How to Hold on to Your Workforce During the Job Hunting Season

The beginning of the year is often cited as one of the best times for employees to look for new jobs. Hiring companies tend to have their budgets and sales forecasts confirmed for the year ahead, and executives have decided on their strategic goals and the people they want to bring on board to make things happen.

For employees, finding a new job is a common New Year’s resolution, with many people returning to work in January with increased resolve to further their careers by changing roles. But in sectors such as IT security, which already suffer from a pronounced skills shortage, losing employees can pose a serious organizational challenge. With the cost of employee turnover estimated to be as much as 1.5 to 2 times an employee’s salary, how can companies retain their workforce and protect their bottom lines?

The financial cost to an organization of losing an employee is far more than just the recruitment fees associated with finding their replacement. As well as the cost of hiring and training a new recruit, organizations need to factor in the lost productivity of losing an experienced employee. For example, there can be a cultural effect when someone decides to leave, particularly if the remaining workforce experiences additional pressure due to increased workloads.

In addition, it usually takes a year for a new employee to reach the productivity of an existing member of staff. As most HR managers know, people are an appreciating asset – meaning that the longer they stay with an organization, the more productive they become, because they have learned to understand the products, people and processes involved in that organization.

This problem is even more pronounced in the cybersecurity sector. The UK has a well-documented skills shortage when it comes to cybersecurity, and the gap between supply and demand for expertise continues to grow.

Earlier this month, the UK was reported to have the second highest cybersecurity skills gap globally, with employer demand exceeding candidate interest by more than three times. Given the spate of high-profile cybersecurity breaches at UK companies in recent years, it’s easy to see how under-staffed IT security teams could seriously impact an organization’s cyber-resilience, or the time it takes them to respond to an attack.

So what exactly can be done to mitigate this risk? At the end of last year, AlienVault surveyed the opinions of almost 500 global IT professionals about their attitudes to work, and the results make for interesting reading. Most people assume that the main reasons why employees prefer to work at some companies over others are culture and compensation. If a job is a delight and pays well, then it seems obvious that people would want to stay in their position.

Surprisingly, however, money does not seem to be as much of a consideration for IT professionals as it might be for the general workforce. In fact, according to the survey, only 40% of respondents cited salary as the most important reason for them to stay in their jobs, despite the high-stress nature of the work.

The factors that ranked higher were loyalty to their bosses (44%) and colleagues (41%), and an overall love of their jobs (68%). Many of those working in IT clearly derive job satisfaction from being respected for their abilities and having access to the support and funding needed to expand their skill sets. The survey results are consistent with similar studies in the past, suggesting that high salaries are no substitute for being contented and fulfilled at work.

This should serve as a wake-up call for employers—an employee’s work environment matters. There’s a true business case for creating a workplace culture that is welcoming and that breeds enthusiasm. As a growing body of evidence shows, these are the things that make people want to stay in their current jobs.

Once people reach a comfortable salary, they are likely to look for more meaningful value at work, such as whether a position takes advantage of and further develop their skills, or if they feel included and appreciated.

Taking this a step further, some of today’s most successful organizations are those with a common sense of mission, and a strong cultural identity. These are often contained in value statements, such as Google’s 10 “truths”. So while it is no easy task, any organization that is serious about holding on to its workforce needs to focus less on short-term incentives and more on building a corporate environment that inspires loyalty.

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