Reskilling vital for keeping staff

Kiwi companies need to constantly reskill their staff if they want to keep them, says an Auckland University report.

Kiwi companies need to constantly reskill their staff if they want to keep them, says an Auckland University report.

Co-author Felix Tan of the Department of Management Science says a lack of middle-management skills is fuelling staff turnover and giving a bad reputation to IT projects, that tend to run late and over budget.

Government figures show that in 1996, 33,642 people were employed in IT (about 2% of the workforce ) which is a 21% increase over five years.

But, while demands for IT services had increased, the supply of human resources had not been able to keep pace.

"While there is a lack of entry-level workers, many currently practicing IT professionals are plateauing in mid-career due to skills obsolescence.

"This situation has contributed to the notorious reputation of IT projects, which are regularly over budget, late, and even when complete, fail to appropriately address function requirements," says the report.

Tan and Gordon Hunter of the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta, Canada, interviewed a range of IT professionals from the New Zealand Computer Society a few months ago.

People told them relationships were important, including having a need for mentors to show them how things are done. They also wanted challenges and to be able to increase their knowledge. Many also felt they thrived when given new projects. Gaining skills and experience mattered, along with some control over their work.

Two career trends were also apparent - fewer people now work their way up an organisation, preferring to move upwards by switching from employer to employer, and employees also want to keep up-to-date with technology.

The implication for IT organisations, says the report, is that they should develop training programmes for staff to keep their skills current, and projects should be found for them to apply their new skills. Mentoring should be encouraged to boost learning. Companies should develop policies to retain key workers, though they should recognise constant turnover happens.

Recruitment programmes should be established with universities to identify capable entry-level staff. Mid-career IT professionals could also be identified through links with recruitment firms and professional societies.

The university plans other interviews with IT professionals overseas, to see if there is anything New Zealand can learn from their experiences. Tan is heading to Singapore shortly to interview IT staff there, while Hunter is to interview people in Canada.

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