Flight risk? High-tech talent set to take off post economic recovery

By Denise Dubie, Network World |  Career, economy

High-tech workers who endured cost-cutting measures such as salary reductions and added workloads will be looking for new jobs as an economic recovery gets underway, according to new research.

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"In the midst of the worst economic downturn in decades, CTOs and vice presidents of engineering were wondering how they can keep their top high-tech talent during layoffs and when they raised the issue with employees, the message was that people should just be happy to have a job in this tough time," says Caroline Simard, director of research and executive programs at the Anita Borg Institute and author of the industry organization's recent report "Retaining a Diverse Technical Pipeline During and After a Recession."

"But that mentality leads to high turnover rates, which often spike after an economic downturn due to cost-cutting and other barriers to advancement in the workplace," Simard says.

Companies that cut salaries, benefits and other perks such as professional development and mentoring programs could experience a loss in high-tech talent right when business could be poised for growth. Employees that have spent the past year cutting costs and working more, while losing personal time and restricting their own vacations out of fear of losing their income and livelihood, Simard says, will feel "disengaged and disenchanted" with employers.

"A loss of employee engagement threatens companies' ability to return to prosperity. Job security is one of the biggest predictors of employee engagement and widespread layoffs have hurt this engagement," the Anita Borg paper reads.

Gartner found that "unrelenting workload and stress" was viewed as the most significant barrier to achieving key objectives," followed by "blurred roles and responsibilities and inadequate supply of technical skills." Deloitte in 2009 reported in "Managing Talent in Turbulent Economy" that employee morale and trust in senior management took a turn for the worst. And research from Towers Perrin in 2008 showed that 38% of global employees felt disengaged or disenchanted and that 85% of those feeling disengaged planned to leave their companies.

"Employee engagement is down everywhere," Simard says.

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