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17 Aug 2022

Solving IT staff turnover

Since April 2019, UK vacancies in the IT sector have more than tripled from approximately 13,000 to over 79,000*. It’s a vibrant sector, but the supply of skilled staff has not kept pace. You’ve probably experienced the result – high IT staff turnover.

In these circumstances, it’s easy to think that your experience is unique. You may assume other organisations are not struggling with candidate attraction and retention.

So let’s start by quantifying the issue. Looking at the average staff turnover within IT and how you can calculate the figure for your own department or company.

What’s the average IT staff turnover?

According to an annual survey by XpertHR, the average churn is approximately 16% across all industries and departments in the UK – but it can be as low as 8.3% (retail sector).

However, tech staff have the third highest turnover (18%). Only General Management (19.3%) and Sales & Marketing (31%) score higher.

But what do these percentages mean? It’s simply a way of expressing what percentage of staff left an organisation within a month or a year.

How to calculate your staff turnover

You start by working out the average number of staff during your chosen period (typically a month or a year). If it’s a year, find the number of ‘active staff’ at the start of the year, and the number of active staff at the end of the year. Add the two figures together and divide by two. Simple.

How to calculate your annual staff turnover

N.B. Active staff excludes employees who are not on maternity, sabbatical or garden leave.

You then find the number of staff who left during the same period. Divide that figure by the number of active staff and multiply by 100. That gives you a percentage (see example).

Now you can see if your company is better or worse than the 18% UK average for tech.

Your action plan for higher IT staff retention

Now you have calculated your figure you are either feeling smug with your low score or terrified at the high rate. Either way, there is always room for improvement.

The good news is that according to a Gallup poll, 52% of voluntary resignations are avoidable. In other words, half the people that leave you could have been persuaded to stay if you fixed an issue.

We all know the frequent issues; lack of career progression, relatively poor pay, working conditions and culture – the list is obvious and seems endless. Listing them here serves no purpose. Listing the solutions is a better idea.

Start by addressing these issues:

The recruitment process

  • If you're not offering hybrid or flexible working arrangements you'll get 20% fewer candidates;
  • Check their CV, do they job hop? If their longest job was less than a year it's a clue;
  • Get qualified staff, but not over-qualified - they will get bored and leave; and
  • Don’t panic. Rushing just to fill the role rarely ends well.

The induction / onboarding

  • Do inductions really, really well. Take time and make sure everyone in your team takes part;
  • Survey existing staff. What would they find useful if they were a new starter?; and
  • Make them feel important. Ask senior executives to spend time with them - an informal chat.

The probation period

  • Have regular check-ins locked into your diary. It’s easy for these to slip if you are constantly firefighting;
  • Be flexible and schedule training at their pace – some people need more time and others are like a sponge;
  • Every company has slightly different infrastructures, processes, etc. It can be over-whelming and frustrating. Give new recruits an experienced 'buddy'; and
  • Hybrid and remote working results in silos. Try 'coffee roulette'. New recruits are asked to join a randomly selected member of staff (outside of IT) for a virtual coffee.

Is your glass half empty or half full?

Tackling IT staff retention is becoming an almost full-time job for many IT leaders. Leaving some to question whether they are IT managers or HR managers.

Rising staff turnover often develops into a vicious circle. Low morale causes more workers to leave, which in turn reduces the morale and productivity of those who stay.

You can either view staff churn as an opportunity to replace ex-employees with better qualified talent, or as a distraction that takes you away from projects with more benefits.

Many businesses decide to outsource some of the more functional aspects of IT, such as cyber security, digital transformation or critical infrastructure management. It’s not their core business and leaves their IT resources free to concentrate on more productive projects.


* Source: Office for National Statistics

Photo by Laura Davidson

Graham Smith

By Graham Smith

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