The care and feeding of IT hires

If you retain hires for the first 12 months, you've survived the rockiest part of their tenure. But that means you've got to make the hiring process last a solid year.
Posted February 1, 1999
By

Mary Brandel


(Page 1 of 2)

In this article:
Questions new hires would love to be asked
Capturing loyalty through mentors
After an extensive recruiting process, a talented systems analyst accepts your job offer. Hands are shaken and papers signed. You breathe a sigh of relief that an essential opening has been filled.

But guess what? The hiring process isn't complete yet, and if you really want to hang on to this employee, it won't be finished for a year. That's right--hiring doesn't end when a new worker finally warms up that empty chair.

Steps toward the future

The hiring process doesn't end on your new employees' first day. Here are steps to take throughout the first year of your new hires' tenure:

Before they start, let them know in writing and by calling them that they've chosen the "best place to work."
Be prepared for them on their first day with business cards and an office setup.
Hold a meaningful orientation that provides them with specific information about their manager or team dynamics.
Assign them a coach or mentor.
Immediately immerse them in an interesting project.
Provide rewards for completed projects.
Hold meetings at which they can sound off about their first experiences with the company.
Keep in touch throughout the first year through informal conversations or surveys.
In fact, hiring experts say the first year of an IT employee's tenure is make-or-break time. Take a look at your turnover trends; they might surprise you. "When my clients show me charts of their exposure to turnover, their zero- to 12-month turnover was the highest they had," says David Foote, managing partner at Stamford, Conn.-based Cromwell Foote Partners LLC, a research consultancy and advisory firm that specializes in IT, compensation, and human capital management strategies.

"When companies start asking, 'Who are we losing?' very often it's the new hires," agrees Sue Keever, president of The Keever Group, a Dallas-based human resources consulting firm.

This can't be good news for companies spending an average of $6,000 to recruit an employee straight out of college, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, of Bethlehem, Pa. Furthermore, the Employment Managers Association (NACE) notes that costs range from $8,000 to $20,000 for a professional hire. And considering that annual training costs range from $5,000 to $10,000 for a new employee, and it can take half a year for a new hire to become a productive worker, says Foote, the loss of a new recruit is an extremely costly proposition. "Just to bring the person in you've already sunk a lot of money into him or her, whether you hired the person as a temporary employee, paid a sign-on bonus, and possibly paid a fee to an agency or a recruiter," he says.

The reason for this phenomenon lies in the specific nature of IT employees, Foote suggests. "Many years ago," he says, "IT employees tended to be loyal to their company. After a while, they grew loyal to their profession. Now, maybe they're just loyal to themselves."

This isn't true of all IT types, he explains. Business technologists tend to be more willing to make an investment in the company and are interested in long-term rewards. The potential employees you really need to watch are the technical specialists. "The younger technical skill specialists, single or without children, or without roots like a mortgage--these are people with very short attention spans," Foote says. And with a highly publicized IT labor shortage, they're people worth keeping. "In the old days, companies asked IT workers to help them be cost efficient or automate processes. Now, you're trying to attract people who are creative. They get bored out of their minds if you don't give them the atmosphere they need," he says. The reason for this phenomenon lies in the specific nature of IT employees, Foote suggests. "Many years ago," he says, "IT employees tended to be loyal to their company. After a while, they grew loyal to their profession. Now, maybe they're just loyal to themselves."

This isn't true of all IT types, he explains. Business technologists tend to be more willing to make an investment in the company and are interested in long-term rewards. The potential employees you really need to watch are the technical specialists. "The younger technical skill specialists, single or without children, or without roots like a mortgage--these are people with very short attention spans," Foote says. And with a highly publicized IT labor shortage, they're people worth keeping. "In the old days, companies asked IT workers to help them be cost efficient or automate processes. Now, you're trying to attract people who are creative. They get bored out of their minds if you don't give them the atmosphere they need," he says.



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