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      Why you are losing good staff and how to change it

      by Peter Carlin

      Employee engagement

      How can you use digital learning to tackle the big challenges of business to give clients better learning solutions? Although we focus on the specific challenges of the IT sector here - staff engagement, selecting and training managers and devising a practical human capital management strategy - many industries have challenges in these areas. 

      employee retention: The big IT sector training shakeup

      I have been designing and delivering learning and training solutions to the IT sector for over 15 years. As a service provider, I get to meet many varied organisations and invariably a picture forms in my mind of common problems that have huge negative impacts yet should be easily resolvable. To me, the IT sector remains a frustrating enigma with lack of progress in skills and talent development. Without wishing to reinforce stereotypes, when you assemble a bunch of highly intelligent technical experts together, they create brilliant solutions but struggle with business excellence.


      Furthermore, the IT sector is becoming more competitive, disruptive and margin sensitive. Marketing, selling, operational excellence, scalable solutions and higher returns are a must have set of skills and outcomes. If this is the case then, why is it that IT service providers seem to have high staff turnover and low employee engagement?


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      Looking at the evidence for low staff engagement


      A recent survey by TEKSystems on talent retention in the IT Sector provided some striking results:

      • 2 out of 5 IT leaders say their organisation struggles to retain IT talent
      • 67% of IT leaders report retention is a challenge across all skills they manage
      • 9% of IT leaders expect IT professionals to stay with their organisation for more than 5 years
      • Only 32% of IT leaders and 41% of IT professionals agree their organisation has a clearly articulated employee value proposition
      • 78% of IT leaders report that their organisations provide education and training, yet only 38% of employees are aware that the service exists

      It seems that since the downturn budgets for training have been slashed. This is somewhat understandable given that IT training is particularly expensive in both time out of the office and cost. It is hard for the CFO to quantify the return on this investment, and with pressure on margins training is an easy budget to cut. BUT at a grassroots level, training and certification remains personally very important to IT professionals (unlike their software engineering cousins) and slashing training budgets has a deep and negative impact on individuals and therefore the DNA of the industry. 


      I wonder if CxOs have taken the decision to live with the cost of low staff engagement & high staff turnover rather than investing money into training and talent programmes that have no quantifiable ROI?

      From both the employees and the CFO’s perspectives, there
      must be a better IT training alternative?


      Recruiting and supporting managers


      Another trend I see is that managers are ill equipped to perform well. I would guess that the IT industry is more than guilty of promoting technically excellent people into managerial positions without due regard to their propensity and talent to manage.This error of judgement has a profound effect on organisations as good managers are the catalyst for happy staff, better performance, alignment, innovation, more customers and a much healthier bottom line.


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      A recent report by Gallup: The State of the American Manager uncovered a treasure trove of information highlighting the link between poor staff engagement and poor managers. We explored this data in detail in another blog - solving employee engagement.


      Here is the summary from the Gallup report:

      • 70% of US employees are disengaged
      • Disengaged managers create disengaged employees
      • When good managers have some talent, nurtured with proper development; teams and individuals win customers
      • Virtually all companies try to fix bad managers with training - nothing fixes a bad manager
      • The majority of managers are miscast; 18% of current managers have the high talent required of their role, but 82% of managers do not possess the right talents

      Only 10% of working people possess the talent to be great managers.

      Another 20% of our populations have some characteristics of functional managerial talent
      but need nurtured and supported. Real management talent exists in your company right now.

      • Companies that hire managers based on talent realise a 48% increase in profitability, a 22% increase in employee engagement scores, a 17% increase in customer engagement scores and 19% less staff turnover.
      • Naturally talented managers know how to develop and engage their employees. They create enthusiastic and energised teams that focus on moving their company forward and doing right by their customers.
      • Managers need to continually improve. A job title doesn’t negate an individual’s need for ongoing learning. Companies need to make an investment in their managers and provide them with resources, tools and the support they need to refine and cultivate their strengths. Opportunities to grow and learn should be encouraged. The best managers are always striving to improve, and their organisations should encourage them to do so.

      Great managers possess a rare combination of five talents:

      • They motivate
      • They assert themselves to overcome obstacles
      • Create a culture of accountability
      • Build trusting relationships
      • Make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of the team and the company


      Every team in your organisation demands a great manager.   


      How to go about resolving the problem:

      • Create a talent based human capital management strategy – what does success look like in every manager role and how does each hire fit into business objectives
      • Grow, don’t promote. Stop promoting people because they are successful in current or past roles. Great front line employees do not necessarily make great managers, great managers do not necessarily make great leaders
      • Reward. Top performers demand the higher pay, whether they are a manager or not
      • Being a manager does not necessarily equate to a higher salary and benefits
      • Training, learning, and nurturing is ongoing, and seen as necessary professional development
      • People leave - but implementing exit interviews can uncover managerial pain points that can be improved upon or avoided to help boost retention rates and employee morale.

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      What to do next: get high impact, low cost per head self-directed training


      The Gallup report provides many thought provoking facts and statistics but let’s not over complicate the possible solutions. It is clear that a new human capital management strategy may take some time to construct and implement, however we can immediately change how we train staff with technical IT skills, personal development skills and managerial excellence. We can do this quickly and efficiently with a high impact outcome at a low cost per person.


      The solution is an online, hosted learning ecosystem, or learning portal - where your staff can come and consume thousands of learning resources and videos. The resources are all succinctly mapped to your competencies, certifications, departments or roles by our learning consultants. What about a “School of Project Management” or a “Manager’s essentials learning programme” or an “Engineers Certification Programme” or a “Personal Development Centre” (and more) all available as self-service learning plans and resources, all online and self-directed.

      But first, let's make sure we understand the role of the manager and the exact skills they need. 


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