Identifying the drivers of employee dissatisfaction leading to turnover of information technology professionals



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Individuals, managers and organizations today are confronted by an extremely dynamic and volatile work environment marked by continued turbulence in the economy. Managers face the difficult challenge of motivating and retaining employees in an environment of increased uncertainties Essentially no organization, profession or community has been unaffected by the continuing series of layoffs, dot com failures and restructurings. At the same time, jobs are being created at unprecedented rates: 700,000 new businesses are being established annually and there are worker shortages in some professions—particularly the medical and services industries. So how can individuals, managers and organizations make sense of all this chaos? This research shows that In the future, successful organizations will be those which adapt their organizational behavior to the realities of the current work environment where longevity and success depend upon innovation, creativity and commitment. For many other high tech firms, “surprise” employee departures can have a significant effect on the execution of business plans and may eventually cause a parallel decline in productivity. The research was conducted as a “case study” conducted within Rambo Computer Corporation, considered in the 1990s to be one of the nation’s “most admired and successful organizations”. The purpose of this study was to examine those factors which prompted the voluntary attrition of nine high performing employees from Rambo’s Information Technology (IT) group between the months of November 1999 and March 2000. The study also sought to investigate the process by which these individuals conceptualized their decision to leave the organization. A third objective of this research was to suggest ways in which managers and Human Resource professionals can influence career decisions of employees, thus minimizing future turnover of technical talent within their organizations. Individuals participating in this study were former technical employees from Rambo’s Information Technology department. Each was considered a “high performer” (top l5% of Rambo’s IT employee population) and had at least six months service with the company prior to resigning. Qualitative interviews, in the form of two 90-minute conversations, were conducted with each of the subjects within sixty days of their departure from Rambo. Discussions were divided into several topic areas focusing on family background, academic and career influences, work history, and the participants’ rationale for joining, then resigning from Rambo. Results indicated that the primary reason most individuals chose to leave the company was because of lack of respect for poor communication with their respective manager. Results of the study further revealed that the decision to leave an organization is most often the accumulation of experiences with separation triggered by one or more precipitating events. The final decision frequently is prompted by some interaction (discrete or ongoing) with the manager that ”pushes the employee over the edge.” An analysis of the data also indicated that the reasons study participants initially accepted jobs with Rambo were different than those cited for departure. Reasons for joining the company included: influence of friends, geographic location, company’s reputation, and “opportunity” for significant financial reward. The importance of doing state-of-the art technical projects was crucial to these individuals who believed their future job security depended upon developing new capabilities. Reorganization and cancellation of projects were cited by the participants as the reason they were unable to accomplish the tasks for which they originally had been hired. Other factors contributing to their departure were: the expectation of having to work exceptionally long hours; the inability to change jobs internally; values misalignment; and a general malaise stemming from a lack of recognition or vision of the future. The study has implications for employees, managers, and organizations and others who are interested in learning more about the factors associated with employee turnover.