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Economic woes highlight skills shortage issues


Johannesburg, 22 Jun 2009
Read time 2min 30sec

The skills shortage puts pressure on companies to retain their employees, and the slowing economy has put the issue firmly in the spotlight.

Many employees are taking advantage of the skills shortage by shifting between jobs to increase their salaries. And who can blame them, as the economy is in a bind and people would do well to increase their earnings? But that outlook is short-sighted.

IT professionals underpin the systems that power business and are therefore in a strong position to take advantage of the current skills shortage to boost their income. For the businesses that employ them, staff turnover is disruptive and expensive. Talented professionals who leave, take a great deal of intellectual capital with them, thus creating a void that could be expensive to fill.

But IT professionals must consider that in a depressed economy, companies are looking to reduce costs. One way to do that is to outsource to the experts who provide the same service on the back of better economies of scale, and therefore provide a cost benefit. If IT managers and other IT professionals' demands become excessive, then the outsourcing route looks increasingly attractive.

On the other hand, as businesses increasingly outsource their non-core IT activities, and therefore unburden themselves of the skills demands, so outsourcers gain business and develop greater need for professionals to service customers.

Most IT professionals seeking to change jobs not only want more money, but also look for positions where they have opportunities to develop their careers, train, and grow personally and professionally. Remuneration is important, but as long as it is market-related, these other factors take primacy.

Those goals lead to a sustainable career path. Few organisations with core business other than IT can reasonably offer IT professionals those incentives.

Currently, IT projects are few and far between, budgets for peripheral issues such as IT and management training are scarce, so there is reduced scope for personal and professional growth. The environment, by necessity, is slower as IT departments play largely maintenance roles and seek benefits through saving costs and increasing efficiencies.

Specialist outsourcing companies, by comparison, where the core business is IT, ensure that they have the most experienced staff who act as mentors to newer employees; they have a wide variety of active IT projects across their client base, which can span several industries; they constantly invest in training employees on the newest technologies; and they have managers who understand the business and the particular needs of IT staff.

IT specialist organisations are keen to invest in their staff as the business is the sum (and more) of its employees' skills. These organisations realise that staff retention is absolutely critical to business sustainability, productivity and organisational advancement.

Editorial contacts
Predictive Communications Jeann'e Swart (011) 452 2923 Jeanne@predictive.co.za
Bytes Technology Group Andrew Holden (011) 205 7000 Andrew.holden@btgroup.co.za
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