Prepare for generation Y or suffer staff shortages

Organizations keen to retain IT staff better start preparing for Generation Y.

The next generation of workers are more interested in achieving a work/life balance, an environment for which the IT industry isn't exactly famous.

Andrew Cross, NSW sales and delivery manager for ICT specialist recruiter Diversiti, said retaining Gen-Y employees challenge companies.

Defined as those born between 1980 and 1995, these new workers are less motivated by money than previous generations because their focus is on personal fulfillment.

"They work to live, and they expect to go straight into a role with a lot of responsibility, instead of expecting to first pay their dues and prove their loyalty," Cross said.

Baby boomers still dominate today, which is most evident across middle management, he said.

"The baby boomers are the exact opposite, they've always regarded stability as the cornerstone of a successful career," Cross said.

And how will the change impact IT?

Cross says in the IT industry, notorious for its long working hours, skill shortages and dropping university enrolments, companies have to reevaluate their offerrings or risk losing the battle for the minds of Generation Y.

"Organizations now have to recognize the characteristics of this generation and adapt accordingly. A good idea is to give them responsibility at an earlier stage in their career, and make sure you allow for a good work/life balance," he said.

But finding these skilled Gen-Y workers could be a challenge in itself as fewer people seem to grooming themselves for a career in IT, according to Universities Admissions Centre NSW and ACT.

Undergraduate IT enrolments slipped even further across Australia at the beginning of the year, according to a spokesperson from the centre.

In addition, Ambit NSW manager for IT recruitment Jeff Knowles claims there continues to be a number of IT skills that are hard to source in some jobs.

"There's also a high turnover of staff, with the current economy people are moving around a lot more, looking for better opportunities," Knowles said.

"The younger workers entering the IT industry are looking for more flexibility."

Andy Bradshaw, manager of recruitment services at Hudson agrees, pointing out that Australian companies should be doing more to make the IT industry more attractive.

"They should be more open to managing people in different ways, and definitely realize that people are now looking for more than a nine-to-five job," Bradshaw said.

And if getting, and keeping, new workers into the industry isn't challenge enough, there's the impending loss of skills with a greying workforce.

Rajendra Pawar, NIIT Technologies chairman, speaking at the Australia India Business Council last week, warned the ICT industry will be worst hit as the population ages.

"By 2020 most of the developed world including Australia will be short of workers, while India will have a surplus of 47 million workers," he said but did not qualify how skilled this surplus workforce would be.

(With Sandra Rossi.)

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