Prepare your workforce for economic prosperity

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Despite the slight rise in overall compensation revealed by Computerworld's 2011 Salary Survey, most IT pros feel that their salaries have remained stagnant or even decreased over the past two years. These sentiments are, perhaps not surprisingly, compounded by feelings of increased pressure to perform and could lead to significant turnover as the economy improves. So, how bad might it get for employers?

Anecdotally, Yoh has recently been increasingly successful courting candidates away from full-time opportunities in favor of temporary assignments. The draw is rarely more money, but rather the opportunity to gain experience and establish oneself in a new role at a new employer. Candidates also see less risk with these assignments because of the way the temporary job market has performed over the past 12 months.

What, then, is the prescription for an organization that has squeezed as much productivity out of its workforce as possible while keeping labor-related expenses under control? How can it stem or prepare for an emigration of talent?

Send reinforcements. Evaluating productivity against current staffing is essential in determining where the pressure points are across your workforce. Telltale signs that your staff might be in need of help include flattening productivity numbers over the past six months and poor or decreasing retention. If these factors involve projects that are crucial to overall business operations, staff augmentation must be considered.

Accelerate project timelines. Tech workers want to keep their skills sharp and expand their experience. Satisfying this desire can help alleviate feelings of underappreciation and, in some cases, even undercompensation, as many tech professionals realize that gaining new skills will eventually lead to financial benefits.

Start by mixing up the project portfolio. Accelerate pending projects and shuffle teams to reward high performers with an opportunity to work on the most forward-leaning efforts. Develop cross-functional teams that oversee elements of existing projects. Encourage employees to brainstorm new and creative ways to speed delivery or improve quality. Most important, help them see the value in the skills they will gain from the new work or from the new approach being taken to address ongoing problems.

Eliminate isolated tactics. The first two suggestions assume that you'll be making larger investments in the workforce. That's nearly unavoidable. What is avoidable, however, is overspending. Cost efficiency requires that three areas of the business -- human resources, business leadership and procurement -- work together as never before.

Keeping hiring efforts isolated will prevent the organization from strategically identifying where staff increases are most needed in order to boost overall workforce satisfaction and productivity. Isolated instances of hiring will also make it difficult to establish a standard contract-to-permanent employment process that will ultimately boost the company's reputation as an employer.

Inevitably, you must make investments in your workforce in order to advance the business objectives of today and tomorrow. Doing so in this economic climate doesn't have to induce hand-wringing. Focusing squarely on the overall health of the workforce while creating a plan to drive the most strategic projects to completion will increase employee satisfaction and prepare your organization for a strong recovery.

Joel Capperella is vice president of Yoh, a talent and outsourcing services provider. Visit www.yoh.com or blog.yoh.com.

Next: Opinion: IT pay still crazy after all these years

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