This post came about from a comment made by a colleague during a retrospective, the essence is that the end of the day we are all driven and motivated by many things, but when it comes right down to it paying your mortgage comes high on the list.

I’ve blogged about diversity and the problem that we have in IT at the moment, there is of course another aspect to this. As I look around the room I am currently sat  I can see about 60 people, the vast majority of whom are in the 35 to 55 age range and most all of these, regardless of gender are the main bread-winner for their family.

For this group of people perhaps the biggest financial burden and worry that they bare is their mortgage, from Maslow and his hierarchy of needs as well as Dan Pink’s work on Motivation we know that unless people feel financially secure, safe and  stable that you can forget about the higher “self actuating” , self developing and innovative side of things.

So given that we know all of this, why I wonder are we so useless at keeping good staff?

As you can probably guess, tenure figures IT staff aren’t great, a swift google shows that on average we are talking 3-4 years and I know from experience that this can be a much quicker turn-around, especially for the higher end quality employees.

It’s starts with the recruitment process, I know how hard it is to firstly recruit staff and then secondly to keep them, the first is hard the second almost impossible.

But why?

Go and ask those who recruit, but I will take a guess that what happens is something very similar to this.

The Scenario

We need a QA, BA, Developer, so I go to my budget holder and after much too-and fro we manage (again) to convince them that we need to pay £X for a really good say developer.

So we create a wish list of a job description and go to market, probably using one of the myriad of recruitment agents, knowing full well that their finders fee will be in the 15% or even higher range.

Firstly let’s assume that we actually get some candidates, which is never guaranteed and so we start the interview process. We do an initial telephone conversation, do some tech tests a face-to-face and we end up with a a candidate that fits well, this is a fairly ideal scenario by the way.

So now we can start talking cash and straight off the interview process is disingenuous in that we are starting to make all manner of good sounds around supporting staff through training, pay reviews and progression. The applicant, especially if not a hardened cynic though years of hard experience may actually believe what they are being told.

The new starter spends the first 3-6  months just working out how the various existing systems fit together, learning the ropes from an organisation structure and culture perspective and at the end of this period we have somebody who is fully effective.

We get to the end of the first year, first pay review cycle and this person gets virtually nothing despite the usual arguments around keeping, growing and developing people.

The arguments back usually go along the line of, “they’re new and we paid / overpaid them upfront so they can wait” ,  ” “they need to prove their worth” or the worst one of all as it’s just a straight lie mostly, “we have gone to market and done a comparison / leveling exercise and they’re getting paid what they’re worth”.

So the not so new starter, thinks either “stuff it” and leaves, or mostly they stick around a little longer, probably due to some more disingenuous conversations and a bit of inertia because to be honest its a pain to move jobs.

However we got through the same cycle the next year and guess what, they’re gone, so we get to recruit again, spend another 15% on agents fees and start the cycle all over again.

Alternatively you end up with people sticking around who are demotivated, disengaged and frankly dangerous as they no longer care.

Now I know thankfully that not all companies work this way, but many do and the utter stupidity of doing this never ceases to amaze me, the shortsightedness of organisations at times is utterly bemusing.

But here a thought for anybody for whom this rings true, how about taking the agents fee and say providing a path over perhaps 4-5 years shewing regular increases making people feel well, safer, secure, stable and wanted as well.

Try it, it won’t hurt.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


Articles on IT Tenure

Employee Tenure Becomes Hot Topic for Tech Companies

Can Tech Industry Solve Employee Tenure Problem

Job Tenure and The Myth of Job Hopping