powerful work-life programs is teleworking, yet only a small percentage (1 to 18 percent) of survey participants IT work forces have some sort of telework arrangement.

"I dont understand that—why very few offer a telework program. This is a huge differentiator and a huge chance to set yourself apart. Telework is a huge retention vehicle," said Berry.

Although the Gartner report points to a healthy and increasingly active IT job market, it does not expect it to return to the same competitive level as in the late 1990s anytime soon. Instead, a slow, steady recovery is evident through relatively consistent salary increase rates of 3 to 4 percent each year.

/zimages/2/28571.gifThe United States, Japan and the U.K. are tops at sustaining a thriving IT industry. Read why here.

"I dont see the market going back to the late 1990s craziness. IT has matured. Its an industry thats still pretty young compared to others, but theres a lot more maturity now about how to pay folks and how to get the right HR programs to recruit and retain a team," Berry said. "Its a more seasoned job market, in many ways created from the lesson of the bust," he said.

"At the end of the day, its a win-win for both employers and employees," Berry concluded.

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