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News & Press: Feature

Voluntary Turnover Among Information Technology Professionals

Thursday, January 19, 2006   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Patrick Thomas Burnes
Introduction and Problem Background
Many information technology employees have began fleeing their current places of employment after only working there for only three to five years. Voluntary employee turnover and the financial load connected with loss of employees is a dilemma that on average looses 9% of organizations' profits (Lermusiaux, 2004; Fitz-enz, 1997).

Losing vital staff causes a considerable financial blow on a business, taking into account the information that is taken with the workers who depart (Ramlall, 2004). Capital, training, and job advancement, recognized as motivators for employee retention in the past (Griffeth & Hom, 2001), are no longer successful. The research of Lee, Mitchell, Wise, & Fireman, (1996) Unfolding Model of Voluntary Employee Turnover theoriezed that shocks exist that lead different decision paths, in which an individual, motivated by a shock to the system.

A study conducted by this researcher used decision path 2 in which a decision to remain with the organization after determining that staying is the best of all the alternatives (Lee et al.). As well as level 3 path, in which an employees decide that their interest is best served by leaving an organization because of a lack of job satisfaction (Lee et al.) decision paths to help frame a more grounded method of understanding of motivators as a foundation to determining the shocks that cause the motivations toward staying or leaving.

This trend appeared to be isolated to only Generation X individuals, who were born between 1965 and 1980. However, after the study was completed a revealation emerged that this trend to go across both Generation X and Non-Generation Xers within the field of information technology.

The Study
To determine what makes these individuals want to leave their current organization, a mixed method study of both quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews was conducted using the unfolding model of voluntary employee turnover in which it is theorized that after certain shocks are introduced to an individual who will start them down the road of deciding whether to stay with or leave his or her current organizations. This study focused on Generation X information technology professionals as the primary sample population of those leaving their organization after three to five years resulting in increased costs due to retraining, rehiring, loss of skill sets and knowledge. A mixed method approach surveyed 52 information technology professionals and 20 of those respondents were interviewed. The results of this study have determined some surprising system shocks that have lead information technology employees making the decision that it would be better to leave their organizations than to stay with their organization which describes decision path 3 of the unfolding model of voluntary employee turnover. It was found that the true motivator behind voluntary employee turnover was lack of organizational loyalty, trust, lack of leaderships open communication, and lack of keeping up with technology.

Systems shocks that start people leaving.
The study revealed that the number one shock within information technology professionals was a lack of trust of leadership, even though 60% of the Generation X responded on the quantitative portion of the survey that they would like to continue to work for their current organization. However, if the employee does not trust that the leadership is going to provide a stable work environment and not just concern itself about the bottom line; why should the employee make a decision to have loyalty toward an organization? This kind of thinking on the part of the employee leads most people down decision path three, with very little system shock introduced. Generation Xers tend to distrust their organization more with 28% reporting a major concern over the loyalty of their organizations. Non-Generation Xers were not far behind with 14% reporting a concern about employer loyalty, while 14% of both groups fear of replacement by outsourcing. Winning the trust, and therefore the loyalty of their employees, appears to be a hurdle that organizations must face for retention. However, having 60% of the Generation X individuals and 63% of the other groups reporting that they would like to work for the same organization in five years suggests that changes within management, loyalty, communications, and keeping the employees marketable and up-to-date with technology, would slow the trend of leaving by as much as 60-65%.

Another shock that sends information technology employees fleeing an organization is the lack of the organization's leadership decision-making regarding staying current with new technologies. It is of interest that 35% of those interviewed were concerned with this job factor. The information technology groups that are leaving their organizations are staying in the same profession. This was shown in the results that 43% of Generation Xers indicated that they were looking for other information technology jobs. The Non-Generation group reported that only 27% of them were going to leave the information technology profession. It became obvious that the majority of these individuals enjoy working within the information technology field and have no real desire to leave. Information Technology professionals do have a desire to keep up with new technology and not get stagnant in their work. The concept of the senior leadership and other organizational departments are comfortable with a type of technology that is 5 to ten years old and is expected to be supported by an information technology professionals must change. This keeping up with technology appears to be one of the primary factors that lead information technology individuals to choose decision path 3 of the Unfolding Model of voluntary employee turnover. Once again, the driving factor of these individuals wanting to stay current with new technologies and to remain marketable is the worry of being outsourced or laid off and not having the skill-set needed to acquire another position within information technology field elsewhere. The distrust of information technology individuals toward their organizations has led to both groups of individuals striving to stay current with the latest technology in order to remain marketable. Generation Xers are very concerned with keeping up with technology to remain marketable in case of a voluntary or involuntary change in employment.

Generation Xers reported that 35% felt that their organizations are not keeping up with technology; Non-Generation Xers were slightly less concerned about this factor, with only 28% agreeing with the statement.

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