IT In Crisis – Three Priorities for IT in 2010. Part 3

Updated: April 19, 2010

Killing the IT Geese who lay the Golden Eggs

As an industry we must change course on our attitudes and behaviors towards IT Staff. Companies have come to expect, and even demand their IT staff work excessive hours. Please don't shoot the messenger here. Everyone sees the excessive hours IT staff works and how little time-off or added compensation is provided. I understand that Leaders intend to give their employees time off but there's just too much work to be done. And that's the point. "There's too much work for your staff to do!" If your staff is working excessive hours then you need to either improve your organizations efficiency or add more staff.

When IT staff is overworked they spend too much time fixing mistakes and not enough time on productive (value add) activities.

I challenge you to test what I'm saying. Ask your staff to document the number of hours they spend fixing mistakes; their own or other's mistakes, and how much time they work on value add activities. I can provide numerous stories of overwork staff spending 50% of their time correcting problems caused by human error. This is not how you want your staff spending their time. This is not how successful companies spend their compensation dollars.

I have seen many good, quality, IT staff who have quit their jobs or are on the verge of quitting because they can't keep up with the demands placed on them. To add salt to the wound, I know of a technology company who cut their employee's salary this past year. Not because the company was losing money but because the company had not made "enough" money to appease the market analysts. Since they couldn't "earn" the revenues they just lowered everyone's salary.

My observation is that, industry-wide, IT staff is being taken advantage of. Because of this, it's getting harder and harder to find IT employees who are loyal to their employers. I recently saw an employee survey report showing the following results;

  • Thirty percent of Technical employees wouldn't hesitate to leave if offered a comparable job elsewhere.
  • Forty percent were neutral. As I interpret neutral, it means employees are not actively looking for another job but they can easily be convinced to leave should an offer be presented.

Only thirty percent would stay with their company if a comparable job were offered elsewhere.

When I started in the Technology industry almost 30 years ago, the Tech industry was the premier industry to work in. It was a reputable industry where people wanted to work. Not anymore. More and more I find Technical employees who are re-skilling and pursuing new careers outside the Tech industry. We've become an industry where too many experienced, quality, professionals are determined to leave. What was once a reputable profession has been relegated to one step above "blue-collar" labor.

If we as an industry don't take action to reduce employee workloads I fear there will be catastrophic consequence which will severely impact businesses everywhere. Not only will the industry experience a shortage of high quality IT professionals but I see three additional possible consequences. First, politicians may enact legislation to further protect worker's rights. Secondly, class action lawsuits may be brought against employers by current and former IT professionals. Thirdly: the potential rise of IT Unions.

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