Staff retention rates nosedive in the IT sector despite bonus bonanza

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Organisations in the IT sector are struggling to hold on to their employees, despite the frequency and value of bonus payments. The 2005 National Management Salary Survey also shows that benefits packages have improved as companies battle to attract staff.

The survey, launched today by the Chartered Management Institute and Remuneration Economics, reveals that 79.1 per cent of executives in the IT sector received a bonus in the year to January 2005 --the second highest average in the UK. But in spite of the high number of people given bonus payments, 45.4 per cent of companies are reporting retention problems -- the worst reported figure for 15 years.

Asked why their employees leave, nearly 62 per cent blamed competition from other organisations and 45.4 per cent admitted they offered little in the way of career progression or training. Salaries (43.2 per cent) and job security (40.9 per cent) were also cited as reasons for job changes.

The findings reveal that the average total earnings for managers in the IT sector are 41,960, putting the sector eighth in the UK earnings league table. It is interesting to note that managers salaries account for a large proportion of guaranteed take home pay because at 2,210 (for managers in IT), their bonus is worth 5.3 per cent of total income. Directors, in contrast, rely on bonuses for 38.6 per cent of total earnings. This differentiation is important as company and personal performance affect bonuses for 65.7 per cent of directors, compared to 56.2 per cent of managers.

The survey, of 20,989 individuals, also shows changes to the nature of benefits packages. Thirty years ago the norm was four weeks holiday per year, with 61 per cent taking 20 days. That figure is now 78 per cent, with executives taking between 21 and 25 days annual leave. Signing on bonuses have almost doubled over the last year (to 14.1 per cent) and many businesses (51.4 per cent) offer referral payments to staff recommending potential recruits.

There is clear evidence in this years survey that organisations are finding it difficult to attract staff. 43.4 per cent said they had experienced recruitment difficulties, up from 30.9 per cent last year. Of those companies facing recruitment problems, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) put them down to a lack of candidates with specialised skills, especially those in IT management, engineers and salespeople.

Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, says: The reported shortage of managers and staff with relevant skills is a concern because competitive advantage can be threatened if employees lack the ability to carry out their roles. Worse still, many organisations admit that they fail to provide adequate development initiatives, even though it is a major reason for leaving. If employers are serious about reversing the current recruitment and retention trend, they must address this issue and develop incentives that suit employees needs.

In an effort to tackle the recruitment and retention problems, organisations are boosting their incentive schemes, with most (91 per cent) now giving cash alternatives to traditional perks. The popular benefits are:

Invest in your future: provision of a personal pension scheme (98.9 per cent). Although those offering final salary schemes has dropped significantly from 76.9 to 32.7 per cent in five years one in five companies provide non-contributory plans for all employees.

Rest assured: almost 67 per cent give life assurance cover of up to four times the salary (compared to just over half in 2004).

Health check: Almost all organisations provide private medical pensions and more than half will not even ask employees to pay the excess in the event of a claim. 20 per cent also provide dental health care.

Commenting on the findings in this years report, Paul Campfield, director of Remuneration Economics, says: This years survey shows that movements in salaries have remained consistent to last years figures. However, the value and frequency of bonuses means that movements in overall earnings have changed significantly.

Salaries for all managers in the IT sector rose by 4.8 per cent in 2005, against a national average of 4.3. Combined earnings rose by 7.1 per cent again, above than the national average. Managers in the engineering sector did least well with a 3.5 per cent rise, but they fared considerably better than directors in the same sector, whose earnings rose 0.9 per cent the lowest UK movement.

In regional terms, managers in the South West gained the most in terms of combined earnings (up to 7.1 per cent increase) and those in the North West did least well (3 per cent increase).

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